A different kind of wedding…
By: Emily Bush & Beth Slagle
While the words “I do” immediately conjure up images of traditional white wedding dresses, flowery wedding cakes and budget busting catered events, we have evolved into a society where tradition is not always the norm. Having a number of gay friends, I’m a huge advocate of “love means love” in whatever form it takes . As a result, I think that alternative lifestyle weddings seem so cutting edge, hip and cool, but for some, there’s a discomfort when, instead of the white wedding dress and black tux walking down the aisle, there’s two white wedding dresses instead. Nowadays, because of our viral nation and television addicted society, we’ve seen and been exposed to a variety of alternative lifestyles, weddings included, featuring same sex, polygamist and even naturists. There’s a lot of planning and consideration that goes into any wedding, but perhaps even more so when it comes to the non-traditional sort.
Same Sex Weddings: The names Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon don’t mean much to most people, but to historians and homosexual couples, they are extremely important. Martin and Lyon were legally married in 2004 after nearly 50 years of being a couple – the first same sex couple to be married in the United States.
Five of the fifty states plus Washington D.C. recognizes same sex marriage. There is current debate in over a dozen states considering acknowledging same sex marriage.
Same sex marriage has the tendency to slip through the cracks when talking about traditional marriages. Some automatically assume that there isn’t a big celebration or necessarily a white dress. Yet, with little research, you would find that there are indeed wedding invitations with two tuxedos on the front with “Perfect Fit” written across the top.
There is no rulebook when it comes to alternative lifestyle weddings. There may be a white dress or there might be two white dresses. There might be white or black tuxedos. There might be rings or even ring tattoos. Not surprisingly, anything goes. And don’t worry – there are gay and lesbian cake toppers on the market as well.
Also not surprisingly, a quick google search of same sex wedding planning brings up over 10 million hits. Seriously? 10 million? Yes, that many.
Regardless of ceremony or who is getting married to whom, there are still the same worries that go into the wedding — the flowers, theme, and even seating arrangements are still agonized over. Yet there’s a few big differences in planning a same sex wedding versus one between man and woman. Depending on the state, gay couples may have the option of planning a full marriage, or instead choose a civil union, domestic partnership or commitment ceremony. Another big consideration is religion, and whether to have a religious (if permitted by the church) or non-religious ceremony.
Also, make sure the venue of choice is gay-friendly, and that the venue is comfortable hosting a same-sex ceremony. A website like Gay Friendly Inns is a good starting place for your venue choice. Some couples even choose to have their ceremony performed at gay pride where there are officiants on hand to perform group commitment ceremonies. View the gay pride calendar.
A lot of books and resources are out there for anyone planning an alternative lifestyle wedding. The New Intimacy, by Ronald Mazur addresses open-ended marriages and alternative lifestyles. The book covers everything from the wedding cake to making your guests feel comfortable while allowing you to have a good time. Another book titled The New Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings, by Tess Ayers and Paul Brown, covers topics like how to have a “wedding” when it isn’t legal and the latest trends in gay engagement rings.
A gay or lesbian couple can have a wedding as amazing as one held by a man and woman. All weddings are unique, and it is expected that same sex nuptials will have their own special moments and twists to be the special day that everyone imagined.
Polygamist Weddings: Alternative lifestyle weddings not only include homosexual marriages, but also people who partake in polygamy.
There has been a newfound interest in polygamy due, in large part, to Big Love, the Emmy winning HBO series about a modern polygamist tackling problems inside and outside of his three-house suburban home, as well as the show Sister Wives, TLC’s hit reality show about one man with three – then four – wives and all of their children. It is estimated that around 40,000 people practice the polygamist lifestyle in the United States.
Polygamy is part of the Mormon religion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be a Mormon to be a polygamist. In the U.S., polygamy is much more controversial and taboo than homosexual marriage, which might be hard to believe for some. In fact, the family in Sister Wives had to move from Utah to Las Vegas, where marriage laws are less strict in order to keep their family together. But one does have to question why the Charlie Sheens and Hugh Hefners of the world can have a multitude of live-in girlfriends and that lifestyle be perfectly acceptable, but tying the knot with more than one is a no-no. This is not to say that I’m advocating polygamy or of living with a multitude of girlfriends, which I’m not. It’s simply to point out that our society is accepting of one lifestyle, but not another, when there is seemingly little realistic difference between the two.
Nudist Weddings: Another group of people that have unique weddings are nudists. I have several friends who are nudists or naturists, as some of them like to call themselves (I’m still not certain of the difference, but I think my one friend thinks that “naturist” sounds more respectable than “nudist”). Anyway, it’s not a lifestyle that I would be comfortable with, but I’m always fascinated by the innerworkings of such groups and what makes one decide to hang out with other people who are nude. Perhaps I’m a prude. I probably am. Or, just as likely, it’s that awkwardness of someone seeing me “full monty” style when I’m a “lights off” type of gal.
In any event, a nudist wedding isn’t something that you just decide to do. Typically, people are brought up as nudists and, ideally, one nudist would marry another individual who practiced nudism or naturism.
Nudists can choose to go completely bare or paint on themselves for the ceremony. Usually everyone at the ceremony would be nude as well; however, in some nudist weddings, only the ones who practice it will be nude. I mean, seriously, do you want to see Grandma in the buff OR for her to see you bare it all? Also, years down the road, will you be disappointed that you didn’t wear the white wedding dress? Will you be able to show pictures of your wedding to your children and loved ones? These are definitely things to consider before bouncing your bare bum down the aisle.
If you decide to have a nudist wedding, undoubtedly, not everyone is going to see it as a beautiful and natural way to celebrate your commitment to one another. Some will giggle and laugh, some will be embarrassed and some will find it offensive. And some will find it as beautiful as you. But this isn’t the type of ceremony in which you’re likely to invite throngs of people. More likely, you’ll only invite people who really know you or your fiancé and the lifestyle you lead, and, place a big star by this item ***** make certain that the invitation makes clear that this is a nudist wedding. You don’t want Aunt Mable fainting at the sight of private bits. Also, and this, too, seems to be a no-brainer, you should not invite kids unless they are part of a nudist family.
Picking a venue is also key – having the wedding and reception at the same venue is probably the best option since your guests won’t want to have to dress and undress for the car ride from one venue to the next. And, when choosing other vendors (think DJ, caterer, photographer), make certain that they’re aware that this is a nudist wedding and, preferrably, that they’ve had experience with this type of wedding before.
Although wedding plans can we daunting in general, there is no need for people hosting alternative lifestyle weddings to have any extra anxiety. There are plenty of venues and resources for people to use, you might just have to do a little more digging. And above all, enjoy the moment and the day, one that will make memories for a lifetime!
Emily Bush is a student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio studying History and Journalism. Emily wrote for Miami’s on-campus magazine called the Miami Quarterly. Emily has a passion for writing about things that she loves – Pittsburgh, food, and fun! She also loves sports and playing games. She was born and raised in Pittsburgh.