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The Ultimate Guide to Same-Sex Wedding Planning

Journalist Steven Petrow, who writes on LGBT etiquette for The Washington Post, shares guidelines for becoming husband and husband or wife and wife.

Photography by: Allan Zepeda Photography

Steven Petrow, or as he is frequently referred to, Mr. Manners, has written several books on etiquette in general, from politics and dinner parties, to weddings. And now, he's here to show us some guidelines when it comes to gay weddings. Soak in his knowledge below!


The Proposal

"There is no such rule per se as to which member of a same-sex couple proposes," says Petrow. "Increasingly, it's the one who decides to go out and buy the ring who proposes. Still, many long-partnered couples 'propose' mutually." And when it comes to the actual rings, "for lesbians, wearing a traditional diamond ring comes down to personal preference. Gay men will commonly each wear one band for the engagement, take them off before the wedding, and exchange those same rings for wedding rings at the ceremony," he explains.

The Invitations

So what about wording the invites? The answer is pretty simple: "The rules for addressing stationery are one thing that stays exactly the same," Petrow tells us. "Gay couples largely follow all the same etiquette depending on who's hosting the event, whose parents are married or divorced, and all the other complexities of modern American families."


Get More Tips for Wording Your Wedding Invitations

The Processional

This one gets a little tricky when the traditional bride-groom dynamic isn't present. But when it comes down to it, Petrow says that it's really about personal preference: "Oftentimes the brides will enter from opposite sides of the church or ceremony site and meet in the middle," he explains. "Less frequently, each of the brides' fathers will walk them down seperately. Or couples walk in together—with their dogs of course!" 


Get More Answers to Wedding Ceremony Etiquette Questions
Photography by: Katie Robertson Photography

The Pronouncement 

Petrow reccomends that you talk with your officiant about this one. "You could go with 'husbands,' 'wives,' 'spouses,' or keep it simple and have him or her pronounce you as 'married.' The word in itself has become so important in the fight for equality that just hearing it is an accomplishment."

The Expectations

Petrow tells us that it's probably a good idea to talk with your guests about the wedding day beforehand. "Even in this day and age, straight allies can be wary of a same-sex wedding, thinking it's going to be like a gay pride parade with everyone waving rainbow flags and dancing the YMCA," he explains. "Less humorously, there can be significant apprehension about that first kiss. It's never a bad idea to talk through the day with friends and family, offering details about how it's going to work." 

The Names

"By far the majority of same-sex couples each keep their own names," Petrow says. "But when children are involved, there's a greater likelihood that they will hyphenate or adopt one name or the other. The important thing to remember is that traditional stereotypes don't apply. If one woman takes another's name, it doesn't mean she's in the 'wife' role."


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