Steven Petrow is the author of Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and The New Gay Wedding and writes on this website every month as Hilton’s Modern Manners expert. This year he’ll be answering your questions about LGBT life, especially weddings, engagements, and anniversaries. Send him your questions at: email@example.com.
“I now pronounce you wife and wife”
The correct way to address married same-sexers
Q: I was searching online for how to properly refer to a same-sex couple, and I found an article about it. But now I am even more confused. Can you help me?
A: You’ve come to the right place. I’m going to start off by assuming you mean a married same-sex couple. The short answer is that the best word for any married man is “husband,” and for any married woman is “wife.” Two married men are “husbands;” two women are “wives.”
“For many same-sex couples, the use of the terms “husband” and “wife” is a powerful reminder to others that their marriage is fully equal in every way,” Marc Solomon, author of Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits and Won, told me.
Granted, not everyone adopts those monikers, at least not right away. For some of us who grew up before marriage equality became a possibility, there’s something very traditional or “straight” about those words. I’ve found that it just takes some getting used to, like a new shoe waiting to be broken in.
Some other same-sex couples may still refer to each other as “partners,” “spouses,” even “herbands” or “wusbands.” If they do, follow suit. When in doubt, feel free to ask. Otherwise, start with “husbands” and “wives.”
What’s up with a honeymoon wedding registries?
Many long-term gay couples don’t need dishes and towels
Q: I received a wedding invitation to a same-sex wedding, and the couple’s registry asked to help pay for home furnishings (such as a sofa) and their honeymoon trip. Am I out of touch? What happened to common household gifts such as dishes and towels? I am on a limited income, and the brides are from a well-to-do family. Is it an etiquette requirement to give a gift in the first place, especially if I can’t afford to go to the wedding? Please help.
A: Wedding gifts, no matter what they are, remain voluntary. So the good news is that there is no “etiquette requirement” to buy them anything. But here’s the other news: Of course you should! Show a little love for this couple, who may have waited years, if not decades, to tie the knot.
I would never advise anyone to give a gift — or to attend a wedding— that they couldn’t afford, so you certainly don’t have to buy them a sofa. You don’t even have to get them anything from the registry, which is a guide for gift-givers and not an order form. There are always low-cost (even no-cost) ways to express your best wishes to the couple for a long and happy life together. Write them a thoughtful letter (free), or give them a book or a photo that has meaning to you—and will to them, too. After all, let’s try to remember that a wedding gift is about the sentiment, not just the price tag.
One reason this couple might not be asking for “dishes and towels” is because they’ve been together for a while and are already well stocked in the household goods department. But perhaps they’re still living with a hand-me-down sofa, or maybe they’d like to go on a romantic honeymoon. Thus the registry. Indeed, there are all kinds of registries these days, from charity registries to those that crowdsource a down payment on a new home. Among the most popular registries are “honeyfunds,” or honeymoon registries, where individual gifts can fund a hotel stay (or just breakfast in bed), a safari adventure, or a sunset dinner cruise. Note that some honeymoon registries levy heavy “service fees,” so if you’re the happy couple looking to set one up, choose carefully.
Of course, I’d be remiss not to remind you about Hilton’s recently launched LGBT Honeymoon registry. Visit the website for more information.