Same-Sex Wedding Traditions

LGBT Marriage Ceremonies Blend the Old and New

Since same sex marriage first became legal in 2000, gay and lesbian couples planning a wedding have struggled to forge a middle path that celebrates their non-conventional choice to get married but also honors age-old wedding traditions. A 2011 survey by the Gay Wedding Institute combined with a 2014 report from The Knot and The Advocate sheds some light on how couples are adapting cultural customs to fit their modern ceremonies.

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Setting the Date

Lesbian couple wedding first look.
Molly Landreth/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Many of the earliest same sex weddings are between couples who have been together for years, so anniversary dates have evolved into a a popular choice for the wedding date. Otherwise, couples follow traditional methods for booking a date, including venue availability, time of the year and auspicious wedding dates.

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The Gift Registry

Again, the amount of time the couple has been together plays a big role in the type of items on the traditional wedding gift registry, if one is even created. Since most couples already have all the toasters and linens they need, non-traditional registries that allow guests to contribute cash to a house or honeymoon fund are becoming popular for same sex couples getting married. Couples are also increasingly making their own donations -- and asking their guests to join them -- to marriage equality organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry

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The Attendants

Nearly two-thirds of same sex couples ask their loved ones to stand beside them as they exchange vows, although there tends to be only one or two attendants for each person. It is common to see female and male attendants mixed together on both sides. Still, nearly a third of couples choose to share the stage only with an officiant. Most couples invite a special person in their lives to read a prayer or lead a blessing over the union. 

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Seeing Each Other Before the Wedding

Nearly every couple chooses to get ready for the ceremony together at the wedding venue although women are more likely than men to want to savor the magical moment of seeing her bride for the first time as she walks down the aisle.

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Walking Down the Aisle

Men and women choose different options for their grand entrance. The majority of gay grooms walk down a central aisle while holding hands. Nearly a third of lesbian brides opt to walk alone down two aisles from different directions. Most couples do not have a parent give them away, and typically the guests stay seated throughout the processional.

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The Wedding Attire

While most gay grooms simply stop by their local tuxedo shop, finding the perfect wedding attire is one of the largest hurdles lesbian couples encounter. More than half of all lesbian weddings have one bride donning a dress and the other bride sporting a chic pantsuit. An additional 40 percent of brides both wear traditional wedding gowns. That leaves very few couples who both choose to wear suits.

Color preferences vary, with green being an important color in the gay community, although white, cream and ivory are still popular. Dress silhouettes run the gamut from simple sheaths to rhinestone-studded ball gowns.

"When the time comes to shop, the options are limited," Bernadette Coveney Smith, founder of the Gay Wedding Institute and 14 Stories Wedding Consultancy, told the Baltimore Sun in a December 2012 article. "When they have the budget, they can find something custom. Otherwise, they end up having to alter a man's suit, which can be pretty unflattering."

In an interview with Elle.com, Tony-nominated Broadway actress Cynthia Nixon recounts the difficulties she faced in finding the perfect wedding dress. "With a same-sex marriage, it's different. There isn't the archetype of the demure bride, the strapping groom and the big ol' white dress," says Nixon, who opted for a green dress with a small train designed by Carolina Herrara. Her wife, Christine Marinoni, wore a Doyle Mueser designer suit with green lining and sapphire cuffs that matched Nixon's wedding ring.

Continued: LGBT Wedding and Reception Traditions