“I now pronounce you husband and wife” is no longer the only phrase that can legally issue couples into wedded life in Connecticut. The words can now be “husband and husband” or “wife and wife.”
Although those three words are scripted, little else about same-sex weddings tends to be.
“It's incredible the amount of creativity couples bring and how they personalize [their weddings] to suit themselves,” says Hamden wedding planner Lisa Antonecchia. “They don’t just open up a wedding magazine and say, ‘This is what we want.’”
“I think a lot of gay couples have been thinking about the possibility [of legalized marriage] for so long, they don't want the help of a wedding planner. They want to do it on their own,” Antonecchia says.
The same-sex weddings Antonecchia has planned professionally through her business, Creative Concepts by Lisa, and privately for her friends, tend to be as personal as each couple’s relationship. Recently she worked with a male couple that chose a pier in New Haven overlooking Long Island Sound as the location for their ceremony. The evening wedding will include poetry, music and even video about their journey together, Antonecchia says.
A lesbian couple recently asked about holding an outdoor reception, complete with rock climbing and a zip line. “They are both really physically fit and they want the wedding to reflect their love of the outdoors.”
Creativity goes for clothing too. A male couple she recently worked with wore Asian-inspired sarongs for the ceremony, changing into suits for the reception. Another male couple opted for blazers and leather pants. “That was them; no one would expect them to be in anything else,” Antonecchia says.
Antonecchia advertises her business on the websites engaygedweddings.com and gayweddings.com knowing that many gay and lesbian clients are not interested in cookie-cutter weddings.
Same-sex couple weddings tend to struggle less with guest-list creep, where they find themselves saying, “I have 250 guests, 75 of them whom I don't know but my parents said I had to invite them.” One of her favorite weddings, she said, was that of Michelle “Mickey” McLeod and Sarah Bard, formerly of Hamden, who were married on May 16, 2009 after seven years as a couple.
The wedding “was a complete and utter surprise to all their guests,” Antonecchia says. The guests thought they were at a dinner to celebrate McLeod’s graduation. “We had the justice of the peace literally hiding in the janitor's closet, Antonecchia says.
“After the dinner was served, the couple left the room to change their clothes. I unrolled a white runner down the center of the room and everyone knew what they were about to witness. It was a group of 40 to 45 and there was not a dry eye in the room. They all knew that they were about to witness something that a few months earlier [before same-sex marriage was legalized] they wouldn't have been able to see.”
Bard recalls being elated when she heard that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Connecticut. She says she immediately proposed to McLeod within minutes of hearing the NPR broadcast. “She had been proposing to me for the past six years and my answer had always been the same. 'Of course I'll marry you - when it's legal.' “
For her part, McLeod says that having been raised in a more traditional Southern state she never thought she would see marriage legalized for gay couples. “I still have to keep pinching myself when I think about the fact that the [Democtratic National Committee] has made marriage equality part of its platform this election year, and that the President of the United States has come out in support of this issue,” she says.
After their marriage, the couple moved to Maryland so McLeod could attend graduate school. But once in Maryland, their marriage was no longer legally recognized. McLeod says this change spurned her on to become involved with Equality Maryland, which is now part of the coalition of Marylanders for Marriage Equality,” she says. “I became a field organizer for two counties in the state and have also been lobbying in Annapolis for marriage equality and gender identity rights ever since.”
She says she intends to keep fighting until the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is overturned and replaced by the Respect for Marriage Act . . .” until all citizens have equal marriage rights in this country,” she says.
Margaret DeMarino is a freelance writer based in New Haven.