Same-sex weddings generally observe the same guidelines and etiquette as heterosexual ceremonies. Like traditional brides and grooms, a lesbian or gay couple might choose to customize their event and identify the type of service and celebration that fits their tastes and ideals best. Location is also an important factor, because not only do you have to find the right venue, the current legality of same-sex marriages varies by state and country.
Lesbian weddings are legally recognized in different ways, and this can affect the type of ceremony performed. Same-sex marriage allows gay couples to be granted a marriage license and recognized as spouses. Civil unions and domestic partnerships typically grant some of the benefits to same-sex couples that they would to a straight couple, but not all. Commitment ceremonies are symbolic and not legally binding.
As with any wedding, same-sex couples should send an invitation to guests that represents the tone and formality of the service. There are many ways to customize the wording based on who is hosting, the attire and personal preference. Invitations addressed to a gay or lesbian couple should be addressed in the same manner as to a heterosexual couple that is unmarried, married, or married without a name change, based on what is appropriate.
The officiant for a gay wedding might vary depending on the religious, cultural and spiritual views of the individuals getting married. However, a few religions might not perform same-sex marriages even in locations where it is legally recognized. In this case, a couple may choose another denomination or have a trusted friend get ordained to perform the ceremony. In an symbolic commitment ceremony, an un-ordained spiritual adviser or friend can perform the ceremony, as it holds no legal bearing.
The vows for a commitment ceremony can be deeply personal and hand-written to reflect the symbolic bond of the couple. For same-sex marriages or civil unions, participants might opt for more traditional vows. In this case, it is common to change a few of the words to accurately reflect the sex and relationship of the couple getting married while leaving the Declaration of Intent--when each spouse says, “I do,"--intact, which is required to make the marriage ceremony legal.
While it is a traditional custom for guests to sit on designated sides of the congregation, this usually leads to an uneven congregation and is completely optional at any wedding. Lesbian couples might still decide to have ushers seat guests in certain areas based on names (instead of bride or groom), or they might encourage people to sit anywhere there is room.
The processional is another way that gay wedding etiquette can differ slightly. While the participants might follow the traditional roles, with one person waiting at the altar while the other walks down the aisle, Gay Weddings reports that “Many gay couples decide that they're more comfortable walking up the aisle together instead of one waiting for the other at the altar. If your ceremony space has three aisles, think about walking up opposite side aisles and meeting at the altar. Then afterward, you can walk down the middle aisle together for the recessional.”