Love is love, but planning a wedding with two brides or grooms can still be tricky. "There can be a lot of emotional agony for same-sex couples planning their weddings," explains Kirsten Palladino, author of Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding, "especially in areas where the majority of the population is less familiar with the LGBTQ community." That dearth of resources—which became apparent as she planned her own vows—inspired Palladino and now-wife Maria, a graphic designer and web developer, to found the Equally Wed website in 2010 and publish her book of the same name seven years later. "We started because we wanted to show LGBTQ couples that their weddings were valued and valid," Kirsten explains. "And that's still what we do: celebrate and inspire LGBTQ weddings in a safe and inclusive space."
Here, she outlines how to scale any stumbling blocks you might encounter on your path to forever.
Finding equality-minded vendors.
If you live in an area with a large LGBTQ population, says Palladino, this may not be an issue. But in some smaller cities, she notes, there may be "a high percentage of wedding professionals who are not interested in working with same-sex couples or trans or nonbinary people." That's why Palladino shares a database of equality-minded wedding pros on her site. If you have a specific vendor in mind, she advises checking out their website for clues that they're open and accepting, like whether they use heteronormative terms or prefer to keep things gender-neutral with words like "the happy couple." If you're still unclear, call and ask them point blank if they've ever worked with a same-sex couple. "Give them time to respond and try not to interrupt," she says. "If the answer is short, sit quietly on the phone and wait for more. The words they speak are important but the tone of their voice is everything here. Either their discomfort and disinterest will be deafening or their joy will be contagious."
Coming out to each wedding-related professional you meet.
It's a conversation you'll likely have more than once. "If every new vendor or venue—and even different staff at each company—asks a marrier about their fiancé with the assumption that it will be someone of the opposite-sex," explains Palladino, "then the marrier is forced to do something we're all taught from an early age is a faux pas: Correcting the person about what they're saying." Having to do that time-and-time again can be anxiety inducing, notes Palladino, "because you don't know how the person will react. They might get angry and say something incredibly hurtful. Or they can be flippant and say, 'I don't care. I don't judge,' which is another way of saying, 'You're doing something bizarre and worthy of judgment but as long as I get paid, I'm good.'" An easy way to avoid that discomfort is by purposefully seeking out equality-minded vendors and having the conversation upfront.
Discussing who foots the bill.
"In heterosexual weddings of yore, the bride's parents did traditionally foot the bill for the entire wedding, while the groom's parents paid for the transportation, officiant, alcohol, and rehearsal dinner, as well as the bride's flowers," Palladino writes in her book. But times have changed. These days, regardless of who is getting married, there's not a hard-set rule for who covers what, so try to open that line of dialogue with your parents before you get too far into planning. "Whoever can help is welcome to do so," says Palladino, "but no one but the couple is responsible for the cost of the wedding."
Dealing with relatives who don't support you.
Deciding whether or not to invite a homophobic or transphobic family member can require "some serious soul-searching," writes Palladino. While you don't want to include someone who wishes you ill, she notes that "weddings can be a lovely opportunity for changing hearts and opening minds." If there's a relative you feel is wary of attending your special day, sit them down for a face-to-face chat. If that's not an option, give them a call. Just avoid having this conversation via text, email, or social media or when anyone else is within earshot. To address the issue, use an "I feel" phrase, Palladino says. "For example, 'I feel like you're not as happy about me getting married as you were about my sister's wedding,' leaves room for discussion instead of an accusation," she explains. It can also open up an honest dialogue. "Most relatives have a soft spot in their heart for you, even if they don't understand what you're doing and why you're doing it," she explains. "See if you can break it down for them in terms they can understand: you were born this way, your spouse-to-be makes you happy, and how would your family member feel if they weren't allowed to marry the person of their dreams?"
Being rejected by your house of worship.
Among the more painful obstacles you might face, says Palladino, is fighting with a house of worship that you've attended for years to allow you to marry in it. Her advice is to ask as early as possible if you can wed there "and make no assumptions," she writes in her book. "I've met quite a few couples who were stunned and hurt when they asked to have their wedding in the church they attended as a couple, often for years, and were turned down because of their church's stance on same-sex relationships."
Deciding who walks down the aisle first.
For bride-and-groom pairs this moment is generally set, but same-sex duos have the opportunity to get creative. "LGBTQ couples look to the typical wedding ceremony and invitations for a basic model of how things tend to go—but then we get to shake it up however we want," notes Palladino, "and we're not upsetting any particular tradition because we're forging new traditions." When it comes to deciding how to approach the ceremonial space, "it's really a matter of personal preference," she says. "Walk in together, walk in separately with or without an escort, walk down two aisles simultaneously, come in from the side with your officiant, or descend from a suspension cord. It's your day—do what feels right to you."
Choosing a first song representative of your love.
While many popular first dance songs include a man or woman waxing poetic about the opposite sex, Palladino insists that you don't have to suffer through hetero love songs at your own wedding. In her tome, she suggests a slew of songs—from Adam Lambert's "If I Had You" to Melissa Etheridge's "I'm The Only One"—that "testify to queer love."