Wedding Celebrant Tips For LGBTIQ+ WeddingsJun 20, 2021
LGBTIQ+ weddings are no different to any other weddings. But it is still important to sensitively recognise certain LGBTIQ+ issues that could pop up when conducting a ceremony.
In 2014, same sex marriage was officially made law within the UK. One of the first couples to marry did so in the most lavish and beautiful way possible - they broadcast their ‘musical wedding’ on Channel 4 for the whole world to see. If you haven't seen it, you can watch it here. We warn you - you’ll need tissues.
Being the celebrant for any wedding is a privilege. But conducting a wedding ceremony for the LGBTIQ+ community is extra special because you will be given the opportunity to work with couples who have desperately wanted to marry their entire lives - and have only been given the last 7 years to do so.
So, unlike with heteronormative weddings, within LGBTIQ+ weddings you will more frequently encounter more mature couples with long-standing relationship history - couples who have been together twenty, thirty years - maybe longer, who are now celebrating their union for the first time.
(If you’d like to read a sweet story on this, you can click here to find out about Brian and Barry who got married in their 80s after fifty years together).
However, when it comes to planning a LGBTIQ+ ceremony, there’s no reason to view it any differently to planning a heteronormative ceremony. In fact, assuming otherwise can be viewed as discriminatory. Saying that, it’s good to keep a few things in mind if this is your first LGBTIQ+ wedding.
More so now than ever, we care more about people’s preferred pronouns, gender identity and sexual self-identity. Gone are the days when people are simply ‘gay’ or ‘straight’. Binary language ignores the complexity of gender and sexual expression - and the broad spectrum we are all constantly moving along.
Firstly, let’s start with the basics. What does LGBTIQ+ stand for and what are the other variations of this? Which variation should you use? And does it matter?
Here’s the breakdown
L - Lesbian - women or transwomen identify as lesbian when they self-identify as female and are primarily sexually attracted to other people who self-identify as female.
G - Gay - People who consider themselves to be attracted to the same gender. Gay women are also called lesbians, but how they self-describe is their choice. Gay men were once referred to as homosexuals, but this language is now considered outdated, unless it is their explicit preference.
B - Bisexual - People who consider themselves attracted to the same gender and opposite gender. In more modern days, you can also consider yourself pansexual which is very similar, but is inclusive of other genders too (for example, a person who is attracted to the same and opposite gender, but also transgenders and non-confirmist genders).
T - Trans - Transpeople identify as a gender other to the gender they were assigned at birth. Trans people do not necessarily have to have gone through any gender reassignment to be trans - they can simply self-identify as this. Remember trans people are legally and ethically to always be referred to by their trans identity.
I - Intersex - Intersex people are those who have been born with both male and female features, such as being outwardly anatomically male but with internal female anatomy. An amazing 1% of the population are intersex. In fact, the first ever transgender operation performed on a person (as told in the film The Danish Girl) was an intersex woman.
Q - Queer - An umbrella term that can emcompass any of the above, as well as other nonheteronormative identities. Some people do not like to be called Queer because they can remember a time when this was offensive and used as discrimination. Younger generations are more comfortable with this term and find it less restrictive than ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’. You should not refer to someone as Queer unless you’re sure they’re comfortable with this.
- The + refers to everyone else. This might include ‘two spirit’ individuals who consider themselves to have two identities in one body. Another might include ‘gender fluid’, referring to those who don’t belong to one gender but move across many.
Never Make Assumptions
As a celebrant, do not assume. How people identify within this community can be personal to them and it is important to let them lead the way on language. It is certainly worth having an open conversation about this, especially when it comes to pronouns. Just because a couple might both ‘look’ female, it does not mean that both individuals identify that way. There is no harm in asking about preferred pronouns. It really is as simple as saying, “Can I ask your preferred pronouns for the ceremony”. In fact, if you want to be truly inclusive, you should ask this at heteronormative weddings too!
Another thing a celebrant should never assume is that an LGBTIQ+ couple want their sexual or gender identities to automatically play a part in the ceremony. While some ‘loud and proud’ queer people may want to make a big social statement (such as the couple mentioned at the start of this article who created a majestic showpiece dripping in political messaging), others may not consider it a factor that needs acknowledging. By asking if they’d like any LGBTIQ+ messaging, readings or music, you are assuming that their gender or sexual identity needs to be highlighted, which can cause offence in some cases.
Let The Couple Guide The Script
While every wedding ceremony script is unique and special, there may be certain phrases or words that the LGBTIQ+ community would prefer to be left out (or included). Talk to the couple about their script preferences, order of service and preferred language. They may have a fascinating backstory to tell, especially if they are an older couple who have been together decades and are now celebrating their relationship for the first time. Discuss which stories they may want to tell, how they met and any adventures they’ve had so far.
Guide Them To Preferred Suppliers
Today, it is categorically illegal to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ communities and if a couple reports that this is happening, it’s important they feel supported by you in their upset. However, certain vendors / suppliers may be less than accommodating to queer couples because they simply don’t have the resources to give LGBTIQ+ couples what they want. For example, a local bridal gown vendor may not have gowns or shoes that fit a trans woman. As a celebrant, you will have a network of suppliers and vendors you can make recommendations for. Make sure some of these are specifically tailored to LGBTIQ+ communities so that you have all avenues covered.
The same can be said for venue recommendations. If a couple have not yet decided on a venue and ask you for recommendations, make sure you know of a few LGBTIQ+ friendly locations. This might mean something as simple as a venue with gender-neutral toilets, or a venue committed to protecting the privacy of guests (e.g. not requiring them to sign into the building using their name or title).
As a celebrant, each wedding will add to your portfolio and enrich your career. Take the opportunity to observe the customs at an LGBTIQ+ wedding to better inform your future practice. If you make a mistake, such as using the wrong pronoun, simply learn from it and move on. If something works particularly well, remember it for the next time you oversee a similar type of wedding.
We Can Help...
For more awesome celebrancy tips for LGBTI+ weddings, contact The International College of Professional Celebrants at 033 33 404 434 and we will be happy to help. You can also check out our Facebook Group.