Getting Hitched: Lesbian Weddings in Film and TV

Given the ubiquitous
lesbian U-Haul jokes, it’s odd how deep we have to dig to find lesbian weddings
depicted on scripted television and in film. In fact, the most prominent
lesbian weddings to hit the media have been celebrity weddings: Melissa and
Tammy Etheridge’s wedding
, which was featured on ABC’s In Style Celebrity Weddings special in 2004, and Ellen DeGeneres
and Portia de Rossi’s nuptials
just this weekend.

Otherwise, scavenging for
same-sex weddings on-screen requires a lot of detective work. Limiting it to
lesbian weddings, contemplated or consummated, leaves us with only six — one of
them just a bit of backstory on Showtime’s The
L Word
.

And despite the supposed
greater acceptance of hot girl-on-girl action by male audiences, things on film
aren’t much better. Sure, there aren’t very many same-sex wedding flicks, but
of the five we found, only two were lesbian weddings, and one of them was released
just this year.

That isn’t to say that
lesbian television weddings haven’t been fairly groundbreaking. Two of them
were on a couple of the top-rated, longest-running shows in history, Friends and The Simpsons, and wedding story lines on cable’s Queer as Folk and The L Word went beyond the very special episode approach and
examined themes such as the nature of family and the possibility for human
change and redemption.

Network Television

It’s not like scripted
broadcast television is just loaded with LGBT representation in the first
place, let alone positive portrayals of same-sex relationships, with or without
a wedding. There are a few mixed-sex green card marriages with one gay spouse —
including Jack marrying Rosario on Will & Grace and the
Luke/Noah/Ameera story line on As the World Turns — and one mixed-sex
political protest wedding from a 1996 episode of Spin City, but not
much in the way of caterers, rings and crying mothers of the bride for two guys
or two gals.

Still, over the years
there have been three lesbian weddings, starting with the historic "One
With the Lesbian Wedding" in 1996 on NBC’s long-running and gay-friendly series
Friends.

And while there’s no
lesbian wedding, it’s worth mentioning that the critically acclaimed series Northern Exposure featured the first
same-sex wedding in a television drama, and that the show took place in the
fictional town of Cicely, Alaska, which was founded by two Gold
Rush-era lesbians.

Friends:
"The One with the Lesbian Wedding" (1996)

Television’s first
lesbian wedding may not have been the first same-sex wedding in prime time, but
it’s probably the best-known. Carol (Jane Sibbett), ex-wife of Friends regular Ross (David Schwimmer), marries
Susan (Jessica Hecht) in a ceremony presided over by a minister played by
Candace Gingrich, the out lesbian sister of then-Congressman Newt Gingrich, the
very poster child for anti-gay Republicanism.

Carol and Susan’s wedding
is treated like any other wedding. Ross, who gives Carol away, still loves her
and regrets their split, but he’s also the one who calms her pre-wedding nerves
and tells her that the only thing that matters is that she and Susan love each
other.

The two women may not
have gotten as much screen time as the heterosexual members of the cast, but it
remains one of the earliest and most sympathetic portrayals of a lesbian
relationship on television, and to this day, the only lesbian wedding depicted
in all its romantic detail on a network series.

Whether in spite of or
due to the intense political battles over same-sex marriage in 1996, there was
a gap of five years before the networks tackled a same-sex wedding again (also
on NBC, on Will & Grace), and
another three before a lesbian wedding got some air time.

 

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