As many readers of this blog will know; I’m British. I moved to New York in January of 2011 and the campaign to legally recognise same-sex marriages in the state was huge during the first half of that year. The Marriage Equality Act passed in July of 2011, coincidentally the month that I got married. I had signed any petitions that I was asked to sign for this act to be passed, but I never really thought about what a hugely important fundamental human right it is to be able to legally declare your significant other until I was actually considering doing it myself. This is especially true in America, where someone may need to be married for their partner to be covered by their health insurance. I hadn’t considered this, until an officiant that I work with pointed it out to me recently as Project Cupid was launched to allow people to get married in New York during the height of the Covid 19 pandemic.
LGBTQ+ people and their allies worked hard for the right for their relationships to be treated with the same respect as straight relationships are. The Marriage Equality Act passed that July, and lots of weddings popped up all over New York City and NY State straight away. New York was the sixth state to recognise same-sex marriages. Nowadays, around 12% of weddings in New York State are same-sex weddings. It just happens that around 12% of the weddings I do with my business Wed in Central Park are same-sex weddings, too.
My clients, whatever their sexuality, come from all over the world to get married in New York. Over the years, in some cases, the same-sex couples who married with us in NYC may not have a legally recognised marriage in their home country, but they want to get married in a place with marriage equality. So far, when these countries have caught up and begin recognising same-sex marriages, the New York wedding will become legally binding in their own country. Everyone I work with is LGBTQ+ friendly, I wouldn’t work with them if they weren’t. Several of the photographers and officiants are gay themselves. So, if you would prefer a gay person to marry you then just let me know.
A survey of 500 same-sex couples by the Gay Wedding Institute said that two-thirds of same-sex couples are paying for the wedding themselves. Think about how you prefer to spend your money on your wedding day – a big party close to home with all of your friends and acquaintances, or a smaller affair in an amazingly inclusive city, which truly has something for everyone and is certainly one of the most gay-friendly cities on Earth? Which is likely to be more memorable for both the couple and the guests? OK – I’m biased on this one – it’s New York every time for me. Another possible benefit to a destination wedding, is that if there are any issues with family members that you don’t want to invite to your wedding, then having it far away is the perfect way to more easily exclude anyone who may be a bit difficult.
It’s quite straightforward to get married in New York. All you need to do is go together to City Hall with your passports and $35 to get your license. I wrote a blog post with a bit more information about how to get your license in New York City. Then you wait 24 hours after picking up the license before you can have the ceremony. I’m now offering five choices of Central Park wedding packages – all of which can be adapted to a different location in another public park in New York City – Brooklyn Bridge Park, with a view of the Manhattan skyline anyone? I will book a New York State registered officiant for you, and write the ceremony especially for you. I ask all couples a series of questions that allow me to write something just for them. We can completely personalize a ceremony to suit the couple. After the ceremony, you both sign the license, along with the officiant and at least one witness (we can provide one if you need us to, or your photographer can be witness!), we can return it to City Hall for you, and they register your marriage worldwide.
The New York Marriage Equality Act says that the State and local courts and governments must not discriminate against any marriages, and they cannot refuse to sanctify a marriage on the basis of the sexuality of the couple who are marrying. It does allow religious organisations to decline to officiate same-sex wedding ceremonies, though. If my clients wish to incorporate religion into their ceremony, then it’s easy enough for me to find the right officiant from my contacts. I write the ceremony wording for each couple individually, so we can include as much or as little tradition, spirituality, symbolism or religion as you like. I work with several multi-faith ordained officiants, and everyone I work with is very happy to be involved with same-sex weddings.
I can also book a photographer for you, for however long you need one, and I’d work with you to make a plan of the day, with timeline estimates and all the photo locations that you want to get to. I can also provide someone to make an edited video of the wedding, or a live stream for people back home to watch as it happens. I can provide a musician, flowers, hair and makeup and lots of other pieces of advice that should make everything smooth and stress-free. I’ve planned over three hundred weddings, and I estimate that 30-40 of them have been same-sex weddings, so it’s quite difficult to ask me something that I haven’t been asked before!
I’ve read a number of times that “a gay wedding is just a wedding” and I agree with that to a certain extent, and of course love is love. I see plenty of similarities when it comes to weddings – gay and straight, but I think it’s important not to assume a hetero-normative idea of traditional weddings from any of my couples, same-sex couples in particular. I see my job as a planner to listen to the couple and give them the wedding that they want, not to try to fit them in to a cookie-cutter idea of a wedding that everyone has.
Increasingly over the years I have been planning weddings, I’ve seen many couples questioning the traditions around marriage, such as who arrives first (if anyone – the couple can of course arrive together), is anyone given away, who carries the flowers (if anyone), does anyone change names, what exactly do couples promise each other during the ceremony (love, honour and obey, anyone?) and of course who pays for it all? So, I try to be careful not to make too many assumptions when planning a wedding. In many ways, I think same-sex weddings have started to influence straight weddings. Straight couples are seeing same-sex couples break traditions in small but significant ways and they are following suit. For example, I see lots of same-sex couples walk to their weddings together, and increasingly I’m seeing straight couples arrive together now, too, rather than the tradition of the groom waiting for the bride to walk to him.
Some of our couples, gay or straight, might get ready together and arrive together to their wedding, instead of the old-fashioned way of arriving separately. This is especially common with a more low-key elopement. We’ve all seen the traditional wedding where the groom waits for the bride to arrive and when she does, everyone gasps. We can have one of the couple waiting with the guests and the other arrives later, or we can have the couple arrive together (to receive a collective gasp!) and on some occasions, we’ve had one of the couple first walk down the aisle to receive their gasp, and then the other of the couple to walk down the aisle. According to the Gay Wedding Institute, 30% of lesbian couples walk down two aisles or from different directions, and 81% of gay grooms walk together down one central aisle holding hands. If you’re getting married in a park you’re already breaking some rules, so you can do it however you want to.
Couples getting married in New York won’t find choosing a reception location a difficult task – except for the vast array of choice! The law under the Marriage Equality Act states that marriage licenses cannot be denied to same-sex couples, and that no government or private entity can deny the rights, benefits or protections of marriage to same-sex couples who are legally wed. So, no vendors should refuse to serve same-sex couples because of their sexual orientation. This is New York City, and many of the venues are extremely gay friendly. The whole of New York City welcomes LGBT+ people, and the well-known gay-friendly areas such as Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and the Village certainly not the only option. Rest assured that couples can choose from lots of awesome reception venues – some of which will of course be gay bars.
If you would like some help planning your wedding in New York, whatever your sexuality, then get in touch with me via email, or have a look at the website where many questions are answered. If you would like me to help you with planning your own Central Park wedding, visit our website, or follow us on Pinterest where we pin all things New York or wedding-related, “like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram for lovely photos of happy couples – I try to show a good reflection of our gay and straight couples in my social media feeds. New York City is known for welcoming LGBTQ+ people, so you will have a fantastic time if you choose to get married in this incredible city!