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.
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.