Editor's Note: While we hope the tips in this post are helpful to everyone looking to hire LGBTQ friendly wedding vendors, it is written from the perspective of an Ally who wants to be supportive of equality and the rights of our LGBTQ+ friends through their wedding planning. We do not want to discount the fact that those in the LGBTQ+ community do not always have the privilege of choice in planning their own weddings. Our hope is to nudge the industry in a more inclusive direction. <3
By Krista Gundersen
My fiancé and I consider ourselves to be fairly socially progressive, and LGBTQ equality is a particular issue of importance to us (I’ve even officiated the same-sex wedding of very dear friends!). To that end, we wouldn’t feel comfortable patronizing a business that wouldn’t be equally willing to serve our LGBTQ friends. So it was a non-negotiable for us that we would only spend our wedding dollars on LGBTQ friendly wedding vendors. When it came to planning our large(ish), post-wedding reception in the (mostly) blue state of New Jersey, this was a pretty easy task to accomplish. The real challenge came when planning for our intimate destination ceremony in New Orleans.
While the city of New Orleans is very diverse and fairly liberal, the same cannot necessarily be said about the state of Louisiana. Although the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 effectively legalized same-sex marriage throughout all fifty states, anti-sodomy laws once used to persecute same-sex couples remain on the books in Louisiana to this day - albeit, constitutionally unenforceable. Public opinion across the state remains more closely divided on marriage equality than in areas that historically lean to the political left on social issues. According to a survey conducted by Louisiana State University last year, approximately 53 percent of Louisiana residents remain opposed to same-sex marriage, even after Obergefell, and 52 percent believe that wedding vendors should have the right to refuse to provide their services to same-sex couples based on the vendors’ religious beliefs.
DO YOUR RESEARCH.
As with any vendor, taking the time to do just a little bit of internet sleuthing can go a long way when trying to identify LGBTQ friendly wedding vendors. For example, when searching for a photographer, I poured through different photographers’ websites to see if they featured any weddings for same sex couples. The photographer we hired, Michael Caswell, met this criterion - he posts beautiful engagement and wedding photo galleries of all couples with equal fanfare. Another easy tip? The good old “type-it-into-Google-and-hope-for-the-best” method. I searched for “same-sex friendly wedding officiant New Orleans” and found Donna Cavalier of Happy Life Weddings, who specializes in secular, civil ceremonies for both opposite- and same-sex couples.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions.
If it’s unclear if a vendor is on the same page as you and your fiancé(e), be direct and ask them. This especially applies when it comes to venues for the ceremony and/or reception. Don’t assume that just because you’re NOT getting married in a church, synagogue, or other traditional place of worship, that the venue treats all couples equally. The worst that they can say is “no,” and in that case, better you know up front than to find out after you’ve paid a hefty deposit.
BE CLEAR WITH YOUR VENDORS BEFORE YOU SIGN.
At each of our initial vendor consultations, we indicated that we had specifically sought them out BECAUSE of their willingness to treat LGBTQ couples equally. This gave the vendors the opportunity to reaffirm that they did, in fact, share our values - which provided an extra layer of reassurance for us.
SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.
As a self-proclaimed atheist (him) and a lapsed Catholic turned agnostic (me), finding both an officiant and a venue was a bit easier because religion is not important to us. Because we weren’t looking for a priest or minister of a particular faith, we didn’t have to worry that s/he wouldn’t support same sex marriage. Likewise, because we weren’t limited to getting married in a church or house of worship, we had the flexibility to consider both “traditional” venues (such as banquet halls and hotel ballrooms) and off-the-beaten path venues for our wedding ceremony. However, if you have your heart set on getting married in a place that doesn’t serve all couples equally (for example, in a church that doesn’t support same-sex marriage), you will need to decide which is more important to you - holding the ceremony there, or holding it in a venue that more closely aligns with your position on this issue. You may also need to consider the expectations of your family. If your parents are footing the bill for the entire wedding, and a certain officiant or venue is a dealbreaker for them, this will present a tough decision. The Bridechilla podcast has often discussed how offers to contribute to a wedding shouldn’t be conditional, and I agree - but for some couples, a conditional offer may be necessary in order to have any wedding at all. Which leads me to my final piece of advice...
ACCEPT THE THINGS YOU CANNOT CHANGE, BUT CHANGE THE THINGS YOU CAN.
I’m paraphrasing the Serenity Prayer (from Alcoholics Anonymous) here, but I think it’s a good mantra for wedding planning (and for life in general). Weddings bring out the best and worst in people, and planning a wedding can often feel like trying to wrangle kittens - fun, but also overwhelming and exhausting. Sometimes, you have to pick your battles, and other times, your battles have been picked for you - but that doesn’t mean you can’t exert some control over how you fight those battles. For example, in places such as Australia, where officiants are legally required to state that “Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life,” I encourage you to think outside of the box when putting together the other parts of your wedding ceremony and reception. I’ve heard of officiants who ask guests to cover their ears while that specific line is read, or who add in a qualifying line about the couple’s support for same sex marriage.
Finally, I think that it’s important to highlight that we made the decision, as a couple, to let our actions speak for themselves. Our wedding is intended to be a celebration of our marriage, not the time or place to aggressively push our personal socio-political beliefs or agendas onto friends and family who might feel differently, or to berate those people for not sharing our views. This is a party that we are hosting, and as good hosts, we want our guests to be comfortable and enjoy themselves. That being said, it’s also a priority to express our support for the LGBTQ community unequivocally. Choosing vendors who support and respect marriage equality is just one way to make this a strong statement on our wedding day.
About the author: Krista Gundersen is a lawyer in New York City who believes #loveisloveislove. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her fiancé and their grumpy old rescue dog, Georgia.