Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Q & A: How to Speak Out Against Injustice at Your Wedding

Reader Question: My fiance and I are passionate believers in marriage equality and want to acknowledge in our wedding ceremony how lucky we are to be able to marry when many of our friends and loved ones are denied this. We want our wedding to reflect our selves and our values (green, humane, humanistic, anti-wedding industry, non-religious) and I know that this will be a big change from the usual wedding model for my large Hispanic Catholic Colorado family. So I see a danger that our wedding day will seem from their perspective like a heavy-handed lecture on why everyone should share our beliefs. Do you have any suggestions for how to incorporate the marriage equality message elegantly, so that it is touching and poignant and not militant-sounding?

You said it exactly right. We faced the very same dilemma: How do we stand up for the rights of all people without alienating our more conservative and religious family members?

In our first ceremony draft, I was way too militant and angry (because, heck, the issue makes me so, so angry). Matt pushed against the wording and argued that we should take it out altogether. I explained to him (in what may or may not have been a raised voice) that the least we could do to support marriage equality was to speak out against the injustice publicly. When I ran the wording by my gay best friend, he agreed with Matt that it was over-the-top and that we should strive for a more celebratory tone.

In the end, Matt and I settled on this:


  • As we gather here to solidify our commitment to each other, we would also like to celebrate the fact that California just joined the ranks of Massachusetts by finally starting to extend the rights and privileges of marriage to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.


  • It moves us one step closer to fulfilling our nation’s promise to provide liberty and justice for all.

Meg of A Practical Wedding also had some great ideas in this post. One of her ideas is to print this statement in their program: "Meg and David believe that marriage is a universal human right, and continue to fight and pray for the day when we will be able to share the joys and privileges of civil marriage with all of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers."

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, do you have any additional ideas?

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Kaitlin Wainwright said...

I'm a fan of celebrating equity and equality, and not just in terms of sexuality.

One of my dear friends is going to be giving a toast and in it, I *think* he's going to talk about how much proud he is to know us because of our values regarding equality.

That said, the bigger statement I'm making (in my opinion), is walking myself down the aisle, even though my father is still in my life. It's mostly because I believe strongly in a woman's freedom and that a woman (or any other person) should not be bought, bartered, or sold. There's still a serious lack of gender equity in both our families and that's something where we're digging our heels in.

Jen said...

We elected to include an excerpt from the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling on the front of our wedding program. It was subtle but I think it says a lot about why my husband and I chose to marry and maybe it made a few people think about how the same rights should apply to same-sex couples.

From Goodridge v. Dept. Of Public Health,
introduction by Massachusetts Supreme Court
Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall: "Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive
commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love
and mutual support. Civil marriage is at once a deeply
personal commitment to another human being and a highly
public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship,
intimacy, fidelity, and family. Because it fulfils yearnings for
security, safe haven, and connection that express our
common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution
and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life's
momentous acts of self-definition. It is undoubtedly for these
concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal
significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a
"civil right." Without the right to choose to marry one is
excluded from the full range of human experience."

Lisa said...

We did not have programs. We each wrote our own vows, and mine included a promise to make our home a space that is "welcoming and inclusive." To me, that can be read to address gay marriage as well as a variety of other important issues.

Jenny G K said...

We also used an excerpt from the Mass Supreme Court ruling as one of our readings. We thought it was a nice, non-preachy way to put our beliefs out there.

Kaitlin Wainwright said...

Wow. I like the idea of including the Mass Supreme Court ruling. It's very wonderful, as policy goes.

(also, my verification word is caked, which is sooo awesome)

V. Wetlaufer said...

Jen, I was going to suggest the same thing!

Great idea.

And, as always, I'd like to thank all of you for being allies. It means so much to know that we're not fighting this fight alone.

Stephanova said...

My honey and I are just in the initial planning process for a wedding next year, but one idea we've talked about is providing a link to the Human Rights Campaign, or other advocacy group, on our wedding website and ask people to consider donating to that group instead of buying a gift. Even if very few people actually donate in our name, it will at least provide a thought piece for our family members who don't think about it very often.

Liz said...

We have asked for no gifts, but suggested that if people feel moved to give that they donate to marriage equality—this was a touchy issue with my mom, who thought our initial wording would upset people who wanted to give but didn't support the cause. We eventually rewrote it to say "you may choose to make a donation in our names toward marriage equality. Ultimately, though, your love and support are all that we ask for or expect."

That, and we ordered a stack of these bumper sticker to set out as optional favors. http://act.credoaction.com/stickers/?rc=fb8

Jessica said...

Hey folks! My partner and I had the same issue - it was especially important to me as a bisexual woman (who married a man). The wording that I initially wanted was too strong for my husband, who felt that it was too preachy in general and more about the government and legality than he felt comfortable stressing in our union, which was non-religious and almost incidentally legal (if that makes sense - obviously the legality part is not incidental to queers who can't legally marry, but it was not an impt. part of what being married in front of our friends/family meant to us).

So we said this, which was cribbed from the Mass. ruling and something else, I believe: "To choose the person one loves is a natural right; to marry is a civil right, and so it should be for everyone. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life's momentous acts of self-definition. Mr. X and Ms. X will now say their vows."

In retrospect, I still wish we'd said something more explicit, but I am glad we said what we did. I think it was too subtle for me though - I am not sure anyone even caught what we meant. :(

the un-bride said...

We're not going to say anything at the ceremony, because my very conservative family would take offense, and since they're contributing financially that seems like a poor choice.

However, at the much less formal reception, we're going to thank all of our friends who don't (yet!) have the same rights as us for honoring us with their presence & support.

Of course, somebody will probably manage to still be offended ....

Unknown said...

Thank you all so much for these thoughts and suggestions! I'm a little misty-eyed from reading them. And I'm proud to know that I've tapped into a community of such solid, conscious people. You all rock!

Brittany said...

We used Justin & Kat's recognition from the ceremony she posted as Mrs. Cherry Pie at wedding bee. I know many of our family and guests do not agree with marriage equality, but we believe our wedding ceremony is about us as a couple and what we believe, rather than what our guests believe. I encourage open-minded brides struggling with this issue to consider that your more conservative friends and family do not think twice about saying "Honor and obey your husband," and "who gives this woman away," even though it's offensive to you, so you should not feel the need to stiffle your beliefs, either. In the end, we never heard any complaints.

"And as we remember those who are not with us,
We also recognize those
Who are still denied the civil right of wedded union
And forbidden the social and legal benefits of marriage
We have come a long way toward treating all men and women as equals,
And yet, we acknowledge that we have farther still to go
And more we can do to respect the choice to love, and be loved."

Kaitlin Wainwright said...

Un-bride, I think that the Mass. Supreme Court Ruling might suit you, then, especially if it is a civil ceremony.

It's tasteful and it speaks to marriage rights as a universal right, one that is attached to all people, regardless of gender, sex, sexuality, race, religion or ableness.

Or, perhaps I'm just touting it because I really, really like it?

Anonymous said...

This is something that my fiance and I have struggled with. We haven't started planning this part at all, but with his EXTREMELY conservative family, and my MUCH more liberal family (my grandmother has been in a same-sex relationship for over 30 years), it'll be difficult for us. I definitely want to make some sort of (non-preachy, non-militant) statement, and its great to get these ideas! Thanks everyone!

Ophelie said...

I'm not planning a wedding (I just really like your blog!), but I have to say, reading the part about California in your vows tugged at my heartstrings...
We live in Canada, so we have had marriage equality here for a few years. Reading posts (and comments!) like this makes me realize how lucky we are. I hope with all my heart that the US will soon follow.

Carrie said...

Thank you for this post. We are also planning to invoke our commitment to marriage equality in our ceremony. I think the CA Supreme Court ruling would be a great reading, since it describes the meaning of marriage to us.

I'm also tossing around the idea of donating to Equality NC in lieu of favors. I worry that that would be too pushy, but it's so important to us. Maybe we can just donate without noting it at the reception.

jes [a mountain bride] said...

oh man. sometimes posts on this blog really just touch my heart. (i'm literally sitting here wiping tears).

this is such a tender issue for my fiance and i - we are so passionate about this issue...it's about equality...it's about what is right. i argue about it with family and friends until i'm red in the face and feel broken inside. i just don't understand their point of view - it's just not FAIR.

we want to incorporate something into our ceremony that reflects our view - these suggestions are wonderful. i hope we are as brave as you...i know it will not go over lightly.

megan said...

This topis always reminds me of Ellen DeGeneres's stand up skit on gay marriage. She puts it so simply and is able to show how just plain DUMB anti-equality arguments our...and yet she is still able to make light of it.

anyway, just say what you want to say. a wedding should be the truest expression of you and your partner. it makes me so angry, whether it's rational or not, that people will get offended at a wedding THEY were priveledged enough to be asked to take part in. Also, like Sara has said before: If there are people there who mind, they don't matter. If they matter, they won't mind.

Elizabeth said...

We are reading an excerpt from the Goodridge decision, and really wanted to be officially married (by a judge or some civil ceremony) in a marriage equality state. I think it is a small but powerful statement to bind yourself under the laws of a state that follows the laws you'd like your state (and country) to follow. We weren't able to do this, but really wish it could have worked out. You can then put a statement in a program about your previous ceremony and its significance.

wenders said...

I have copied several of the ideas and comments above. My partner and I are getting married (in MA) next year, and one of the ideals that I really want to represent somehow is that I feel that we have almost an obligation to get married here because we CAN - it's that whole stand up and be counted idea for me. I want to aknowledge that we are unique in our set of gay friends - most of them live in DC and VA and cannot get married. Thanks for the ideas and for the support.

WM said...

Hi Sara,

Not related to gay marriage but I saw this video and knew you NEEDED to see it. I think you'll love it.

Kate said...

We're using the same excerpt from the Mass. Supreme Court ruling in our officiant's welcome speech. It so perfectly captures what we truly feel a wedding is so we're asking him to speak to it. Without directly addressing the equality issue, pointing out where it is from will draw our guests' attention to our support of the ruling.

I'm proud to say that we're having our civil ceremony in Massachusetts!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the suggestions! I have really been struggling with how to bring up this subject in our California wedding without being too preachy.

Ann Keeler Evans, The Wedding Priestess said...

When Steve and I married, we chose not to have a legal marriage until all people could wed legally. (As we live in PA, we assume that will be sometime in the next millenium!) but for couples who aren't willing to do that, (as a celebrant, I think it's good to say that you understand the importance of all people's being able to stand before their community with their beloved to make a public, legal commitment to live in loving relationship and that you look forward to the day when that is true everywhere.

In the meantime, it's important to encourage your GLBT friends to have the ceremonies and to have everyone sign a document saying that they witnessed their vows.

Biz said...

we felt (and feel) strongly that people get mucked down in marriage as a religious event and forget that legal rights like property are involved. we debated boycotting the legal rights, but in the end backed down and decided that in our own marriage we'd keep the two separate by being united at the courthouse and married by a minister. To let people know how we felt, we had a carefully worded statement in our program and then said this at the courthouse.

Biz said...

ok, the hyperlink didn't work. we read this statement:

Today we take advantage of the rights afforded to us by the law as a united couple. However, we believe that the legal rights associated with marriage should not be limited to heterosexual couples. Our country was founded on principles of equality but as the institution of marriage currently stands, there is great inequality and injustice. As Christians and Americans we uphold the separation of church and state because such a relationship increases their individual integrity and strength.

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