Since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex weddings nationwide in its June ruling, gay and lesbian couples have been tying the knot here, there, and everywhere. Gary Gates, PhD of UCLA’s Williams Institute, expects more than 100,000 same-sex couples to marry before the end of the year, bringing the total to about 500,000.
Closer to home, the manager at my local dry cleaner – in North Carolina – ran up to me recently to say she’d been invited to a wedding of two women later this month. “I’m so excited,” she said. “It will be my first.”
Frankly, I’ve been curious about wedding trends for gay couples since the court’s ruling, and it’s not a coincidence that two surveys came out simultaneously detailing them. “The most recent variations seemed steeped in LGBTQ couples’ desire to break free from gender roles that are usually prescribed by tradition,” said Kathryn Hamm, Publisher, GayWeddings.com at WeddingWire.
When I asked her for some examples from WeddingWire’s recent survey, she explained that same-sex couples are “much less likely to have one person take the other’s name,” which is the norm among opposite-sex couples. Even hyphenated or shared names aren’t very common – that is, until LGBT couples have their first child, she added.
Hamm also explained that same-sex couples are far less likely to have bachelor or bachelorette parties or showers; instead, both male and female friends and relatives are invited together, which has certainly been my personal experience as well. Often, couples have been together for years, so it hardly makes any sense to hold separate showers for each groom or bride.
Other notable findings from the WeddingWire survey include:
• Same-sex couples are less likely to have a parent-child dance.
• Guests tend not to be seated on a specific side of the aisle, with both sides of the family intermingling.
• Bigger weddings are now the trend, given the acceptance and legal recognition in past years. The average number of guests is 115.
• Nearly 25% of gay and lesbian couples hire a wedding planner, which is higher than for opposite-sex couples. This is because so much of same-sex wedding etiquette is still a new phenomenon.
Meanwhile, The Knot LGBTQ Wedding Study, also released in June, had some surprising findings of its own. A year ago 82% of same-sex couples referred to their ceremony as a “wedding;” now 95% do. They also don’t refer to it as a “same-sex wedding.” It’s a wedding, plain and simple. Nearly three-quarters of couples said they plan to walk down they aisle together – no parental or other escorts — which is notably different than what you’d experience at an opposite-sex wedding.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that 60% of same-sex couples agree that they could use advice and services when navigating wedding etiquette (which I certainly see from my own work, too). When it came to seeking out LGBT-friendly vendors, 95% said this was important to them. Last but not least, 85% of male couples and 79% of women pay for the lion’s share of their wedding expenses.
When I look to the future, I see fewer and fewer distinctions between same-sex and opposite-sex weddings. More and more of us are planning ceremonies and receptions that reflect our identities as a couple. In fact, the keyword is “personalization.” Sheila Marikar wrote in the New York Times not long ago, “Many gay and lesbian couples have come to realize that what they want closely mirrors what all couples want: a beautiful and tasteful event that celebrates their love and might also give their mothers something to get misty-eyed about.”
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