There are plenty of drawbacks when you’re gay and trying to get married – not being able to legally tie the knot in most places being chief among them. But, the fact that same-sex marriage and gay weddings are a relatively new does arm us with one secret weapon: we can more easily opt out of wedding traditions that feel outdated or just don’t fit our styles.
I know there are plenty of straight gals who buck tradition by getting married in a purple dress, having guy pals stand up as “bridesmaids” and keeping their own last names. Attitudes about marriage have certainly progressed since, say, the 1950s, but there is still a fair amount of pressure for heterosexual people to adhere to tradition when it comes to weddings. In my own experience, based on what I hear from lesbian friends and see in the media, there’s even a surprising amount of pressure for gay couples to have relatively “traditional” weddings. But, once you’ve already bucked tradition in a major way by not marrying a man, I think it’s a tiny bit easier to get out of some other customs that your family may try to talk you into.
Here are five common traditions that I think we, as lesbians, can more easily get out of. If you want any of these elements to be a part of your wedding, then by all means, you should have them. But, if any of the customs below make you uncomfortable or don’t fit your vision for your big day, go ahead and play the gay card.
Wearing a white dress
There’s a lot of talk about straight ladies not having to wear white or ivory dresses, but in reality, very few of choose a different color. Maybe it’s because of pressure from grandmothers or princess fantasies or a million other reasons, but the white/ivory wedding dress remains the norm. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. If you’ve ever read this column, you know I have a mild obsession with wedding dresses and will wear a very traditional gown on my own big day. But, if the thought of a white dress makes you want to run the other way, being gay is an excellent excuse to get out of wearing one. Guest will probably be less surprised to see lesbian brides in a sleek black suit or a statement-making red dress, so take the opportunity to wear whatever you love.
Dancing with dad
The father-daughter dance is one of the most hallowed of wedding traditions. Again, like the white dress, if you’ve always dreamed of swaying to a sentimental song with your father at your wedding, you should do that. But, maybe you’re a butch girl who will feel really weird leading your dad in a waltz. Maybe you don’t get along with your father or have an aversion to cheesy songs like “Butterfly Kisses.” Or maybe you’re a girl like me – I love my dad, tear up at sappy song lyrics and will be wearing a ball gown to my wedding. So, you’d think I was made for the father-daughter dance. But the fact is, I’m a terrible dancer and I don’t relish the thought of having hundreds of people gawk at me while I sway awkwardly under a spotlight for what I am sure will feel like 20 minutes. So, I might skip the father-daughter dance for that reason. I don’t think my dad will be offended or anyone else will be surprised because that will be one of many things my future wife and I will be doing differently at our wedding. And, just because you ax the father-daughter dance doesn’t mean you can’t give parents and other VIPs some time in the limelight. After your first dance with your wife (if you want to keep that tradition!), invite parents, siblings and your wedding party to join you on the dance floor before you open the party up to all of your guests.
Walk down the aisle on your terms
Speaking of dear old dad, it is usually his job to walk his daughter down the aisle. But, plenty of gay ladies may take issue with that custom. Whether it’s because you don’t want to be “given away” to anyone like you’re a piece of property or because you don’t want dad’s tuxedo to upstage your own, having your father walk you down the aisle is definitely not your only option. It’s Jewish tradition to have both parents walk children down the aisle to symbolize the joining of two families rather than the giving away of a daughter. Even if you’re not Jewish, feel free to borrow that more equitable custom. Or, you could walk down the aisle by yourself or even enter hand-in-hand with your wife to be. Again, since you’re already deviating from the script by marrying a girl, people won’t have quite as many preconceived notions of what your ceremony will look like.
Prissy bridal showers
Straight dudes definitely have it made when it comes to bridal showers. They get all of the benefits of fancy espresso machines and high-end cookware and typically do not have to endure several hours of making small talk with distant relatives or playing awkward “games” like bridal bingo (this is a real thing, according to TheKnot.com). No such luck for lesbians tying the knot. If you’re both women, there’s probably an expectation that you will both be present for any showers thrown in your honor. But I think being gay increases the odds that you’ll get a shower that is, to put it bluntly, more fun. If one or both of you doesn’t fit the typical girly-girl mold, friends and family may intuit that you wouldn’t love a shower with teacups and petit fours. Instead, you might get a co-ed evening cocktail party or a laid-back barbeque. At a minimum, you and your bride-to-be will at least have each other to get through any humiliating games or conversations with people you’d rather not be talking to.
Changing your name
More and more heterosexual women are opting to keep their own last names or hyphenate. But the pressure to take their husband’s last name is still very strong for straight gals. For many men, even relatively young ones living in America in 2012, having a woman take their last name is a huge matter of pride. I even have a few friends whose own fathers bristled when they mentioned they might keep their own last names (the names they were given by and shared with those very same fathers!). I’d estimate there is precisely zero pressure for gay ladies to change their last names. Of course, we’re free to do so if we choose. But, if changing your name is not your style, you can consider it a non-issue when you marry a lady.
What wedding traditions would you like to ditch?