Same-sex weddings can be daunting if you have never been to one and want to put your best foot forward by following the proper etiquette.
We all know “traditional” weddings are full of dos and don’ts, and same-sex weddings are the same. Don’t worry, the etiquette is straightforward and you’re sure to get it right as long as you remember to be respectful.
When going to a same-sex wedding, always put the couple first. This occasion is not about you. No party crashing, complaining, or loud exclaiming if the wedding is not set up in a traditional way. Respect is of utmost importance. Keep your opinions to yourself unless they benefit the newlyweds.
It is always important to take into consideration your behavior when going to an event you have never been to before. Weddings are a place to celebrate! So make sure you are only adding to the celebratory atmosphere.
Proper Etiquette at Same-Sex Weddings
Here are seven tips to keep in mind when you are invited to a same-sex wedding.
1. Don’t crash the wedding.
People are naturally curious, and if they have never been to a same-sex wedding before, they may want to come even if they were not invited just to see what it’s like! This is very disrespectful of the couple, and to everyone who was invited. It creates unnecessary drama that only complicates what is already a very busy day.
If you do not get an invitation to any wedding, do not go. Likewise, if you get an invitation to a same-sex wedding, and your mom, friend, or sibling is speaking of crashing it, be sure to tell them that this is a terrible idea.
When people show up at a wedding just to gawk at the couple, it is a horribly uncomfortable feeling that makes a person feel like they are in a fishbowl. Please be respectful of their wishes and whom they choose to invite. You wouldn’t want someone crashing your wedding, so why crash theirs?
If you are actually concerned about wedding crashers, then check out my article on how to deal with them here.
2. Be ready for nontraditional practices
If you are a seasoned wedding goer, you surely have an idea of how weddings “work.” A bride walks down the aisle led by her father, she is given away, the couple stands at the front and a priest officiates (at least in many Western-style weddings). There are bridesmaids, groomsmen, a ring bearer, and a flower girl.
After the wedding, there is a reception with a mother-father dance. These are all old traditions that do not reflect every couple. Even though you might have wanted these at your wedding does not mean that everyone will feel the same.
At a same-sex wedding, any or all of these traditions may be changed or removed altogether. This does not mean that the marriage is less valid. It just means that different people have different tastes, and you must be respectful of that. Do not voice your dislike of the lack of tradition during and even after the event. It makes you look mean, and frankly, the married couple probably does not care.
3. Respect the couple’s terminology and pronouns.
Language is becoming increasingly more inclusive. Same-sex couples may not identify with labels such as “bride”, “groom”, “husband”, or “wife.” These labels can make people feel uncomfortable if they do not feel they describe them.
The couple may instead prefer to be called “partners”, or just by their names. For example, instead of shouting, “where’s the groom!” Instead ask, “Where’s Fred?” If you are unsure of the terminology the couple prefers, using their names is always a safe bet.
Sometimes people do not identify with the pronouns “he” or “she.” This is more common in couples that are in same-sex relationships. Instead, they may prefer the pronouns “they”, “ze”, or “ay.”
Using the proper pronouns to address someone is very important. Imagine you are a woman at the airport and you have your hair in a hat. You walk up to the check-in desk, and the worker calls you “he.” Now you spend the rest of your day feeling self-conscious. This is why it is so important to call someone by their preferred pronouns. Especially on their wedding day! You want to be sure the people getting married are as comfortable and happy as possible.
The likelihood is that you will be aware of this beforehand, but if you are not, just ask a familiar person on the correct form of address making sure to emphasis that you are trying merely to support the preference of the happy couple for addressing each other
4. Watch how much alcohol you drink.
This is a given at all weddings and same-sex weddings are no different. Weddings should be as drama-free as possible, and it never feels good to be the one person everyone remembers for drinking too much. Respect yourself and others around you by limiting your alcohol intake. Yes, that open bar is fun, but your headache and shame tomorrow won’t be if you go too crazy!
The reason why it may apply to this particular wedding is that you feel nervous that you will put your foot in your mouth. We all know that alcohol is a great lubricant for inappropriate utterances.
My wife is infamous for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, especially when it comes to commenting on people’s careers at the moment they are imploding. I just put it down to good intentions and a great deal of ‘lost in translation’, I’m never sure how the victims of these gaffs feel though. So, just keep a clear head as much as you can.
5. Do not ask if they want children.
This is a rude question at all weddings, especially if you are not a member of the immediate family. The decision to have children is very private and personal.
Do not ask a same-sex couple if and how they are going to have children. This can be a sensitive topic especially if the couple is unable to have children. While there are many ways two people of the same gender can choose to have children, that is not your business, especially not on their special day.
If you simply have an interest in the process of it all, then do some research or ask another same-sex couple after you become much, much better acquainted. Personally, this is a topic I’ve never gotten into with my close gay friends despite the very intimate details they share about other areas of their life. Similarly, they have never asked me.
6. Blend in.
This tip is similar to our alcohol tip. This wedding is not yours, so do not become a spectacle! Do your best to have fun, but blend in with the crowd. This is a great way to be the best wedding guest you can be. Dance when it’s time to dance, toast when it’s time to toast and don’t be too loud or boisterous. Blend in with everyone else and respect the happy couple. Being a guest that is not problematic is one of the best ways to support the couple getting married.
If this is your first time at a same-sex wedding then it may also be your first time interacting with the likely demographic at such events. I see that as a great opportunity to throw off any incorrect assumptions you may have, probably at no fault of your own. Mingle, and get to know as many people as you can as it will certainly broaden your horizons and make your world fuller.
7. Tell the couple how happy you are for them.
Supporting a same-sex marriage means a lot to the couple getting married. In a world where many people do not support same-sex marriage, it is important that you tell them you are happy for them. It will be important to the couple to know you are an ally, and that you do not judge them or think of them any differently than a marriage between a man and a woman.
Tell them you are so happy they found each other and you celebrate their love. They will always remember your kindness if you take the time to do this. It’s their wedding day, after all, so make it as special for them as you possibly can.
Tips Before the Wedding Starts
Picking Out the Perfect Card
Card manufacturers have increasingly started to make more inclusive cards. Be sure to pick out a card that reflects the couple. You do not want a card that depicts a woman and a man on it. This is disrespectful and can make the couple feel as if they are not seen or appreciated by you.
If you cannot find a good card that depicts a same-sex couple in your local card store, then check online! (Hallmark.com) There are lots of places you can order inclusive cards, and online you will be able to look through hundreds of options so you can find one that you and the couple will enjoy.
In case you are unable to find a card locally, be sure to start card shopping as soon as possible. You don’t want to go to the store the day before the wedding just to find that they don’t have a suitable card. Avoid this by being proactive and then ordering online if need be.
When should you say no?
If you do not support same-sex couples, think their marriage is illegitimate, or do not feel as if you can comply with the 7 tips laid out, then it is best to politely decline the invitation.
Without pointing the figure I will say that it’s possible to cherish a friend or colleague who is homosexual but still disagree with the idea of them being married.
I was once surprised by what my father said when he expressed that ‘marriage’ should only be between two people of the opposite sex. He was making a point about the religious meaning, yet this was from a man who had taught we so well as a child that there was no difference between a gay person and a straight person in terms of their value to society. Something I thank him for now.
It will be better in the long run for you and the couple if you are not in attendance. If you go, you are likely to be worked up and even angry if same-sex marriage is against your beliefs. The couple surely only wants happy and supportive people at their wedding, so it is best if you stay at home if you cannot genuinely support their marriage.
Sending in Your RSVP
If you are declining the invitation to the wedding, be sure to RSVP a “no” as if it was any other wedding. Do not use the RSVP to communicate your disliking of their marriage. This is unproductive and hurtful, as the couple is getting married no matter what you think of them. Instead, simply check the “no” box and move on.
If you choose to write your disapproval on the RSVP, it will do nothing except put the excited couple into a dark cloud. Even if you do not approve of their marriage, surely you do not want to make someone else feel bad about who they are. After all, this couple felt strongly enough to invite you to such a sacred event, the least you can do is to graciously decline if you feel you need to.