What’s the difference between a gay wedding and a straight wedding? It’s the question that keeps popping up wherever I go in my quest to plan my wedding, in how-to wedding books, blogs, conversations with friends. Whether implied or explicit, it’s always there.
Liz Feldman says it well: “It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage. Or, as I like to call it: ‘Marriage.’ You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. I parked my car; I didn’t gay park it.”
I want to get married. Not gay married. I say “my wedding,” not “my gay wedding,” not because I’m hiding anything, but because, as far as I’m concerned, that’s what it is: a wedding. The end.
What’s the difference between gay love and straight love? I would say: love is love. Apparently, however, whether love is between one man and one woman or between two men or between two women matters far more to most than it does to me. That’s why we need to label it, and everything associated with it. If love happens between two people who aren’t the same sex/gender (a more complicated element of the discussion for a later date), people have to call it something. I hope we’ll get over it at some point, if not in my lifetime, then at least before this world implodes.
Love is love. Marriage is marriage. My wedding is my wedding. I don’t gay love my fiancée, I just love her. I want to marry her. The need to gay marry her at a gay wedding is not my own, but society’s implication to aid in understanding, differentiation, separation, distance.
I feel that I want to marry my fiancée for a similar set of reasons as anyone planning on getting married. She’s the love of my life. She makes me laugh. She takes care of me. She challenges me. She makes me a better person. She is supportive of me. She makes me happy. I can’t see my life without her. I can see a wonderful future of adventures and children and accomplishments together. She’s in my dreams for seemingly ever. I want to commit to her for life. I want to marry her. At a wedding.
Label or no, what is the difference between the two, really? Still it persists.
Why does there have to be a difference? It seems I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t when it comes to marriage. Some people have a problem with gays because we don’t fit the “norms,” but people (usually the same ones), don’t want us getting married and stealing said norms either. I’ve heard from some gay people that getting married is just assimilating into a heteronormative and oppressive system. Well, what the hell am I supposed to do? I’ll never make everyone happy. That, however, is not my concern. When it comes to my wedding, my concern is this: that the event makes me and my fiancée happy.
And there is a whole new set of struggles. Being very different people liking different things, we have different ideas of what a wedding should be. Or, I have a new idea or ten every day, and she simply operates differently. I’ll happily stand in front of hundreds of people in a big puffy dress professing my love to her. That sort of attention is one of her worst nightmares. And so on.
And then there is the planning itself. Planning a wedding is hard for anyone, but harder when you’re not sure if the people you’re reaching out to are okay with the gay. As much as it sucks, it’s true. On my first trip to try on dresses, the form had slots for “bride” and “groom/partner” – a start. Then the lady helping me kept referring to my groom, even though I circled “partner” and wrote “bride” above it just to be extra clear. I did receive a call from them later on asking when I’d like to schedule my next appointment, or one “for my gal;” redemption. And lots of brownie points, especially in this town.
Despite that it would be a good business decision for everyone in the wedding industry to welcome all couples, many don’t, and they don’t exactly advertise that way. Even gay-friendly venues and resources often fail to be obviously gay-friendly so as not to lose homophobic clientele on principle. Not only do we have to find a place and people, we have to find ones that won’t turn our day into an offensive and heartbreaking affair.
What’s the difference? As I see it, an additional level of stress and complication. Not to say having a gay wedding is harder than a straight wedding by any means; there are plenty of unions that aren’t blessed by friends or family or so on and so forth. I wish there weren’t any difference at all, but that would require social and political change that simply will not happen overnight, or even between now and my wedding, as much as I’d like it to.