One of the best parts about a wedding ceremony (aside from the fact that you're finally getting married!) is that you and your future husband or wife can make the event entirely representative of who you are as a couple. However traditional or unique you'd like your marriage ceremony—and the reception that follows—to be is up to you. For same-sex couples, this may mean customizing certain classic themes and traditions to better represent who you two are. While some brides and grooms choose to shake things up entirely, other couples prefer to tweak just a few elements of their ceremonies. Whichever way you go, what remains will surely be the moments that matter the most.
For some couples, these moments are made or enhanced by the people around them. This was especially true for Tommy DiDario, on-air lifestyle expert and writer, and his husband ABC News correspondent Gio Benitez. Special moments were woven throughout their wedding day, starting with their ceremony entrance. "There really are no 'traditional' rules for a same-sex wedding, so we wanted to incorporate our parents into the ceremony since we are lucky enough to have such supportive mothers and fathers who have always been our champions," he tells Martha Stewart Weddings. "Usually the father gives the daughter away, but we thought it would be nice to show the moms some love and have them give their sons away."
Each groom walked down the aisle hand in hand with his mom, and then they all met in the middle. From there, the four of them walked the rest of the way together. "It was really meaningful because it symbolized unity," describes DiDario. "Gio didn't walk out in front of me, and I didn't walk out in front of Gio—we walked out together, which showed that Gio and I are equally important in this relationship and were entering into the commitment as equals."
Another special moment for DiDario was when his sister, whom he also describes as his best friend, officiated the ceremony. "She got ordained so that she could marry us, and created a really personal, customized ceremony," he says. "Every word she said had meaning. She brought the marriage to life. To look up and stare at my husband-to-be, and then see my sister performing the ceremony was surreal."
Jenny Block, author, writer, and speaker from Houston, Texas, shared a similar experience to DiDario when her father, Rabbi Block, performed the ceremony for her wedding to wife Robin. "He did such an incredible job, and his words made everyone laugh and cry," she says. "At the end of the ceremony, he raised one arm high in the air and said that the key to a happy marriage was to love one another, 'To infinity and beyond.'" Another significant moment came during the reception, when the two brides planned a twist on the traditional father-daughter dance. "First, my wife Robin danced to 'Unforgettable' with her father and my father and I danced to 'The Rainbow Connection,'" she says. "Then we switched partners, and Robin danced with my father and I danced with hers to Dolly Parton's 'Family.'"
For Alexa Lemley, a chef and owner of Artisan Foodworks in Columbus, Indiana, the most special part of her wedding day was the date: She tied the knot on the exact same day that gay marriage became legal in Chicago. "Over 300 people attended our wedding, some we'd never even met before, and the outpouring of love and support truly overwhelmed us," she says. "We got married on her parents yard, which was full of people celebrating the fact that love is love." There was a host of different religious groups in attendance, too, which she says further served to enhance the idea of "love is love." "Guests came from across the country. Even my 90-year-old Southern Baptist second cousin from Kentucky drove to be a part of the festivities. It was an unbelievable day."
If there's one thing that resonated most with all of the same-sex married couples we spoke to, it was the individuality and uniqueness of their special days. When Jaden Shapiro married her wife Jaime Thompson, their vows were their personal touch. This was also true for David Gennis, Psy.D., LMFT, when he married his husband in an intimate, small ceremony. "For us, the most important component of our marriage was to take our vows in front of our closest friends to acknowledge and witness our next step together in our journey," he shares. "It was all about emotional connectedness, togetherness, and genuine happiness between us and our guests."