Same-sex couples break from, cling to wedding traditions
Gay nuptials more likely to feature friend officiants, separate aisles, personalized touches
Tracy Staples, left, and Bob Zuber of Black Walnut Point Inn. (Lucky Dog Images / December 29, 2012)
"I walked out toward Rose, and it was like the first time seeing her," says Tanya. "I felt so lucky, blessed and excited."
Starting Tuesday, gay couples in Maryland will be able to experience the same wedded bliss. With the passage of Question 6 in November, Maryland became one of the first states, along with Maine and Washington, to pass a referendum legalizing same-sex marriage.
Soon after, engaged same-sex couples began facing such pressing issues as: When? Where? Whom to hire? Whom to invite? What to wear? How traditional (or not)?
Some couples set a date immediately, while others are just starting to plan.
"I think there's going to be a huge surge right away," predicts Wendy Braswell, who runs Full Moon Marketing & Events and MarylandGayWeddings.com with business partner Malinda Davis.
An initial bump has been seen elsewhere. In the first six months after the Netherlands legalized gay marriage, same-sex ceremonies accounted for 3.6 percent of all weddings. The number later plateaued around 3 percent.
Some Maryland couples will tie the knot as early as Tuesday, at a group ceremony at Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island. Inn owners Bob Zuber and Tracy Staples will be among the 50 or so couples getting married that day.
Many of the first weddings booked in 2013 are for couples who have been together for a long time, experts say.
Couples who have been living together for years "may almost feel silly" hosting a large wedding, says Davis, who married her wife, Lori Smyth, in Washington in 2011, on their 14th anniversary. Some data support the idea of established couples preferring smaller ceremonies. A little over a third of same-sex ceremonies went without wedding parties, according to a 2011 survey fielded by the Gay Wedding Institute, founded by 14 Stories wedding consultancy owner Bernadette Coveney Smith, based in Massachusetts.
Says inn owner Staples: "A lot of people want to do something small, with their friends. We've booked a few weddings on couples' anniversary dates. Most are already married in their minds, but they have days they celebrate together."
Many couples, like Tucker and Gray, don't feel hidebound to custom, either.
"Whenever someone said to us, 'It isn't tradition to do such and such,' we replied that we're two women getting married, so we don't have to stick to tradition!" says Tucker, laughing.
The two eschewed traditional wedding elements such as the cake — they opted for desserts instead — and not seeing each other before the ceremony.
"Many same-sex couples I work with choose to get ready together," says their wedding planner, Stacy Heit of Washington's SassEvents. "It's a great opportunity to bond that relieves some anxiety."
Nearly all same-sex couples get ready together before the wedding, according to the Gay Wedding Institute. Still, attire is one of the most complicated issues of wedding planning, especially for lesbian couples, according to 14 Stories' Smith.
"Among 58 percent of lesbian couples, one or both partners wear a suit or a tuxedo," she says. "When the time comes to shop, the options are limited. When they have the budget, they can find something custom. Otherwise, they end up having to alter a men's suit, which can be pretty unflattering."
Smith has recently launched a clothing line, 14 Style, to address the lack of choices.
"We went back and forth on attire for quite a while," says Tucker. "The decision was really based on what each of us would be most comfortable in. We also had to think about how we would complement each other but not be matchy-matchy."