Adapting traditions for same-sex couples

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

If you're stressing about how to translate a traditionally heterocentric ceremony to fit you and your same-sex partner, fear not- there aren't many changes to make, according to local wedding planners and officiants. They say that straight couples have been tweaking tradition for years, so all you have to worry about is a few small decisions that most couples face.

"It never really dawned on me that people had to change their weddings, other than a couple of pronouns," says officiant Missy French of Missy Marries. "At the end of the day, it's still just two people, wanting to get in front of the people that they love, and be recognized as a married couple."

Rev. Jeremiah Hassler of Live by Faith Wedding Ministries agrees. "A lot of my ceremonies are very similar, whether it's a heterosexual or a gay marriage," he says. "So why call it untraditional? When two people love each other, and they decide to get married, that's as traditional as it gets."

Most secular ceremonies are built from the ground up, as the couple works with the officiant to craft a ceremony that's unique to them. Religious ceremonies tend to follow a stricter path, but your minister can guide you through the minor changes with ease.

Before the ceremony

Mixed-gender attendants-best women, men of honor, groomswomen and bridesmen-have been rising in popularity for years, says Rick Mitchell, wedding planner and officiant at CW Weddings and Event Planning. And mixed seating for guests is becoming more common as couples forgo the idea of "bride's side" and "groom's side," Mitchell adds.

As for the processional, couples can choose what works for them and their venue. Emilie Duncan of Emilie Duncan Event Planning has seen couples approach the altar simultaneously from side aisles and grooms escorted by their mothers. Couples could walk together or even take a page from Hebrew tradition and each have both parents walk them down the aisle, says Mitchell.

For their June 27, 2015, wedding, Robyn Hampton and Kellie (Hughes) Hampton chose to tweak a common tradition. "One thing we both wanted was that moment where the music changes and everyone is standing for when we both walked in with our respective fathers," says Robyn. "But also," adds Kellie, "I wanted that moment where Robyn was standing up front and she got to see me walk down the aisle." So Robyn entered first, followed by Kellie.

The main event

Love songs, children's stories and literary references have long been staple readings in secular ceremonies, so same-sex couples have little to change there. Excerpts from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion on same-sex marriage also has become very popular, says French.

Many Bible readings for Christian weddings are gendered, but there are still plenty that aren't. The classic 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 is gender-neutral, as are Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Song of Songs 8:6-7 and many others. "I have done same-sex ceremonies in churches, and the ceremonies were very reminiscent of a heterosexual couple getting married," says Duncan. "They just changed the pronouns."

"I now pronounce you…"

Perhaps the biggest difference between same-sex and heterosexual weddings is the pronouncement. Traditionally, an officiant tells the groom to kiss the bride and announces the couple as "Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Smith," or some variation thereof.

Robyn and Kellie Hampton chose the phrase, "please welcome the happy couple" at their ceremony and were announced at their reception as "Mrs. and Mrs. Robyn and Kellie Hampton."

"I'll give them some different samples of how to announce the couple and let them choose from that," says Hassler. Some of his examples include, "I now pronounce the new married couple of Misters John and Joe Smith" or "I am pleased to announce the marriage of Jane Miller and Jill Smith."

"You could keep it simple either way and say, 'Everyone please stand and congratulate our newlyweds,'" says Cassandra White, owner of CW Weddings & Event Planning. "You don't even have to go with the names."