lgbtq wedding planning hints

Though marriage equality is now federal law, if you're LGBTQ planning a wedding can be fraught in ways that hetero weddings are not. We're your allies in both the wedding process and the larger world; we're members of PFLAG, a founding contributor to Equality Case Files, and stalwart advocates for marriage and LGBTQ equality worldwide. Let us know how we can best serve you.


Many LGBTQ people are concerned about the status of their marriage rights and equal rights in general. These concerns are not unfounded. Though it's tough to overturn a Supreme Court ruling on fundamental rights, already "religious freedom" laws designed to roll back equal protection for LGBTQ families are being passed around the country. Your federal marriage rights are safe for the moment, but awareness and activism are needed now to help prevent LGBTQ people from losing the ability to legally protect themselves, their children, their jobs and housing, and their equal access to spousal benefits. Here's a worst-case scenario redux from activist and journalist Matt Baume.

You can track the lawsuits concerning RFRA laws and LGBTQ rights at Equality Case Files on Facebook.

A consultation with a family law attorney, accountant, and/or your state LGBTQ support organization can help you determine other ways to protect your partner and family.

We're allies in this fight. We support you and your rights, and are happy to help you formalize your marriage in whatever way you choose.


Congratulations on your impending nuptials! Here are some tips for wedding planning:

On June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was the law of the land. All states must issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples, and they must recognize any same-sex marriage from out of state (Alabama and other states have moved to create their own exemption to this via state laws, however--you can read more here).
There are now lots of resources for planning your same-sex wedding, but here's our handy guide to making wise and happy decisions as you start the marriage process:

1. First, and throughout: breathe.

Thinking through your plans carefully up front will save you time, money, and frustration. Unless you have an urgent legal need--e.g. immigration, insurance, health crisis--it's best not to rush.

Hint: Start a list of questions and gather some basic information about marriage licensing and ceremony options.

Take it from me, as a longtime wedding provider: you don't know less about marriage stuff than hetero people, so don't feel like you need to apologize for asking questions. LGBTQ folks usually have a far greater understanding about the legal ramifications of marriage than other couples, and are far more aware about the colonialism and capitalism that inform many wedding "traditions."

That said, there are a lot of moving parts when planning even a simple wedding--no rocket science, but many details to consider. To wed well you need to pay attention to all of them. There are no stupid questions, so please AMA. I'm here to help you figure it out.

2. Do we have all our legal ducks in a row?

If you have legal concerns about debt, assets, previous marriages, SRDPs, or prenuptial agreements, consult with a family and/or estate law attorney before you get married.

Also, If you don't have a valid ID or dissolution papers for a recent divorce or annulment, you'll need to obtain them before you can apply for a marriage license.

3. Take another deep breath and have "The Talk."

You need to make some basic determinations about what kind of wedding experience you want. Some questions to consider:
Do we need to get married right away, or can we take some time to plan?
Do I want to elope or have a big wedding? Maybe one of each?
What can we afford?
Who do we want there (or do we want to be alone)?
What three items do each of us hold as essential for us to feel married? **These could be things like a nice dinner, flower leis, having a favorite friend or relative present; or intangible things, like stresslessness or a moment to dance alone.

Hint: If you qualify for a confidential marriage license, you only need three things to be legally married: a marriage license, an officiant, and a place to stand. If you use a public license, the only other thing you'll need is a single witness (confidential licenses don't require a witness).

Another hint: Many couples opt to have a small civil elopement first so they can lock in marriage status quickly and have a romantic day to themselves then plan a big community ceremony or reception later; many just do one or the other. You choose.

A VERY IMPORTANT HINT: Smart couples never go into debt for the Big Day.

4. What about the marriage license?
To obtain a public or a confidential marriage license in the State of California, you must 1) be over 18, 2) have a valid unexpired government-issued ID like a drivers license or passport, 3) present proof of any marriage or SRDP dissolutions that became final in the last two years, and 4) show proof of any legal name changes that did not occur through marriage.

To qualify for confidential marriage license issuance through MarriageToGo, you must currently be cohabiting. Please see our "How It Works" page for confidential marriage license requirements. If you don't cohabit and therefore need a public marriage license, those can only be purchased at the County Clerk's office--they cannot be privately issued.

5. Discuss: what sort of wedding would make us feel truly married?
We can help you figure this out! We're happy to speak with you and brainstorm the perfect way for you to get married. We have a wide range of experience--from minimal make-it-legal elopements (if you've already had your Big Fat Commitment Ceremony) to grand soirees. Call or email if you'd like to know more.

Hint: If you're an introvert, would rather spend the money on something else, or really can't stand your relatives, you're under no obligation to have a big wedding, no matter what anyone says. If you love being in the spotlight, have a large and loving community to party with, and lots of money to spare, maybe an over-the-top wedding is right for you. You decide what's best for your personality types and budget.

Funness hint: Include your favorite things in your wedding day! Hate wedding cake but love pie? Can't stand dancing but adore surfing? Prefer sushi to chicken with white sauce? Do it! You'll love those things even more as the years go by if you add them to your wedding day, and they'll be wonderful touchstones for your anniversaries.

6. Make some arrangements.
Pick up the phone, surf the bottomless wedding-internet ocean, or make your mom do it, but start booking the people who'll help you make your wedding vision a reality. Location is probably the most important basic agenda item to lock in.

Sadly, there are wedding vendors who are not supporters of wedding equality. Sometimes it's hard to tell who they are, but looking at vendor websites can give you clues: do you see photos of same-sex weddings on their pages? Is there coded language indicating anti-LGBTQ bias? We can help you find vendors who are skilled and supportive of you and your wedding.

Hint: Give us a call at 310.288.6658 or shoot us an email to get it all sorted. We're happy to answer your questions and help you find out what you need, no obligation.

FWIW: We're usually around for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and Valentine's Day weddings. Yeah, holidays cost extra but are super fun because ghosts/pie/sparkles/roses. Birthday and ambush weddings are good too!

If you're flexible about the date, want to ask about rates, or have absolutely no clue what you're doing, please feel free to give us a call at 310.288.6658 or email us. We can offer expert advice to help you start down the road to matrimony.

7. Lastly: go be happy forever, please.
We're eager to help you along in your quest for married bliss, and we wish you a wonderful wedding!