Who we are
So we may as well start with the introductions. Hi, our names are Hayley and Sarah and we are getting married… yes to each other…no we aren’t having a joint wedding…and no there isn’t a groom. I figured we could just get that out of the way now to make sure we are all on the same page, and they are all phrases we have had to say more times than we can even remember (yes even the joint wedding one!). We have been asked kindly by our photographer Nicola (a.k.a Daffodil Waves) to write a bit about the how we have found the process of wedding planning from the point of view of two brides, including the highs, lows and clichés that have come with it. So here it is…
Our first wedding event
The first event that we went to in the planning process was an open-day at Mythe Barn, and believe it or not I think it was one of the most nerve wracking things we have ever done. It was kind of spur of the moment thing so we hadn’t really had time to think it over, but I think by the time we had pulled into the carpark the reality of the situation had hit us. What is usually supposed to be a really exciting time for most people, it suddenly felt like a massive spotlight was on us. We were leaving the comforting congratulations of family and friends and entering into unknown territory, where we had no idea as to the reactions we were to receive. When you are used to sometimes having to deal with the odd stare or comment you get used to judging a situation and if we ever feel uncomfortable we just don’t hold hands. But in this situation we didn’t really have a choice. I felt like I was coming out all over again, to every single person we spoke to. Would we get second looks or stares, would vendors want to talk to us, or even want us to book them, would we be treated the same as any other couple there or would it be thought that we didn’t belong? All these were questions that went through our head, especially since we had briefly read a few horror stories online.
Thankfully for us we couldn’t have been more wrong. We soon came to realise that everyone was so busy with their own agenda’s that we didn’t even get a second look from the other couples and the people that worked there greeted us like any other couple. Sadly this has not been true for every place we have been to, but we will get to that later. I will also take this time to plug Nicola as a photographer, because to be honest I think it was the conversation with her that had us leaving the venue feeling like we weren’t any different to anyone else there. She took the fact of two brides in stride and we fell into easy conversation about logistics on the day and photography style etc… This was something we were both really worried about as we have heard how important it is to get on with the photographer. They are capturing the whole day and we were a little worried as to whether we would feel comfortable enough to be ourselves, or whether they would think that shooting two brides would be any different to shooting a bride and a groom. We are two people in love who are getting married. We don’t hug each other differently, kiss or hold hands differently so why should anything else be different? Thankfully we thought Nicola believed this at the time, which is why we looked her up a year later and booked her (and spoiler alert, we also went back and booked that venue as well!).
Advice on talking with same-sex couples
I can understand how it might be difficult to talk about some things with same-sex couples, as we live in a world where heterosexual couples and fixed gender stereotypes dominate. Therefore a lot of the time people are never faced with something that challenges this day-to-day. From our experiences so far most people we have spoken to who work in the wedding industry don’t have a problem with same-sex couples at all. But they sometimes can say the wrong things or seem really awkward because they worry too much about being politically correct. The following shows some scenarios we have been in regarding certain aspects of wedding planning and some advice for vendors. As a disclaimer we want to point out that we are not speaking on behalf of all same-sex couples, and these are just a few of our own opinions that we have thought worth writing about.
- Clothes – What a bride wears on her wedding day is always one of the first couple of questions a person asks. Whenever we have been asked I can sometimes see the hesitation the person has in asking the question. I think it usually stems from the fact that it is usually just a simple “so have you picked your dress yet?” Obviously not all same-sex female couples will wear dresses so usually the question turns into a hesitant “so are you wearing a dress?” or a “have you decided what you are wearing?” These questions are fine and I have never felt offended by them. Weirdly, after saying yes we are both wearing dresses, we have more often than not had the follow up question “are you wearing the same dress?” I’m still not sure why this is such a popular assumption but still, it isn’t offensive. I think the only time I feel uncomfortable is when the reaction to what we are both wearing is surprise. While it may not be intentional, it usually makes us feel like one of us expected to take on the male role and wear a suit. Some brides may choose to, some may not, we just happen to fall into the latter category. The take home message from this is that people should stop trying to apply traditional gender stereotypes to couples and simply realise that a couple can wear whatever they want, be it same-sex couples or not. Oh and that one bride doesn’t have to take the role of the ‘groom’.
- Forms – Ok, so this one is less about the actual ‘talking’ bit and more about the forms that vendors use to take details of prospective clients. In the year and a half that we have spent going to wedding fairs and open days and filling in online request forms, pretty much all the forms that require both names use ‘Bride’ and ‘Groom’ sections. Very rarely do we see a form that says anything different. So guess what? Most of the time one of us ends up under bride and the other under groom. After the first few times of filling in these forms we felt a bit awkward, but obviously we had to get used to it, however it shouldn’t be something that has to be an issue as it is so easily changed. We have had people apologise for their forms in the past; one women even said how she realises she should change them, and another even purposefully put both names in the bride section. In a way it made us feel good that we were raising people’s awareness to the fact that times are changing. The advice for this would be to just simply have ‘Partner 1’ and ‘Partner 2’.
- Variety in product examples – What I mean by this is products by venders who provide services such as guest-book themed products, invites, cake toppers or any other products with couple names on it. Whenever we look at vendor stalls and we notice evidence of same-sex couples (for example two female/male names, ‘Mr&Mr’/’Mrs&Mrs’) we get a little bit excited. Obviously not having something like this doesn’t mean we won’t speak to someone, or that we think they won’t want to speak to us etc… But it does make us feel more comfortable approaching the vendor, probably because we already know their stance and know they don’t care. So the advice here is, if you can, just consider having an invite/guest-book showing names for a same-sex couple etc… Even if you’ve never done a same-sex wedding, having even one example of changing the names or using a royalty free stock photo could make a big difference for people.
Some examples of our experiences
I thought it might be worth adding in a few of the bad experiences we have had, just to highlight that unfortunately, while the majority of people we have encountered while wedding planning have been lovely, there are still a few people that can make it difficult for us. Thankfully we were a fair way into the planning etc… when these next two events happened. I think if it had been earlier on, when we were still quite nervous about the whole ordeal, they probably would have affected us a bit more.
One venue we visited ended with a very uncomfortable tour of the venue, after which we just decided to leave. During the tour we went round the venue and asked all the standard questions. We kind of felt like we were being rushed a little, but we just assumed it was him being on a time schedule or something, however it got to a point where we were discussing speaker systems and noise level regulations where the tour took a turn for the worst. In the middle of these questions the guy started randomly making a point of saying that they would have to check all of our music we wanted playing and what we were going to say to each other because it cannot contain anything religious. Obviously we knew that there are regulations regarding certain hymns and wording etc… during a civil ceremony (whether it be between a heterosexual couple or not), but this is down to the registrar to discuss with us and organise. He really emphasised all the things we wouldn’t be able to do, even though all we were doing was asking about noise levels etc… Whether this was just the way this guy was or not it made us feel really uncomfortable, as no other venue has ever started talking like this before. Perhaps we were just being sensitive, perhaps his curt manner and general air of distaste was just the way he was, but we ended up feeling really uncomfortable and this wasn’t what we wanted from a venue. So we decided it wasn’t the venue for us and moved on.
After some of the articles in the news recently regarding the ‘cake’ incident for an out MP, we never thought we would experience our own ‘cake’ incident. I must point out this is the only experience we have had which was so openly and obviously negative (even the one above was more about us feeling uncomfortable rather than it being straight-up offensive). We were at the National Wedding Fair and decided to go round and have a look at all the cake stalls (mainly because we saw people walking round with free samples of cake and decided we needed to get in on that action). We found a stall giving out free samples so we approached and stood next to the people currently speaking to the vendor. She was happily engaging them in conversation and trying to sell them the service, telling them to bring over other members of their party for samples etc… so we waited for our turn. Eventually they left, and we moved to stand in front of the women and proceeded to discuss cake things loudly amongst ourselves, giving the perfect opportunity for the vendor to join in. She didn’t. So, unperturbed, we caught the women’s eye and said hello, getting ready to talk to her. She then proceeded to look down at our hands (as we were holding hands) look back at our faces, give us a disapproving look and tutting while turning her head away, clearly ignoring us. So we stood there looking at her for a few minutes waiting for her to turn back. She didn’t. It was only once we moved off to the side that she then returned back to her previous position and proceeded to talk to the people that had been behind us. I don’t think I have ever felt so angry and embarrassed at the same time. Needless to say we chose not to get a cake from there, and we didn’t even get a free sample.
However despite these situations above, the overwhelming response we’ve experienced has been lovely, even if it has been a little embarrassing at times! This last story falls in to that category.
Early on when we were still picking a venue, we decided to visit an old guild hall – a large and echoey space where voices rebounded and reverberated around the room. (Remember this detail, I can’t stress how important this is!). We went over to talk to a woman about our age who was stood behind a dress stall. So the usual questions were asked, “when are you getting married?”, “Who is the bride?”, “Oh, you’re having a joint wedding?” When we explained that the wedding was actually TO each other the lovely lady seemed a little embarrassed at her mistake, this is when her boss decided to step in. When I say this woman was a large lady, I mean that everything about her was large. Her presence dominated the space around her, her voice boomed around the already echoey hall and she was the type of person you couldn’t help but pay attention to. Well this lady walked over to us and boomed out in a perfect Received Pronunciation “SO! YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED AND YOU’RE BOTH WOMEN? WELL I THINK THAT’S JUST RUDDY MARVELLOUS! At this point, everyone in the hall seemed to quiet down and listen to what this lady was shouting about. The attention of the rather large hall didn’t put our dress lady off though, in true form she carried right on. “You know, I had two women into my store just the other day who told me they were marrying each other and they asked me if that was a problem, I told them exactly what I’ll tell you now, it certainly isn’t a problem and never will be because my brother is also a… HOMOSEXUAL!” With this last word bellowed out around the hall, you could have heard a pin drop as all eyes turned to look over. Dress lady just stood there nodding impressively with the biggest smile on her face and you know what? We couldn’t help but smile back. Yes, we wanted the ground to swallow us up a little from being the centre of attention, (and to be honest, not many people want to be the reason someone shouts out the word homosexual at a seemingly random point) but more importantly, we were faced with this lovely (if a little loud) woman who wanted to ensure that we were being put at ease and knew that we would be welcomed in her establishment. At the end of the day, isn’t that what every bride wants? Whether you’re marrying a man or a woman, a bride just wants to feel safe and welcome.