Summer is upon us, and we all know this means one thing: Wedding season is here. What's extra special about wedding season this year is that it also marks the one year anniversary of the SCOTUS ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Now, if you're a straight, cisgender person attending a gay wedding, you might ask yourself whether there are etiquette rules for straight people at same-sex weddings: Should I even go to a same-sex wedding if I'm invited but I'm not LGBTQ? First of all, of course you should! No matter someone's sexual orientation or gender identity, if they're inviting you to their nuptials, you are certainly welcome to attend. Are there rules (or at least guidelines) you should keep in mind, though? Absolutely.
This isn't about being the "PC Police" or making things difficult or tricky for guests, nor is it about any sort of "gay agenda." It's about being polite, respectful, and considerate when someone is celebrating their love in a way that makes them feel comfortable. If you're invited to a wedding, it's a gift, period, because you're spending that special couple's day with them. When it comes to same-sex weddings, it's especially important to remember that this is a battle we fought long and hard and only recently won, so the experience can be especially emotional and powerful.
Remember, personal preferences will vary person to person and case by case, so stay flexible and aware — but the following suggestions are a good starting place if you identify as straight and cisgender and are attending a same-sex marriage.
1. Remember: This Day Is Not About You
Yay, you're going to a wedding! Yay, you're going to your first same-sex wedding! If you are exciting about these facts, that is awesome! However, the first thing to keep in mind is that this day is not about you. It's about the couple getting married. Do not repeat, "This is the first time I've been to a gay wedding!" or "I've supported marriages like this for years" over and over during the reception; that just draws attention to you. Keep the focus on the couple (which, honestly, is good etiquette at any wedding, no matter who's tying the knot).
2. Don't Compare The Wedding To Your Own
If you are married (or even if you're not and just like dreaming about your own ideal wedding), don't compare the wedding you're at to yours. First of all, it's kind of tacky to make direct comparisons to begin with (because again, just like at a "straight" wedding, this day is not about you); however, it can be extra uncomfortable when you're at a same-sex wedding, where people may be more likely to stray from "traditional" expectations or put a unique spin on things. This doesn't mean their decisions are "bad," even if they are not your own preference; they're just different, and that's perfectly fine.
3. Don't Ask About Future Children
Again, I think this is a good rule of thumb at any wedding, period; however, this question can feel especially awkward for same-sex couples, who typically don't reproduce in the "traditional" means. Whether a couple hopes to have a surrogate, use IVF, go through the foster system, adopt, or any of the other many options available for people to become parents out there — or whether they have no plans to become parents at all, unless they bring it up themselves, it's not anyone else's place to ask. It's a very personal and complex topic, and not one to bring up lightly. It can also send the message that you aren't "really married" or "really serious" until you have children, which is simply not the case.
4. Embrace It When People Switch Up Traditions
Some same-sex couples choose very traditional ceremonies. Some choose religious ones. Some switch up everything. There are fewer culturally prescribed scripts for same-sex marriage than there are for heterosexual ones — again, largely because same-sex marriage was only determined to be a constitutional right last year — so often, the people getting married are writing their own as they goal. It might come down to personal preference, input from family members, personal religious beliefs (or lack thereof), or any number of other possibilities. But no matter what the inspiration for the couple's choices may be, if they switch up the standard wedding traditions, please don't try to "correct" them or question "why" they decided to change something. If they offer an explanation, sure, engage with them! But don't point out things that are "wrong" just because they're not what you anticipated or not what you've seen before. They're not "wrong." There is no "wrong."
5. Don't Assume Anyone's Orientation Or Gender Identity
This is a good guideline for daily life, too, but it's important to remember not to assume the sexual orientation or gender identity of the people getting married. Someone could identify as bisexual, pansexual, genderqueer, etc. but still enter into a same-sex marriage. For that matter, it's important to remember that not all of the guests may identify as LGBTQ, and even if they do, asking about their personal identity may not be the best topics to navigate during cocktail hour.
6. Don't Ask About Anyone's Sex Life
Again, this one is inappropriate no matter who you're talking to, but as a lesbian myself, it's a personal pet peeve of mine. Just because you know my sexual orientation does not mean that you are entitled to know the details of my sex life. I'm not sure where this idea stems from, but I've noticed it's very common for people to feel comfortable asking about sex and sexual activities when they find out someone is LGBTQ. News flash: This is not appropriate. Just because someone is "out" does not mean they feel like explaining a sexual position or fantasy to you, nor are they obligated to do so.
7. Resist The Urge To Ask Heavy Questions
For many LGBTQ people, our families may not be involved in our lives for any number of reasons, including but not limited to homophobia or transphobia. Personally, the last thing I want to talk about when it comes to celebrating my relationship with my partner is where my parents are, why they aren't accepting, whether I invited them, and so on. If people want to open up and share on these topics of their own accord, it's of course fine to listen and engage. But if you notice people are missing (such as a parent, siblings, etc.), assume that it's a sensitive subject and avoid bringing it up to satiate your own curiosity on someone's big day.
8. Do Not Proclaim Your Reservations About Same-Sex Marriage
If you are invited to a same-sex wedding and decide to attend, but have reservations about same-sex marriage, this is not the time to share them. Nor is it the time to share them if you decide to respond with a "No" to the RSVP. Seriously: LGBTQ know that homophobia, transphobia, and many other forms of discrimination exist in the world and in our communities. We're well aware that many, many people are still against same-sex marriage. If you are against same-sex marriage in any capacity, simply restrain yourself and do not share these views at the ceremony, during the rehearsal, or at any point throughout the couple's process of getting married. Even if you think you're just "speaking your mind" or "sharing your own perspective," recognize that this is not the time or the place. If you really can't control yourself, simply don't attend.
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