Marriage Equality is Sweeping the Nation

If you missed the news this week, marriage equality is sweeping across the U.S. In short, every remaining state in the U.S. has bans on same-sex marriages, bans that have been challenged in court. Those bans have largely been overturned but then appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided to keep their hands out of it, leaving the lower court rulings to stand. 

Because the Supreme Court decided not to touch these cases, the rulings of lower federal circuit courts stand. This means that LGBT couples can now legally marry in the following 26 states (up from 19 last week!): California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.

Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Idaho, Alaska, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming could be next, for a total of 34 states. 

While this is absolutely incredible, remember that in 29 states some who is LGBT can be fired for being gay, and in those same states, they can be discriminated against without it breaking the law. Most of those new states with marriage equality are places where same-sex couples will feel vulnerable choosing wedding professionals because they simply don't know who they can trust. How do they know they can trust you?

Think about that question. We can obviously help but think about how you want your business to be known....

Gay Wedding Institute Courses in Cancun and Uruguay

We are so pleased to be presenting our Gay Wedding Institute Certification course in both Cancun, Mexico (April 30) and Montevideo, Uruguay (May 6).  Please see the flyers below for more information or to register.  These courses will be taught in Spanish.

Global Marriage Equality Infographic

My friends over at put together this very cool infographic showing marriage equality stats as they are represented by a one, globetrotting couple. Very fun, and definitely more to come!

Wedding Guest Freak Out

Many people think that my lovely wife Jen is straight.  She doesn't look like the lesbian stereotype.  Jen used to work on weddings with me as my assistant and has found herself in interesting situations because she is assumed to be straight.  Some of the wedding guests have approached her as if she is a straight beacon of light in a sea of homosexuals.  She's heard comments like, "I just don't know how I feel about this." and "What do you think about all this?" and "Well, we're Catholic so this is difficult..."

Jen is great at rolling with it and calming guests down, without coming out.  How would you respond in such a situation if you were approached by guests in such a way?

(this post originally appeared in 2011)

What NOT to Say - Mom edition

A few years ago I was in a clothing designer's studio taking a bride to be fitted for a custom pants suit.  Things were going really well and we made a follow up appointment. She was on her way to looking fabulous and fly in a white wedding suit.

Later that week, that bride's fiancee called me asking to cancel the second appointment with the clothing designer.  Why?

Because the bride's 87 year old mother said to her, "You better not be dressed like a man on your wedding day."

So instead of wearing a custom suit that she was really digging on, the next week we had her trying on wedding dresses.  And she looked and felt like a fish out of water.  I took her to places where the wedding dresses were simpler (like J Crew) but we didn't have any luck finding her something she'd be comfortable in - and that's because she'd be more comfortable in a suit.

She ended up finding a two piece skirt/jacket set from Eileen Fisher.  No offense to my bride, but she looked like she was going on a corporate retreat in the Hamptons, not getting married. And, unfortunately, I don't think she looked as lovely as her partner. The whole situation was unfortunate.   

How would you handle this situation?  As you work with lesbian brides, you might find yourself in a very similar situation.

Where to Submit Your Real Gay Weddings

Now that more and more same-sex weddings are happening (18 states!), you might have some beautiful work you'd love to see published.  The good news is that more and more publications are looking for LGBT wedding content, and there are more LGBT wedding blogs than ever before. 

Most mainstream wedding blogs and magazines are looking for real LGBT weddings, so you can take your pick from Brides, The Knot, Style Me Pretty and others.   If you are looking for LGBT specific wedding blogs/online magazines, check out:

That's just a start...I"m sure more are on their way but I'm thrilled to see some new resources out there for same-sex couples making wedding plans - and in turn, more places for you to showcase your beautiful work.

Name Changes for Same-Sex Couples

This is an oldie but a goodie, originally posted in 2010.  I received the question from another wedding planner: do same-sex couples change their last names after marriage?  What are some trends you've seen?

  • Same-sex couples who have been together for years are most likely to keep their original last names.
  • Same-sex couples who are 35 and younger are more inclined to changing their names.

I've seen hyphenated last names - like my wife, Jennifer Coveney-Smith.  I've seen non-hyphenated like me, Bernadette Coveney Smith (yes, we did something different).  I've seen one partner take the others' last name, like my brides who are getting married on Saturday, who will both use the last name of DeMarco.  

But I love it when same-sex couples invent entirely new names, some of which were not remotely similar to either of the old names.  That's kind of fun - as they begin a new life together, they do so with a new name.  

Old names: Caulfield and Stansberry
New last name:  Stansfield (merging Caulfield and Stansberry)

Old names:  Zeitlin and Sakash
New name:  Zash

What does this mean for you in the wedding industry?  First, don't assume that you'll know what the couple is doing.  Second, if you know it, use their new last names in post-wedding correspondence.   Third, be mindful that it's much easier for a legally married individual to change his or her name than someone who is not legally married.  All my clients have to show is a certified copy of their marriage license, like any other person.  Same-sex couples who have commitment ceremonies and are not legally married have to go through their state's name change process (which typically involves petitioning a judge).  I talked to a couple recently who were denied the name change by a homophobic judge.

What have you seen some couples do regarding their last names after marriage?

Immediate Same-Sex Marriages in Chicago

There was a court case challenging the delayed start of same-sex marriages in Cook County, IL (home of Chicago). The vote passed in 2013 yet the marriages weren't to begin until June 1, 2014. That's a longer than usual wait.

Well, equality was victorious and on Friday, a judge ruled that the delay was discriminatory so same-sex marriages (at least in Cook County) have begun immediately.

I'm teaching the Gay Wedding Institute Certification Course in Chicago on March 31 and Champaign-Urbana on April 1.  I hope to se you there!

In the meantime, you can read the FAQ about the new policy in Illinois here.

Thoughts on LGBT Wedding Expos

I've been getting this question from vendors a lot, especially as it's bridal show season:   is it worth my time and money to sign up for a booth at a "gay wedding expo" or other gay wedding show?  

It's a great question that comes down to more of a fundamental marketing strategy.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is my target market?

  • Are they male or female?  

  • What wedding budget do you typically work with?

Two Bright Lights released data which indicated that wedding expos/shows don't generate many bookings and don't generate them often. In fact, compared to other forms of advertising (print ads, google, other online listings etc), they're pretty much a waste of money.

So why would gay wedding expos be any different? They're not, really.  

I used to have booths at expos and with a one-off exception, gave it up 5+ years ago.  The mostly female couples who attend (and trickle in, let's be honest) aren't often there to commit to a purchase.  They are not typically affluent couples, so if you are a wedding planner/vendor seeking to reach an affluent couple who can afford your services, wedding shows in general and gay wedding shows, specifically, are not the place to find them.

My advice is:  If you've had success with traditional wedding expos, then you'll probably have success at LGBT wedding expos.  And if you haven't, then you probably won't.

(note: a modified version of this post appeared several years ago)

Understanding Bridegroom

According to Merriam Webster, a bridegroom is a man who is just married or about to be married.

In my gay wedding world, I don't just work with brides and grooms.  A fair number of people fall somewhere else on the male-female gender spectrum and don't feel 100% either.

There have been several instances in the past year in which I've said something along the lines of, "You're the brides!" And been told by some women (in a very polite way), "I don't feel like a bride."  I've heard this from women who are wearing a tux or suit on their wedding day, not a wedding dress or gown, are still female-identified and who do not identify as transgender.

So what are these women called?  In my experience, they are comfortable with the term "bridegroom."  

Even though I'm a gay wedding planner, I learned from my own experience that I shouldn't assume that all engaged lesbians want to be called brides.  Be careful not to make the same assumption yourself and handle this situation by saying something like, "Do you feel comfortable with the term brides?  I know some lesbian women prefer to be called bridegrooms."

Gay weddings are redefining the term bridegroom.  Take note for your current and future clients.

Are you working with any engaged lesbian women who don't feel like a bride?  What do they like to be called?