The Supreme Court’s ruling in June said that same-sex couples can marry nationwide and that states can no longer deny marriage to couples based on their sexual orientation. Yes! Married same-sex couples will now have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples in all states. Here in the DMV, we have been celebrating and honoring same sex marriages for a few years. Same sex couples have been marrying in the District of Columbia since 2009 and in Maryland since 2013.

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Photo Credit: Kelly Prizel Photography of Alex and Kate

Now that same sex couples can marry in all states, I’m wondering is there any difference between planning a marriage for a same sex couple as for a heterosexual couple? Are there any specific challenges or things that LGBT couples wish they knew before getting started in their wedding planning process? Here at United With Love, we’ve taken the approach over the years that it is all just a wedding, straight or same-sex, and each wedding poses its own unique challenges regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple. We try to give general wedding planning advice specific to the Washington DC area so that couples can then apply that advice to their own marriage in they way they see fit.

For more on the subject of LGBT wedding planning challenges (or not!), I turned to Candy at Candy+Co. Events. Candy reached out to a few of her past wedding planning clients who are same sex couples who were married in Washington DC. What did they have to say on the matter? Was their wedding planning experience different or more challenging because they were a same sex couple? What would they advise current LGBT couples planning a wedding? What should they look out for? Here’s what they had to say about their wedding planning experience as it specifically relates to being a same sex couple…

THE MARRIAGE

“The two best pieces of advice someone gave me was: 1.) Hire a professional, even if it is just to coordinate the event on-site. This is your special day, you want to be able to experience it, enjoy it and remember. And not be worrying about whether Uncle Warren is going to remember to pay the caterer. 2.) When planning the wedding, schedule and devote time to NOT TALK ABOUT THE WEDDING. The closer you get, the easier it is to let the final decisions and planning take over every moment. Take some time to let in some oxygen and allow you relationship to breathe.” – DJ + Mike

“My advice to any couple is make sure you are getting married because you want to and not because you are trying to make a statement. I wanted to be married where I live; not to travel to another state to do it. It just wouldn’t have felt right. My partner and I are not real religious so getting married in a church just didn’t feel right. It is your wedding and your special day so get married where ever you want and find that right person to marry you; not someone that feels obligated because of the new law that was passed.” – Jeff + Jim

“My husband and I thought about how we wanted ourselves and guests to feel at the wedding to make up a mission statement. We decided we wanted it to be fun, elegant, relaxed, with some Southern (me) and Midwestern flair (him). We gave those ideas to our wedding planner along with our budget and she compiled lists of websites and contacts for us to visit. We found our wedding planner through a referral by a friend.  – DJ + Mike

THE PLANNING

“Given that we lived in a jurisdiction that legalized gay marriage back in 2010, we didn’t have as many issues. Our wedding was also not right after the legislation passed; a good 18-months went by until our wedding day. We still did run into instances where people asked about the ‘bride’…and then apologized. We found ourselves using the term ‘bridal party’ and ‘bridesmaids dresses’ a few times as a slip of the tongue. I could only imagine planning a wedding in a location before gay marriage was legalized nationwide. I could also see challenges with some foreign destinations. There were minor things that came up, ‘traditional elements of a wedding’ that did not make sense to be part of a gay wedding. Overall, it was nothing major.”  – Bill + Harry

“The main thing that made my wedding day easier than I hoped was knowing that I had a dedicated wedding planner and team of close family and friends that were going to do everything to make the day run smoother. I felt that I had a good idea of who was going to show up, how the day was going to run and felt I’d be able to be emotionally, mentally and spiritually present. Also, knowing that my wedding planner had talked to each and every vendor, from the venue to the caterer to the limo drivers, to make sure they had no issues with serving a wedding for two men. I’m lucky to live in Washington, DC, which has been pretty open to weddings of same-sex couples even before the district legally recognized out-of-state weddings in 2009, and then full marriage rights within the district in 2010. I was fairly confident most businesses would be accepting, but given how people all types of political leanings are in DC, you never know how a business might react.”  – DJ + Mike

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Photo Credit: Jessie Mary Photography of Bill and Harry

THE VENDORS

“For the most part, we didn’t feel like we were planning anything more unusual than a wedding. We did, however, make sure that our vendors had worked with gay couples before (this mostly involved scouting websites to see if there were photos or examples of same-sex couples). One of the photographers we talked to had never shot a same-sex wedding, and we ended up going with someone else partly because of that. We also faced some family drama around the fact that we were two women getting married, but we figure every wedding has its family drama, so that was just our particular flavor.” – Kate + Alex

“Frankly, we never paid much attention to weddings before we got engaged. Once we started the planning process, we discovered the size and scope of the wedding industry and that many vendors are not up to par…Seek those who want your satisfaction, not just your money. With that being said, being in D.C. or the nearby suburbs, we never felt any of our negative vendor experiences were due to our sexual orientation. Do not assume that those who might treat you poorly are doing so because you are LGBT. In fact, we met with an openly gay caterer who was late, unfriendly and left bridal magazines all over the tasting room. Meanwhile, the straight caterer we ended up hiring (Spilled Milk) wowed us with delicious food and incredible hospitality. Our sexual orientation was irrelevant. Also, realize that a lot of the marketing, advertising and branding has not caught up to the laws or culture. You might have to spend a little extra time or money to find LGBT-inclusive or neutral cake toppers, cards, etc. As an interracial gay couple, we got creative or made a couple of DIY items because of this lack of representation. For example, we bought love birds for our cake toppers because the pre-packaged statues only featured straight couples or they looked nothing like us.” – M and T

“Separate from the services they provide, it is critical to get a sense of the wedding ascetic that the vendors work with. We met with (and sampled) a lot of really good vendors but it was clear which vendors would fit best with our vision of our wedding day. Thinking about the caterers in particular, most prepared really good food, however, some were very traditional in their service and conceptions about wedding menus. For us, that was not a good fit  I never really thought about this until after the fact. Would have saved us and them a lot of time.” – Bill + Harry

“For my wedding, I did not feel I ran into any unusual challenges that prevented me from planning my wedding. Even though everyone wants to be treated equally and have the same wedding as a straight couple, there are some differences with a gay wedding and some of your challenges will be with people and businesses who do not want to be part of your day, and frankly why would you want them to be? Look for the people and businesses that are at least gay friendly and/or gay owned and that will hopefully alleviate some of the stress and challenges you might face. Be upfront with them from the start; you are looking for someone to be a part of your gay wedding. You will know if they are worthy of your business.” – Jeff + Jim

“I did get married in Washington, DC, so gay life is very much recognized and I feel most businesses that we could have chosen from, caterers to flowers to venues and even your officiant, was not difficult to find. In other states, this may be an issue. I felt that every business and all of the staff we worked with were very comfortable with us and our guests from start to finish. I could not have been more pleased. After all, it is your special day and you will find all of the right components, otherwise you won’t be choosing that particular person, venue or area.” – Jeff + Jim

THE CEREMONY

“Focus on the ceremony – for us, that was the part that mattered. The reception is just a giant party – we wanted to have it planned out well enough that people would have a good time, but didn’t want to stress too much about the details.” – Kate + Alex

“Don’t skip out on the pre-wedding couples counseling. No matter how long you have been together, getting married is a life changing event. Working with a professional or spiritual adviser to put that all into context is very important, and also helping you paint a picture of how your relationship will and should change as a married couple is critical.”  – Bill + Harry

THE TRADITIONS

“The only two challenges we faced dealt with tradition. First, my husband and I needed to decide which traditions from our families, or heritage we felt were appropriate for us. Were we going to jump a broom? Hold it in a church? Have our parents walk us down the aisle. And the other challenge was that my family didn’t really know how to react to a wedding for two men.  This was the first time many of them attended. To find traditions that felt us, we did a lot of reading, talking to other married friends and thinking about other marriage ceremonies we’d seen that touched us. We decided to start with a social happy hour to get our families interacting. We decided to skip the church, but have a close friend who is a former minister do the ceremony. We didn’t jump the broom, but did have other mother’s light candles that we then each used to light a unity candle right before exchanging rings and vows. As for my family, I had some one-on-one conversations to remind them that they should treat this wedding just like any other wedding they had attended: Congratulate us, send back the response card and don’t bring extra uninvited guests. On the day of, my family had some touching, heartfelt moments that was more meaningful than I could’ve ever imagined.” – DJ + Mike

THE GUESTS

“Our primary challenge was deciding on our strategy for inviting wedding guests – particularly extended family members – who we knew or suspected did not support marriage equality for same-sex couples. With friends, we were more selective. But ultimately, we chose to invite all family members, putting the onus on them to RSVP ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Others may decide to do otherwise or may feel uncomfortable doing this, but we did not want family members who wanted to attend (and did indeed attend) to feel slighted or insulted that their mother/brother/etc was not invited as well. We also did not want anyone to claim, down the road that they would have attended if invited. Perhaps, and hopefully soon, this won’t be an issue.” – M and T

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Wow, thank you so much to Candy and to all of the couples who provided such amazing and personal wedding planning advice for having a same sex wedding here in the Washington DC area. For more from Candy and her incredible team of wedding planners in DC, be sure to check her out at Candy+Co. Events.

In the meantime, be sure to check out all of the other DC area wedding advice that we have put together for you or look through our list of the best Washington DC area wedding vendors!

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