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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Guest Post: The Trials and Tribulations (and Joys!) of Planning a Different Sort of Wedding

Photos by Darby Gieringer and Stephen Ironside, our talented and lovely friends and wedding photographers

by Helen Chase

Most of the time, I’m just a girl in love, going to school and working and adopting a kitten and doing all sorts of things that lots of people do. But then, this amazing lady I’m in love with and I decided to get married. With an engagement ring on each of our hands, we had to brave some strong opinions about what we were planning.

Overall, we were rather lucky. We didn’t experience any catastrophes—we won a free engagement shoot from a photographers’ collective in a neighboring city, and when I told the company that my partner was a woman, they said that was fine with them. Our wedding photographers were friends of ours. We made all the food, decorations and flower arrangements, and the owners of our venue were gay-friendly. Our officiant, who has known me since I was in junior high, was more than accepting. We didn’t have to deal with anyone refusing to work with us because of our sexuality, which I know has been a problem for many other same-sex couples. We did, however, encounter some raised eyebrows (at best), disparaging comments from everyone from family members to strangers who didn’t understand our “lifestyle choice”… and having to tell people over and over that yes, I was engaged, but not to a man.

We went to a bridal store to look at dress options, and the friendly woman at the front desk had us sit down with her to give her our information.

“When is your wedding?” she asked me, and I told her August 1st. She asked Lindi as well, who said August 1st also.

“So you’re having a double wedding? How exciting!”

“Oh no,” I answered. “We’re marrying each other.” Lindi squeezed my hand under the desk.

The woman stiffened, her eyes widened, and she told us she was going to get someone else to help us.

We considered walking away, but we had been excited about looking at dresses. We’re not na├»ve—we live in the mid-South, where gay marriage is not yet legal and churches outnumber everything but fast food restaurants—and knew before setting foot in the store that it might not go well. But, we wanted to try on dresses. We’re both girly and giggly and love pretty things (not to mention that we aren’t the type to retreat so easily), so we stayed.

Another consultant, a younger, perky woman named Jen, came to the front of the store and welcomed us, then walked us back to the dressing rooms. She wrote our names, surrounded by hearts, on the mirrored doors. She brought us the dresses we’d selected from photos and helped each of us, in our separate rooms, zip them up and pick out accessories.

She walked away, at one point during the appointment, to get more dresses from the stockroom. Lindi and I were standing on the platform in front of the dressing rooms in our gowns and when she returned we were holding one another loosely, as if dancing. She clapped her hands and gushed, “Oh, you two are so cute!”

That day, when the rather cold woman who took down our names and addresses and our shared wedding date could have easily been the one to make one of us cry, it was Jen who made me tear up instead. I sent her a thank you note, for dealing with what must have been an unusual situation with such grace and enthusiasm.

I think this situation fairly well sums up what it is like to plan a same-sex wedding in this heterosexist society of ours. Some people were just as excited for us as if we were planning a marriage between a man and a woman, while others were not. We were blessed—our parents, siblings and most of our close friends supported us and we experienced an extraordinary outpouring of love and joy surrounding our wedding planning and the event itself.

Then, there were those who didn’t agree with our choice to commit our lives to one another—a good chunk of Lindi’s family including her grandmother and an aunt who is a Catholic nun, some of my extended family and two of my four closest friends, neither of whom attended the wedding. Then there were the responses that meet with a proclamation of future wedded bliss with a member of your own sex: “Isn’t that illegal?” and “Are you wearing matching dresses?” and (from my cousin, no less): “I wish I could tell you I was happy for you, but it’s against my religion.” Then, the legal pieces—or rather, the legal pieces that were not: the wedding license, the promise of shared medical insurance, easy name changes.

Nonetheless, I would say that we were probably much like many other engaged couples. We looked at venues and invitations and decorations; we found an officiant and what we wanted to wear. We fought about wedding-related things and considered eloping instead. We dealt with family drama. We planned a menu and wrote our vows. We decided against a DJ and made our own iPod playlist.

I look forward to a day when other same-sex couples planning an exciting event of their own won’t have to deal with lack of acceptance. Hopefully in the next decade, gay marriage will be legal in all 50 states, not just a few. We chose to only register at stores that allowed us to register as “Bride 1 and Bride 2” or “Partner 1 and Partner 2” and someday, maybe all businesses will have equal respect for all couples, no matter their respective genders. Things are changing, and I feel incredibly lucky to live in a time when we can see how things are shifting, day by day.

We’ve been married now for eight months (eek!) and I feel like… a married person. Not a gay married person, just a married person. And it is utterly fantastic.


Helen and Lindi are both in their final year at the University of Arkansas. Helen works as a copy editor at a organizational management firm, while Lindi works with tiny, cute children at the University nursery school. They met in January 2007, muddled their way into a wonderful relationship and were married on August 1, 2010. They also just started a blog together, titled Bettencourt Chase: the things we make, bake and photograph, and an Etsy shop named Operation Petticoat.

A huge thank you to Helen for sharing her story with 2000 Dollar Wedding kindred spirits! If you have an idea for a guest post you would like to write, please
send me an e-mail!

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Lekki said...

This is a very naive question, but I am honestly curious: is it bad form to ask if the brides are wearing the same dress? I only ask because that is the sort of thing I would say; to a heterosexual bride, about the first thing everyone says is "what's the dress like' or 'do you have your dress' or something, so I wondered why a question about the same dresses was marked as insensitive (although it may be a little dumb!).

Thanks - and I wish you both a wonderful, love-filled lifelong marriage.

Jenn said...

Lekki - as a woman who just married a female partner, I wouldn't be offended by that question. However, I can see where someone might feel that their individuality was being ignored (like, we're both female but we're not the same person). As with anything, it's all in the attitude behind the asking :)

Helen said...

Lekki, no worries! I was never offended by it, just thought it was sort of funny. I can't really think of a really good parallel for a heterosexual wedding- but I suppose it would be like asking if you and your groom were wearing the exact same color shoes, or having the exact same wedding band. It's not like it would be totally bizarre for you to both wear the same color shoes or have identical wedding bands, but wouldn't it be sort of funny if someone asked you that with the assumption that you would? I might be off base here, but it was something we were asked perhaps a dozen times during the process (and sometimes the first thing we were asked!), and like I said, it just always seemed a little silly to me. We were also often asked if we had the same engagement ring, which we don't. As Jenn said, Lindi and I ARE both women, but at the same time we're very different from one another in many ways, in the same way that a woman and a man who are engaged likely are.

Anyway, I wasn't trying to dub it insensitive, just saying it was funny to me. :)

belinda said...

Congratulations so much for finding your true love in this world. Speaking as a woman in her early 30s who is still longing to connect with her Mr Right I know the value of true love and so say to those who judge others for finding love in a same-sex partner and validate it on religious terms - you know not the heart of God, for God is love in it's purest form and the God I know and love would embrace love and the act of loving another human being whole-heartedly despite sex. I think once those judgmental humans transition to a spiritual place they will find that they lived a life of hatred and intolerance and that is not conducive to God's will. Congratulations Helen and Lindi for having the courage to be who you truly are - this is what God truly wants for us. Your love adds to the collective consciousness of the world and brings greater peace to the planet. May your love endure for a lifetime.

Elaine said...

Congratulations! You both look beautiful.

What stores let you register as Bride 1 and Bride 2 or Partner 1 and Partner 2?

Helen said...

Elaine: Thank you for your congratulations! :)

Target lets you register as "Bride/Groom/Partner" for each registrant information. Bed Bath & Beyond and Crate and Barrel have options for Wedding or Commitment Ceremony registries and then asks for registrant and co-registrant. Walmart and Pottery Barn also ask for registrant and co-registrant instead of Bride and Groom, and Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma let you choose "Wedding" or "Ring Ceremony."

We didn't actually register at all of those places, but we looked around a bunch before we registered. (Also, we chose "wedding" in every case instead of "commitment ceremony" or "ring ceremony"- I think that's just personal preference.)

Amber said...

Yay for Arkansas weddings! I lived in Fayetteville for a long time and I'm from Mountain Home, so I understand how difficult some things probably were (although the area is great and people should give it a chance!). Congratulations on pushing through adversity and having a beautiful wedding and a clearly loving relationship!

Whitney said...

Whitney Ha

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