Excerpted from Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony by David Toussaint and Heather Leo. While this article appears somewhat dated now, David and Heather have excellent insights and are well worth a read.
"The good news is that, since you've made this decision - it's highly unlikely you've decided to merge your lives because one of you is "in trouble" - you're making this decision because you're in love and truly do want to spend the rest of your lives together.
This is not only the strongest argument for the support of legalized same-sex marriage, it's also the biggest reason why you should feel proud about planning a ceremony with friends and relatives.
In one of the twenty-first century's first phenomena, gay men and women are becoming the New Romantics, the true pioneers in the next generation of married life.
So, Why a Wedding in the First Place?
Yes, you're in love, but why should that encourage you to celebrate with a wedding?
Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized (everywhere) in the United States, and you probably already live with your partner.
Assuming you invite more than two people to the ceremony, and serve something other than pigs-in-a-blanket and beer, you're going to be spending a lot of money on this event.
You're also going to have to deal with most of the headaches that "real" marriage planning involves.
[And] why on earth would you want to join a club that has, since the beginning of time, refused to have you as a member?
At first glance, it looks as if you're getting none of the perks and all of the pain.
Yet judging by the numbers of same-sex ceremony notices in newspapers these days, the commitment ceremonies that have been recorded since Vermont passed a civil-union bill in 2000, and the remarkable dash-to-the-courthouse elopements in San Francisco, a heck of a lot of you want to get hitched.
The answers are more conventional than stereotypical views of gays and lesbians would lead you to believe. Of all the couples we interviewed for this book, there were two answers to the question "Why a wedding?" that sprang up most consistently.
The first was that a ceremony affirmed the relationship to family and friends; you were publicly identified as life partners who would be there for each other in sickness and health.
We heard reports from couples that, after their ceremony, their immediate families started treating their unions as "marriages," by, for example, including partners in holidays and other major events they might not otherwise have been invited to.
Some couples told me that their spouses were now asked to attend office parties and company picnics.
There were even stories of no longer dealing with annoying "water cooler" chatter like, "So when are you going to finally settle down?" (even though the ones they were "settled down with" were already known to everyone at the office).
Marriage ceremonies, legal or otherwise, legitimize relationships in the eyes
of those whom many believe are the most important critics of all, friends
The second answer that came up most was children.
Gay men and women around the country expressed the notion that if they solidified their relationship with a ceremony, their children, current or planned for, natural or adopted, would feel more like they were part of a traditional or "real" family.
That ring on your finger or that blessing from a rabbi holds an incredible amount of sway when starting a family of your own.
Guys have told me that, after a ceremony, their children felt more comfortable calling each partner "Dad."
The same goes for women, who are much more likely to be in a situation where one partner already has kids from a previous marriage.
Once a "marriage" is celebrated, the children feel much more comfortable calling their new mother "Mom."
Having a wedding celebration will not solve all of your domestic issues - children will undoubtedly face those times in their lives when other kids ask why "Suzie has two moms" - but it's certainly a step in the right direction.
There's another reason, however, that we suspect more and more gay couples are deciding to wed.
Traditionally, men and women are taught at a very young age that, someday, they'll meet the man or woman of their dreams, fall madly in love, get married, and have a family.
This ideal isn't
just a theory; it's expected. When parents and teachers and friends and relatives speak of this future, they speak of it in wondrous terms, the "rock" on which society rests and, most important, the single most critical criterion for becoming an adult.
So when these same children realize and accept that they are gay, many are torn not just by the immediate challenges - coming out, facing prejudice - but also by the other obstacles to fitting in that they will have to face.
For many, this starts as early as high school, when other kids are dreaming about that first kiss, cheerleading and football practice, and the prom - all rites of passage in high school.
True, many of you did participate in those activities, but most likely under the guise of a "normal" student. In other words, if you wanted to be a contributing member of society, you had to lie.
Marriage isn't all that different.
While college tends to be a bit easier for gay men and women to cope with, not to mention a time to experiment - images of frat guys waking up with each other after beer blasts, and sorority sisters French-kissing as "practice" abound in coming-out stories - post graduation life focuses more on the prospect of commitment.
It's often the first time gays and lesbians have to come to terms with their sexuality on every level.
Sadly, the desire to marry, to have children, and to be offered what has been, indeed, promised to them keeps many men and women in the closet for years.
They often get married, have children, and keep their true sexuality hidden from their spouses, their families, and, to the extent that it's possible, themselves.
Gay weddings, and, if and when it becomes legal, gay marriages, are the first step toward allowing homosexuals the opportunity to lead "traditional lives."
One of the most ironic things about the gay-marriage controversy is that this so-called scandalous and radical movement is, for many gay couples, a desire to be anything but scandalous and radical.
Furthermore, the most outspoken opponents of same-sex unions are the same people who generally label homosexuals "degenerates" or "perverts," and who never tire of stereotyping gay men and women as promiscuous beings whose only goal in life is to have as many sex partners as possible.
Gay men and women who seek commitment ceremonies, whether through civil unions, domestic partnerships, or just a walk down the aisle, simply want what they are entitled to-a husband, a wife, a home, a family. And they're on their way.
Dreams Really Do Come True
And they lived happily ever after is one of those expressions we've all heard since childhood.
It's associated with the princes and princesses in those wonderful fairy tales where, after a long series of trials and tribulations, the couple finally unite for all eternity, with a castle for a home and birds chirping around their heads.
While this certainly describes Gay Day at Disneyland, to a certain extent it probably describes the two of you.
You've made the commitment to have a wedding, you want to spend the rest of your lives together, and you've been through your own trials and tribulations, fights and doubts, perhaps even a breakup or two.
However well intentioned those fairy-tale notions are, they've left out the details.
In short, you have to have a plan.
One of the things most couples, gay or straight, realize after deciding to wed is that they have no idea how to proceed.
They're aware that they have to pick a date and location, and they know they have to figure out who's coming, and that guests will probably expect something to eat and drink.
As the wedding planning begins, however, a
million other questions start swirling around their heads. Should it be a big
ceremony? When do we book a caterer? How do we go about writing the invitations?
Since you're a gay couple venturing into uncharted territory, it's likely that you've got even more questions, and fewer resources to turn to.
Who leads during the first dance?
(Actually, I'd like to jump in and answer this one! The answer is: whomever wants to and is ok with remembering the dance steps and working the floor. Just remember there does have to be a leader and a follower.)
Who makes the first toast? Do your lesbian attendants have to wear dresses, even if, for some of them, it will be the first time they've worn a gown since the high school prom (ironically, the same night they realized they were lesbians)?
Not to worry: What everyone has in common while planning a wedding is that, no matter what route they go, whether a traditional church wedding with two hundred guests or a backyard bash with only twenty close friends, is that they want to do it right.
They want to make sure everyone has a good time, and that they understand the proper etiquette so that no one is offended. Most important, they want it to be a beautiful affair that everyone, not just the two of them, remembers for years to come."
WHO LEADS THE FIRST DANCE?
Whomever is most comfortable with leading, learning the steps and maintaining the sequence of the dance!
Keep in mind there can't be two leaders so someone has to be the follower. ;)