Gay weddings and unions are still only relatively new. It was only 23 years ago the first country, the Netherlands, recognised civil partnerships between gay couples. That same country became the first to recognise same-sex marriage just three years later. Today, in 2021, out of 233 countries worldwide, 31% or 72 countries recognise civil unions or partnerships, and 22% or 52 countries recognise same-sex marriages.
With more members forming unions or getting married, why do both still exist, and what is the difference between the two. Let's start by understanding the differences. Civil partnerships or unions were created in many countries to enable gay couples to form legally recognised unions without calling it marriage. Likely a move that ensured gay couples could get legal recognition without upsetting more conservation people and organisations amongst their populations. Civil partnerships or unions are virtually identical to marriage, with the same rights and legal protection.
Though the global LGBTQ+ community welcomed the ability to form legally recognised unions, many felt they were being discriminated. They were not being treated fairly because they were denied the ability to marry and were not given the same rights as straight people. With worldwide gay rights improving over the years, many countries have changed their laws to allow gay couples to wed legally.
What are the main differences between civil partnerships or unions and marriage?
- Marriages are created through the exchanging of vows and the signing of a marriage document, whereas civil unions are created through the signing of the civil partnership document
- To exit a marriage, you would need to commence divorce proceedings, whereas you would dissolve a civil partnership
- Marriage is often seen as traditional, with religious significance, whereas civil partnerships are solely a legal arrangement>
Both are valid expressions of love and commitment. Civil partnerships and marriage hold the same importance within the law; however, it is often up to the couple to decide which best suits them.
Once a couple or group (permitted within some countries and communities) have decided to form a union or to get married, the planning and decision-making process relating to the ceremony begins. Let us now explore some of the main areas and tips for helping you ensure that your special day is a success.
#1 WHO PAYS?
When it comes to weddings, there are a lot of traditions and customs. For example, it is common in western cultures for the bride's family to cover the cost of the wedding. The groom's family will often pay for the rehearsal dinner, honeymoon, groom's attire, wedding rings and the licence. Though some couples still observe the customs, many families will typically share the cost, or the couple will cover all of the expenses independently. With LGBTQ+ marriages and unions, who would likely pay for what? The answer is dependent on who is able and willing to pay. The easiest solution is to sit down with all of the families and discuss who wants to contribute. If family members wish to help, it is vital to find how much they can afford. If they have limited funds, you will need to determine how much you and your partner can afford. A wedding or union should be memorable but should also not break the bank. So, by establishing the budget upfront, you can plan for the size and scale of your wedding or union.
#2 SETTING THE BUDGET
When planning a wedding or union, budgeting is crucial. It is vital to establish how much is available to spend and the types of services and number of people that will likely be attending. To create a budget, start by listing all of the services, suppliers, and possible venues for your ceremony. Typically, you will need to budget for the outfits used within the ceremony, rings, venue, transportation, food, entertainment, flowers, cake, and the honeymoon. For each service, activity or task, you should establish likely costs. For example, when catering for a wedding, you be given various menu options; each menu will include a cost per person. The amount you will pay will depend on the selected menu and the number of people you plan to invite to the event. For a list of typical activities, click here to visit the Gayther Wedding and Union checklist
#3 TRADITIONAL OR NEW TRADITIONS
There are many age-old traditions and customs, so for gay couples, how does it work? Many of the customs may be gender-specific. Though not all may apply, it is ultimately up to you and your partner to include some, all or none of the traditions. It is also not uncommon for straight and gay couples alike to create their own. The main focus should be the marriage or union. In terms of any rules or traditions to follow, only you can decide which ones to incorporate.
#4 SALUTATIONS AND LAST NAMES
After everything is legalised, you and your partner will need to decide the last name or surname you both will use. What will be your last name? Whether to go double-barrelled, by combining both surnames, using your partner's surname, keeping your own, or creating a new surname altogether. It is good to establish early on your preferred approach. When using double-barrelled surnames, typically, the surnames are arranged in alphabetical order. If you are using a new surname, it is worthwhile that either partner should consider changing their name by deed poll ahead of the ceremony. Changing your name legally ahead of the big day means that the new surname would be present on the marriage or civil partnership document. The salutation is equally as important, as it outlines how you and your partner be addressed going forward. You can make this clear in all of your communications, like within the invitations. For example, you should consider stating the new surnames on the invite, such as the future Mr and Mr Jones-Smith, Ms and Ms Jones-Smith or Mrs and Mrs Jones-Smith.
#5 SET THE TONE
The important thing to remember is that it is your special day. To ensure that there are no awkward moments or people confused on how to respond before or during the ceremony, you should set the tone. Within all communications, including the invite, you can state preferred pronouns and the planned last name. You can even outline the theme of the wedding or union, ensuring that your guests and family are aware and know what to expect on the big day.
#6 PROFESSIONAL OR DO IT YOURSELF
Depending on the budget, some couples opt to hire a wedding planner. The cost for a planner can range from one thousand US dollars upwards. Though an additional expense, for many, they would not have had their dream wedding realised without the help of their planner. Planners can be a valuable resource for those unable to commit their time or lack the experience of planning an event. Wedding planners are also able to help in reducing costs and finding savings. Experienced wedding planners will usually have a supply chain, a group of suppliers that they use frequently. By using their supply chain, you might access competitive pricing through their connections and relationships. The do-it-yourself approach works well for other couples and provides them with a more hands-on approach and oversight to all aspects of the special day. Planning a wedding takes a lot of time and effort. Whether you use a planner or arrange it yourself, it is vital that you understand what is involved and that you are willing to commit your time and energy.
#7 WEDDING PARTY LABELS
The majority of the terminology used within traditional weddings are gender-specific. The groom, best man, ushers and stag event typically referring to the male or groom aspects. The bride, the maid of honour, bridesmaids and hen party are all terms related to the female or bride aspects. Even where you stand during the ceremony has a meaning. The groom traditionally stands on the right and the bride on the left. So, with all these terms, how does it work concerning LGBTQ+ ceremonies? To start, you choose the labels and how to use them. Within lesbian ceremonies, some couples opt for bride one and bride two, bride and groom or something unique. Many gay couples will follow the same approach, with groom one or groom two, some even using the terms groom, broom and gride. The labels and how you use them are up to you. You define what you are to be called; just make sure you share them with your friends and family.
#8 USE OF TECHNOLOGY
Like most people, you will probably invite a wide range of people, friends, family, young and old. Traditionally, couples would send invitations by post, asking that the guest reply using an RSVP slip. The cost for printing the invitations plus any postage is often high and is not always the quickest means of communicating with your guests. More couples are opting to create a wedding newsletter. Guests could sign up for a special newsletter, keeping them up to date with all the developments leading up to the big day. The newsletter can also provide information such as the venue, preparations, even the official invite. There are many services available; some of the main newsletter services are Mailchimp and Sendinblue. Mailchimp is free to use up to 2,000 contacts and 10,000 senders per month, and Sendinblue up to 300 emails per day and unlimited contacts. Services such as WIX offer a free website, which means you could build a basic website for you and your guests to use. Both approaches mean you could send out regular communications to your guests leading up to the big day, making all guests feel that they are part of the journey. You could opt for a simple invitation and send it by post for older guests, those who might not use technology, still making a significant saving utilising this approach. Any savings could free up money, helping you to create customised gifts that you could hand out to your guests to remember the special day.
#9 DON'T BE AFRAID TO SHINE
You will likely be inviting a range of people of different ages and even beliefs. Some of your guests may be important to you, and in your desire for them to attend, you might feel you need to adapt your plans. When sending out invitations and planning for your wedding, you must focus on yourself and your partner. If you want to be extravagant, to create flamboyant themes, you should do so. It is your special day, and though you might feel the desire to tone it down, do not lose sight that it is your wedding or union. Guests should be made to feel comfortable, but you achieve that not by changing who you are but by including and informing them throughout the process. Remember, all those that will attend will be people that love you and accept you for who you are.
#10 PRE-WEDDING CELEBRATIONS
During the lead up to the wedding, it is commonplace for the bride to arrange a hen party and the groom to arrange a stag event. The pre-wedding celebrations are a tradition in which, before the wedding, all those getting married can enjoy their last nights of single life. Some gay couples may decide to ignore these types of celebrations; however, many enjoy the pre-wedding tradition. Many LGBTQ+ couples will typically opt to combine events or to hold separate celebrations. Though many LGBTQ+ couples will use stag or hen as a title for their celebration, some opt to use Bach party to make it more neutral.
#11 THE OFFICIANT & ADDING SPIRITUALITY
The officiant or celebrant is the person who oversees the wedding or union. The person handling the official aspects of the wedding will usually be a clergy member, linked to a religion, judges, ship captains or civil celebrants. Friends and family can act as officiants for the non-legal elements of the ceremony. However, you would need to involve a professionally recognised officiant to legalise your marriage or union. If you are spiritual and your faith is important to you, you will likely hope to get married in a place of worship. Unfortunately, though many countries have legalised same-sex marriages, major faiths, such as Catholicism and Islam, typically do not allow gay celebrations to take place in places of worship and prohibit their clergy from marrying a same-sex couple. Though this can be disappointing for many gay couples, there are ways to incorporate your faith into the ceremony. One option is to consider marrying within a place of worship where that faith will carry out same-sex marriages, such as the Church of Scotland. The episcopal church approves blessings of same-sex relationships. Within Judaism, the reform and reconstructionist movements allow same-sex marriages and couples to marry in their synagogues. Alternatively, you can incorporate your favourite verses, psalms and hymns within your ceremony.
#12 LOCATION AT HOME OR ABROAD
The venue is an integral part of any wedding. It will act as the backdrop for the big day, and many things need to be considered. How easy is it for people to get to the venue? If it is isolated, are there many accommodation options available for your guests? If you know ten or more rooms are required, you could contact accommodation providers ahead of the wedding or union to arrange a group discount rate. Getting married overseas is becoming a popular option for many LGBTQ+ couples. If deciding to get married overseas, you have to be prepared that not everyone will be able to travel abroad for extended periods or afford the expense. Though many more countries now recognise same-sex marriages and unions, you need to establish the rules before arranging your wedding or union. For example, whether you can get married or form a union if neither you nor your partner is citizens of that country. When planning an overseas wedding, try to avoid any high or peak seasons. Often, when you plan months ahead of the big day, you might be able to establish group discounted rates from airlines and accommodation providers. Click here for the interactive Worldwide LGBTQ+ Same-Sex Unions & Marriages tool on Gayther
#13 INCLUSIVE SUPPLY CHAIN
Many countries have anti-discrimination laws in place, meaning businesses and services that sell directly to the public can get in trouble if they discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals. Though most companies will offer their products and services to all, it does not necessarily mean that they are inclusive and are flexible to any requirements you may have. Though some might be offering their products because they have to, many want and actively tailor their services to attract LGBTQ+ customers. When deciding which services, venues and suppliers to use, it is helpful to establish whether they are inclusive and have experience working with the community. It is beneficial to reach out to others from within the community for recommendations and reviews and asking the suppliers themselves for examples of other LGBTQ+ events they have facilitated in the past. When it comes to your wedding or union, you have the right to choose the services and suppliers suitable for you.
#14 CUSTOMISED OR GAY TAILORED
When planning a wedding or union, you will often find many products and services tailored towards heterosexual couples. Though vast amounts of straight product options exist, many companies have developed solutions to accommodate the fast-growing LGBTQ+ weddings and unions sector. Some couples opt to adapt existing products. For example, buying two Mr and Mrs cake toppers and using only the Mr and Mr, others will use customised services. Companies and suppliers that offer pre-made options and products designed by you. Many customisable products are available on AliExpress, Etsy and Notonthehighstreet. If you struggle to find products in your local area, reach out and ask wedding shops if they know of or carry same-sex wedding products.
You and your partner must not lose sight of what you want on your special day. Though it is great to get ideas and advice from others, you should never feel obliged to incorporate everything into your dream day. Your wedding or union should be a day full of joy and fond memories. Traditions and any religious elements within your ceremony are all personal to you and, of course, are by no means mandatory.
Ultimately, it is a day all about the expression of your love and commitment to each other. I hope you have a fantastic day.