LGBT+ Wedding Traditions & How to Reinvent Old Ones

One of the best parts of modern marriages is being able to pick and choose what wedding traditions you want to keep, change, or forgo. Here’s everything LGBT+ couples need to know about selecting traditions when wedding planning.

By Rachel Varina

LGBT+ Wedding Traditions & How to Reinvent Old Ones
Photo by Molly Hagan Photography

Planning a modern LGBT+ wedding comes with a lot of decisions. While you have to say yes to things like guest lists, outfits, and music, deciding what traditions to ditch and what to pick is totally your call. If you’re debating whether or not to toss a bouquet or have a first look, we’re here to break down wedding traditions for LGBT+ couples and ways to reinvent some outdated classics.

The Proposal

The proposal is the first step in the wedding process, and you might be wondering who proposes to who when you feel like the time is right. The long and short of it is: There are no rules. Since each relationship is unique, take some time to evaluate your bond to decide if you should buy a ring, be the one to ask, or plan an elaborate proposal versus something simple and intimate. Furthermore, if your partner proposed to you, a new tradition we love it when the other half returns the favor by proposing as well. This not only equals the playing field and allows each person their time to feel special, but it also makes for more gorgeous photo ops and memories you'll cherish for a lifetime.

LGBT+ Wedding Traditions + How to Reinvent Old Traditions Photo Credit // Brian Jarreau Photography

The Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties

If your friend circles align, one of the most fun new traditions we’re seeing all types of couples enjoy is having joint bachelor and bachelorette parties. Instead of having individual events, this gives you a chance to not only bond with your SO, but also have a fun-filled, low-stress weekend with all of your friends. If you’d prefer to host your events, make the party personal. Don’t stress about the label of the party—plan something that feels good to you, whether it’s a cabin weekend at the lake, a casino party in Vegas, a pretty Palm Springs retreat, or a weekend in your hometown.

Attire Shopping

Maybe couples shop for their wedding attire separately for a “wow” factor on the big day but don’t be afraid to shop together if it feels right or you (or your eyes are on the same stores). Whether you want to match your looks, ensure they don’t crash, or just value your partner’s opinion above all else, there’s nothing wrong with heading to the boutiques together (and we promise to see each other in your looks before the wedding isn’t bad luck). Once the big day rolls around and you have your wedding glow, we guarantee you're SO will be blown away, whether or not they’ve already seen your outfit. If you still prefer to go separately, enlist a mutual friend to go with each of you to ensure your looks complement each other.

The Big Reveal/First Look

When it comes to seeing each other on the wedding day, some couples swear by this tradition, while others prefer to pass on it. If you love the idea of getting ready together—whether that means bagels and relaxing or mimosas and makeup—don’t be afraid to spend the day together. If you still want the first look, head into separate rooms to don your wedding looks, and have a beautiful space set up to meet at. Your photographer will be able to coordinate the details—such as who walks up to who—to make for an unforgettable moment.

The Wedding Party

Many modern couples choose to nix the notion of a wedding party and just invite their favorite people to attend as guests. If you don’t love the idea of dividing your pals into two sides, consider forgoing a wedding party and honor your besties with front row seats and boutineers. If you’d still like to adhere to tradition, don’t feel limited by old gender roles. We see more and more brides and grooms having not only bridesmaids and groomsmen but also bridesmen, groomswomen, best women, and men of honor. To keep things cohesive, have each side coordinate colors (example: one side’s party wears black suits and dresses, whereas the other side’s party wears burgundy suits and dresses) for a traditional, two-sided look.

Walking Down the Aisle

LGBT+ Wedding Traditions + How to Reinvent Old Traditions Photo Credit // J and J Studios

Walking down the aisle is one of the more complex traditions same-sex couples have to figure out for one reason and one reason only: You both have to walk down it at some point. Luckily, there are plenty of options to consider. First, one of you could wait at the end of the aisle, while the other walks down (either accompanied by a parent or solo) just like the traditional walk.

If you don’t love that idea or you both want the “walk down the aisle with all eyes on you” moment, you could take turns or set up multiple aisles. This way, you can both walk down your aisles at the same time, symbolically meeting in the center.

Alternatively, you can walk down the aisle as a couple. While it’s traditional for the newly married duo to exit together, entering together showcases your bond and your desire to jointly enter this union, which is not only beautiful but meaningful as well.

Standing at the Altar

While traditionally the bride stands to the left of the altar and the groom stands to the right, same-sex couples (as well as hetero ones) can decide what feels best to them. Consider things like hair parts, outfit details, and photography angles when deciding where you’d each like to stand. From there, your guests can either be seated in the coordinated sides or you can have open seating, so guests mingle and select a seat not based on relation to the couple.

Ceremony Rituals

More and more modern weddings are utilizing rituals in the ceremony as a special bonding moment, so feel free to explore and figure out what feels best for your relationship. Consider inviting close family or friends to present readings, have a hand-fastening, a unity candle lighting, or a sand mixing. Including a special ritual that feels representative of your relationship will add some uniqueness to the celebration, while also nodding to the preservation of a ritual wedding.

The Bouquet/Garter Toss

Plenty of modern couples ditch the bouquet and garter toss, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo the tradition if it’s one you’ve been dreaming of. If one or both of you wants to carry a bouquet or wear a garter, do it. When it comes time to toss, you can still toss to specific groups of people, but instead of just male and female, you could do groups such as singles and taken, tops and bottoms, or even guests wearing dresses and guests wearing suits.

Dances With Parents

Many parents dream about their children's’ wedding days, and one of the biggest moments for them is a spotlight dance. When you decide whether or not you want this tradition to be a part of your day, chat with your family to ensure everyone’s on the same page. If the idea of a slow dance feels strange to you, you could always pick a more fast-paced song or do something silly instead. As long as you feel comfortable and highlight those who are important to you, it doesn’t matter what was done in the past. Brides can dance with moms, grooms can dance with dads, or you could even do family dances where you blend your two immediate families on the dance floor.

The Bill

While old-world traditions say the bride’s family pays for the wedding and the groom’s family pays for the bar tab and the rehearsal dinner, modern couples are no longer strictly adhering to those guidelines. Oftentimes both families contribute an equal number (or what they can give) and the couple pays the rest of the couple pays for their wedding in full. Have a candid chat with your families to see what they feel comfortable with and set a budget before moving forward with other plans.

Name Changes

While tradition says a wife takes her new husband’s last name, many modern couples, no matter their orientation, change things up. Consider all of your options before heading to the social security office. One person could take their SO’s last name, the couple (or one person) could hyphenate to include both last names, the couple could choose a new last name together, or both individuals could keep their last names as-is. There’s no wrong answer, so select an option you both feel good about.

Whether you opt for keeping traditions or omitting them from your big day, as long as the celebration honors your love story, it will be a wedding for the ages.

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