We recently asked Celebrant Bronte Price to answer a few questions about LGBTI+ weddings and his experiences since starting The Equality Network.
Here at The Pier Geelong we recently undertook training with The Equality Network to learn more about LGBTI+ community, and to understand their needs when it comes to planning a wedding. We discussed the history of the community both locally and globally – which was a real eye opener for many of us whom were unaware of the difficulties and often violence that openly LGBTI+ people endured.
We discussed the recent Marriage Act amendment, and the impact this has had on the wider Australian society, along with wedding industry – as many of us were under prepared in our understanding of how to meet the needs of LGBTI+ couples. Many of these needs relate to language, and the lack of gender neutral references and imagery.
Needless to say, our team are keen to implement many of the amazing ideas Bronte from The Equality Network offered, and we highly recommend other suppliers taking on this training to create real change within the industry.
Bronte Price is an incredible individual, vivacious, cheeky and fun, patient and authentic. Bronte recognised that there was a real need for training vendors within the wedding industry. As a newly ‘engayged’ gay man, Bronte is planning his own wedding, and was regularly having discussions with wedding suppliers after marriage equality became a reality in Australia. He came across suppliers who consistently used inappropriate language when talking about LGBTI weddings. They’d not thought through how they might need to change their offerings if they were to work in the rainbow wedding space. Their websites and marketing materials – and their terminology in meetings – were all still highly gendered – ie it wasn’t inclusive. And they didn’t seem to think it was even a problem.
Bronte realised that the straight community wasn’t going to fix this. It was a gap that needed to be filled. Hence, The Equality Network was born. The Equality Network has run master classes across Australia and with it is assembling a network of trained wedding suppliers who are trusted to work safely and respectfully with LGBTI+ couples as they plan their weddings. The Network only refer LGBTI+ couples to wedding suppliers who have been trained by The Equality Network.
What are some of the unique qualities of a same sex wedding?
There are those marriage celebrants and other wedding suppliers who believe there are no differences between straight weddings and LGBTI weddings. And while they continue to think that, they’re completely right. They will continue to offer LGBTI couples same, highly gendered wedding ceremonies they have always offered straight people.
But I come to this with the filter of an out and proud gay man. The key word is “authenticity”. The wedding industry and its trappings are highly gendered. Most LGBTI couples don’t live their lives along gendered lines. Why on earth would we impose gendered lines into a day that’s so special to us – ie our wedding day? That just doesn’t make sense! Most LGBTI couples have embraced that fact.
And so, in my experience, LGBTI weddings are typically much smaller and more intimate – and they have a high level of emotion associated with them – far greater than usually found at straight weddings. LGBTI weddings will often include no blood family (think why that might be the case). There is often a small gathering of close friends or chosen family, rather than the wedding with 300 guests, followed by the “reception” with an alternate drop menu for the tables of 10.
Many of the rituals of straight weddings are being ignored by LGBTI couples and new ones appear in their place. Here are a few: no walking down an aisle – in fact, no aisle; no giving away; a stand-up ceremony preceded by food and beverages; a comment included about the importance of the day and the regret of marriage equality taking so long – unnecessarily so – to occur; the couples get ready together and spend the night before the wedding together; they spend money on fabulous food and drinks rather than on flowers, bonbonniere and luxury cars.
I’ve been invited to a same sex wedding, as a wedding guest what can I expect?
Often blood family won’t be present, because of how they treated the person (or the couple) when they came out and since. So, often chosen family – friends, allies and supporters will make up most of the guest list.
The number of guests will often be fewer – from 4 or 5 up to perhaps 40 or so.
Depending on the creativity of the celebrant – and their willingness to simply embrace the couple, the format of the ceremony night be quite different from what you might see at a typical straight wedding.
You may see lots of LGBTI people openly cuddling, hugging and kissing each other and the couple. Remember, this is the couple’s tribe, not your tribe.
There’s often a lot of informality and a shunning of many of the things you might see at a straight wedding. It is helpful if you don’t expect or pressure the couple to take on board all of those things – lots of them aren’t relevant to them and so they have probably taken the decision to do without them. Don’t make your discomfort theirs.
Without doubt, you are likely to see and experience higher levels of emotion than you’d expect at a straight wedding. Remember, LGBTI couples have been prevented by law from getting married in Australia until a year ago. Many have been denied the opportunity to have a long, happy marriage. And so, they will be relieved, thrilled and happy that finally they get to marry the person of their dreams. And so, in there are some emotions about how important it is for them to be not only accepted but also embraced by those around them.
What has been your favourite moment as a celebrant since same sex marriage became legal in Australia?
There have been lots. But one that’s particularly memorable one was between an anaesthetist and a surgeon. The anaesthetist grew up in a rural setting; the surgeon’s cultural heritage is Chinese. Immediately before the ceremony, the father of the anaesthetist came up to me, gave me a big hug, called me by name and told me he felt like he’d known me all his life. The amount of love at that venue and amongst their friends and family was amazing. The two men both walked out to the front of the ceremony space to one of their favourite tunes, holding hands and crying. And the ceremony hadn’t even begun! Their love story was poignant, humble and touching. They’d memorised their personal vows and said them flawlessly, despite the high levels of emotions that were clearly happening for them. And, during the ceremony, I sneaked looks at their parents – they were literally beaming with pride and happiness.
Each of the guests had their own photo on their place-card – the level of detail that went into the after-party was amazing. But several days later, I visited this couple to debrief their wedding, and the anaesthetist told me that his mother-in-law had given him a tight hug, for the first time in 20 years, after the wedding. The ceremony – and the visible, palpable level of support amongst their guests had shown her first-hand that it is ok to be gay, and that it’s certainly ok to be proud of your gay son, in front of all your friends and relatives.
It remains one of the most inspirational and profound memories from the entire bunch of weddings that I have had the privilege to conduct this year.
Do you have any creative ideas on how same sex couples can show their pride on their wedding day?
It’s appropriate that not only the couple getting married but also their guests show their pride on the wedding day.
Here are some ways of doing this:
- Hang a rainbow flag or rainbow sash on the day
- Wear rainbow socks or shoes
- Put a rainbow lapel on their jacket, shirt or dress
- Wear rainbow earrings or cufflinks
- Call the two legal witnesses an appropriate term such as the “I do crew”
- Play iconic LGTBI anthems – possibly from a Spotify playlist called Homo100 or similar
- Have a small floral arrangement in rainbow colours
- Serve rainbow coloured cocktails or drinks
- If you’re having a cake, put a creative and appropriate topper on it
- Wear rainbow-soled and -laced Converse sneakers.