After much deliberation, Tucker opted for a white pantsuit and Gray wore a cream-colored dress, both with a bit of sparkle.

Working with Heit, Tucker and Gray created a vintage travel theme for the ceremony, using old suitcases and cameras as décor, and providing vintage postcards for guests to write their advice and wishes for the couple.

A "visual merchandising" approach, instead of traditional flower décor, is a popular option, according to Candy Borales, of D.C.'s Candy+Co., who says many couples are "interested in making their wedding look like a showroom or display window."

For many, personalization is key, too, says Borales: "Everything from the printed items to their wedding attire are branded with the couple's initials or in keeping with their customized theme."

The officiant can also add to the effort to make the day special.

"When the person performing the wedding is a friend," says Heit, "it adds such a sentimental touch to the ceremony."

Though nearly all same-sex weddings are conducted in secular environments, according to the Gay Wedding Institute, some religious sites are available. The Conservative branch of American Judaism recently approved same-sex marriage.

Connecticut-based photographer Kelly Prizel has shot weddings in religious settings, including Episcopalian churches and under a Hindu mandap. In time, she says, "I expect to see more religious same-sex ceremonies."

Although couples are moving forward with same-sex weddings, some eliminate certain elements, such as the first dance or kiss, if they are concerned they may make guests uncomfortable, say wedding planners. Borales, for instance, coordinated a small, elegant wedding at Washington's Hay-Adams Hotel for two men in their late 40s. She suggested they exit the reception to a pedi-cab, waiting to whisk them on a tour of the city.

"I'll never forget the uncomfortable way one of them asked me, 'If we're in a pedi-cab, people will see us, right?' He was fearful of the perceived judgment they may incur."

Ultimately, the men skipped the pedi-cab but exited the reception through an aisle lined by cheering friends. Though their faces were beet-red, says Borales, they had "huge smiles."

For same-sex couples, vendor selection can come with additional challenges.

"Planning a wedding is super stressful anyway," says Braswell. "And when you're [lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender], you have to come out to each of your vendors." She and Davis started MarylandGayWeddings.com as a way to help same-sex couples easily identify gay-friendly wedding vendors.

All vendors included on the website sign a document pledging non-discrimination and undergo an education process. Similarly, Baltimore's tourism website, baltimore.org, features lists of gay-friendly hotels and other venues.

The bottom line for couples planning same-sex weddings will be familiar to anyone who's suffered a Bridezilla (or Groomzilla) moment.

"Never forget what brought you to this point!" says Heit. "Planning can be stressful and getting bogged down in the details makes it easy to get into little tiffs. When that happens, take a step back and remember that you're planning the day that celebrates your love and your future together."



So you're planning a same-sex wedding



Seek out LGBT resources. Websites such as MarylandGayWeddings.com and EngaygedWeddings.com are good places to start the vendor search.

Clearly communicate. "We made sure we were transparent in all of our initial inquiries with vendors," says Tanya Tucker. "That way there were no surprises moving forward."

Look for experience. Though early on, many Maryland vendors will not have much experience with same-sex ceremonies, ask. In addition, on websites like WeddingWire.com, vendors often list same-sex wedding experience.

Read carefully. "Look for gender-neutral language on websites and marketing materials," suggests Kelly Prizel. Same-sex photos are also a promising indicator.

Choose quality. "Just because a vendor defines themselves as LGBT-friendly does not mean they're qualified as a planner or caterer," warns Candy Borales. "Do your due diligence and choose the most qualified candidate that you feel a connection to. Don't be afraid to ask for a reference."

Keep a sense of humor. "While we found that most folks in the wedding business didn't care one bit that we were a same-sex couple, it doesn't mean that from time to time they didn't fall back into the traditional roles of bride and groom, or even over-compensate," Tucker says. "Unless something is totally disrespectful, give folks a break. They're trying."