After years of fighting in the courts, organizing marches, increasing visibility, talking to politicians, putting up with attacks for battling against homophobia, the day suddenly arrives when – bang! – it’s all legal and you can get married. As much as you had been expecting it, though, it catches you by surprise. At that moment, many gay couples start to ask themselves: “What now? Do we get married?”
That’s how it was after Spain passed gay marriage legislation in 2005, and I’m sure that many people are now feeling the same in the US after Friday’s landmark Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex unions.
A well-organized wedding can be one of the happiest days of your life, but a gay wedding has its own particularities…
Daniel and I took a few years before getting married after the law was passed in Spain. We were waiting to see whether or not an appeal against the law filed by the center-right Popular Party would be upheld by the Constitutional Court. At the time, Spain’s conservatives were very much concerned about language issues – that same-sex unions shouldn’t be termed marriage, that regions with a strong independence movement should not be referred to as nations, that the rescue package for Spain’s banks was not a bailout... We were worried about getting married only for the Constitutional Court to turn round and declare our union void. But fed up with waiting for a ruling that was taking a long time in coming, we decided to take the plunge and get married. The truth was that the Constitutional Court’s final decision allowed us to breathe easily.
After many years of introducing Dani as my boyfriend, I found it difficult to get used to referring to him as “my husband” after we tied the knot. I still get in a muddle when I introduce him and hesitate whether to do so as “my husband,” “my boyfriend,” or “my partner.” What I do always add as a postscript is that “we are still getting to know each other.”
I used to be one of those people who thought that a wedding wasn’t that important, that’s it’s just signing a piece of paper, that it doesn’t change anything, that it is a ritual, that it’s something to which you don’t need to pay much attention. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A wedding changes many things. It is a watershed moment. A well-organized wedding can be one of the happiest and most fun days of your life and the start of a new stage. But a gay wedding also has its particularities… Here I offer you my advice.
1. First piece of advice: don’t fight with your future husband/wife about the wedding. Us gay people have very firm opinions about what a party should be like. Given that opposites attract, your relationship can turn sour during the planning phase. Tackle the groundwork calmly and make sure things don’t end in disaster.
Don’t disappoint your hetero guests. If you don’t spice things up with a bit of Abba, lipstick and humor, it wouldn’t be a gay party
2. Opt for a big wedding – throw yourself into it head first, invite hundreds of friends and don’t hold back, even if it means having to turn the celebration into a picnic. Being from the cold, serious Castilian city of Ávila, I was against having a big wedding, but Daniel, who is from Extremadura, said that he was going to get married at a huge party or he wasn’t going to get married at all. “With just cousins and family we already have 60 people,” I said to myself. In the end we invited a load of guests and I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more. On the day we were joined by family and friends from all over the world. Wherever you looked, there were the smiling faces of the people we loved and who were happy for us. It would be difficult to have another day like that again in your life. Although you might not think so, an intimate wedding with just a few guests feels like a forced marriage, and it makes it more difficult to get the party going. If I am sure of one thing, it’s that a big wedding with lots of friends is the best advice.
3. Design your own ceremony. As you don’t have to fit around a religious service, you should work with the marriage official to come up with your ceremony. Daniel wanted to included the Spanish tradition of presenting wedding coins, and we used a mix of ones from his family and one from mine, thus establishing a link between the marriages of our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and ours.
4. Even if the ceremony is fairly formal, you need to inject a bit of camp into the party afterwards. The expectations of fun at a gay wedding are only exceeded by those of a Gypsy wedding. Don’t disappoint your heterosexual guests. If you don’t spice things up with a bit of Abba, lipstick, eyeliner, sequins and humor, it wouldn’t be a gay wedding. You can’t put a price on seeing your former college classmates dancing to YMCA with a feather boa around the necks as if morning was never going to come. Let’s be honest: heteros are crazy about gay parties.
5. Dress formally – don’t go looking a complete state and don’t try to innovate with your suit. The same goes for the invitations. No strange colors. Photos age terribly and what today looks like a trendy touch of originality will in 10 years make you ask yourself: “What was I thinking?” Opt for a formal jacket and tie, with colors that aren’t too loud. Some couples prefer to dress the same and others like dressing differently. We went for the second option, but we made sure that the colors of the suits worked well together so the photos didn’t look strange.
6. Don’t invite anyone who gives you a bad vibe. There shouldn’t be any obligations. The advantage of a gay wedding over a hetero wedding is that you don’t have to follow convention. If you have doubts about inviting someone who you haven’t seen in years, you don’t have to do it. This is your day and don’t allow anyone to ruin it. That said, the more the merrier. I now regret not having invited people I should have invited.
7. Plan your wedding well in advance – above all because if you want people to come, they need to plan their trips. They will probably have to book vacation days. Also prepare pre-wedding and post-wedding get-togethers, or at least help them out with finding things to do in the days before and after the big event.
8. Last piece of advice: take care with the bachelor party, or there might end up being no wedding at all. No cellphones. I’ll leave it at that.
Jesús Encinar is the founder of Idealista, Spain’s leading real estate website.