Destination I Do
Thursday, February 27, 2014

Same-Sex Wedding Etiquette

Words by Taylor Wilson
Photos courtesy of The James Chicago

Sinisa Srdic has shared with Destination I Do some wonderful tips on how to make a same-sex wedding flawless for both the newlyweds and the guests. Sinisa Srdic is the Director of Special Events at The James Chicago, a luxury boutique hotel with an ample amount of stunning spaces for a destination wedding. Srdic's insight for this special day includes fun activities to loosen up the guests to mix and mingle as well as an etiquette guide for those who may have not attended a same-sex wedding before.

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Throughout my time in working in special events, I’ve rarely seen so many exciting changes as I have in the last few years. With the continuing legalization of same-sex marriage across the country, there are now even more reasons to hold a celebration. Instead of simply hosting commitment ceremonies or civil unions, the gay community can now add engagement parties and wedding receptions to the list.  

As same-sex marriage legalization continues to increase, many people will find themselves being invited to a wedding celebration. For those who haven’t had the wonderful experience of attending one of these types of events, I’ve provided a few tips and etiquette guidelines. Luckily, I’ve had the privilege of hosting many same-sex wedding as Director of Special Events for The James Chicago and also have a few event ideas for gay newlyweds. 

 Event ideas:

  • Ice Breaker – For weddings at The James Chicago, one of the first items I discuss with couples is how they intend to relax guests that might not have been to a gay wedding before. I always recommend having an “ice breaker” for guests to indulge in, which is an ice bar with bubbles or scotch bar, to help loosen up guests before the ceremony starts.
  • Dance Instructor – Another idea is having a dance instructor come in during a pre-reception party, such as the rehearsal dinner, to help guests interact with each other. Pair guests up from different sides of the family or someone they don’t know so they can meet new people and hear about each other’s connection to the couple.
  • Friendly Competition – During the rehearsal, another way to promote camaraderie among guests is having a “building” activity, such as guests building their own Caesar salad for dinner or helping to construct last minute weddings favors. This is a fun way to get guests to mingle with each other and let’s be honest, its hard work stuffing 100 gift bags! 
  • Together Forever – For gay couples who have been together for 20+ years, chances are they probably have all the traditional weddings gifts already purchased (plates, silverware, and furniture). Instead of receiving gifts couples can have guests donate to a worthwhile charity cause that they are involved in. This is a great way to get your guests interested in organizations they wouldn’t normally be familiar with and they can decide which of charities to donate to.

Groom/Groom & Bride/Bride tips:

  • Don’t Forget the Ultimate Goal – Most couples are so excited about the prospect of getting married that they miss out on the one important detail they want to celebrate – their future life together. Couple should make sure to remember all the friends and families that have supported them together as a couple and most importantly will be supporting your life together.
  • Handkerchiefs – Same-sex wedding tend to be more emotional as some couples have waited decades to get married. Make sure to have extra handkerchiefs on hand during the ceremony, and especially during vows, when the tears are sure to fall.
  • Take the High Road – I recommend inviting family members who may be or may not be supportive of your union. Some invitees might be hesitant of accepting, but you truly never know, it could be a lost cause or they may decide to come, either way you’ll be the bigger person.
  • Seating – Seating for gay weddings typically don’t feature the traditional bride and groom sides but are mixed to reflect one community in support of the couple. There for, couples should feel free about mixing up their seating chart.  Also, since the wedding party is usually not typically traditional, you may see a best man be a woman or a maid of honor become a “man of honor”, therefore the numbers may lean towards a certain gender.  

Etiquette guide:

  • Uncomfortable guests – There occasionally will be the one or two family members or close friends who might not be comfortable with attending the celebration. Instead of being miserable throughout the day, don’t attend. Do something special for the couple in your own way, such as a private dinner before or after the ceremony to celebrate.
  • Questioning – Guests should keep the questioning, especially probing questions, to a minimum. I’ve seen a few uncomfortable situations where someone asking “Is it really legal for you to get married?” has put a damper over the entire event.

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