“Where Can I Get Married?” — Part One: The Ceremony

We get this question a lot. Some are looking for a state in which same-sex marriage is legal. Others are seeking a gay-friendly ceremony & reception location. There are even a few folks who send us reports of having been refused a booking because of the nature of their event.
As far as we’ve come, we still have a long way to go.
Allow me to first answer the question, which I received this morning: “How would it be possible to find the proper and legal church (or ceremony location)?”
My general answer is that it’s very difficult to find a place where your commitment will be legally recognized if you live outside of Masschusetts, the UK, or Canada (where marriage is legal) or Connecticut or Vermont (where Civil Unions are recognized). I’ll address this portion of the question in my next entry (“Where Can I Get Married?” — Part Two) and will turn instead to details pertaining finding a good place for your ceremony or reception no matter where you are.
My partner and I had our ceremony in 1999 at a beautiful conference center on the Eastern Shore (MD) and we (and our friends and families) consider ourselves married. We had a lawyer draw up as many legal protections for us as possible, but still wait for the chance to make our union legal. In the meantime, we feel that we have had a ceremony that took care of the important part — a spiritual and lasting bond, witnessed by our families and friends.
Thus, when this question about finding a site comes up, I encourage GLBT couples to talk about kind of ceremony they envision before selecting a ceremony site. Would you want to do this in a religious-oriented setting (church, synagogue, etc.)? How many people would you like to have? General logistics & planning challenges notwithstanding, it’s relatively easy to create a ceremony that will help you and your partner feel “married” and you don’t have to select a religious institution for your ceremony.
To get married in a non-religious setting, you can looking into booking a B & B, an event space, a park, a botanical garden, a hotel suite, museum space, etc. You are truly only limited by your imagination and the options in your city.
From there, you can look into hiring an officiant to help you design the ceremony or to conduct your service. I recommend you check our vendor directory listings for folks in your area or search for other non-denominational officiants who advertise locally. Celebrant USA is also a great resource and serves many states.
If you have the time to consider becoming a member of a congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Church and the MCC Church are in most cities and are supportive and welcoming churches. I know that some Episcoplian Churches will open their doors to gay couples and Synagogues in the Reform tradition are also supportive. I’m sure that there are other religious traditions I have missed, which support same-sex couples. If you have resources to recommend, please attach a comment below.
If you are still searching for the right person, consider those members of your own community. My partner and I asked a dear friend who also happens to be very spiritual to do our ceremony for us. She is an educator so we knew that she would be comfortable with the public speaking part and we enjoyed a long weekend with her and her husband, when we all sat down to design the ceremony. In the end, our collaborative process and her vision made for a very powerful ceremony.
If you are still trying to figure out where to start, I recommend you check out The Essential Guide to Gay & Lesbian Weddings. My partner and I used this book and found it to be an invaluable resource. It’ll help you think about what it is you want to plan and then help you move forward. (We’ve also got two other planning guides, one of which specializes in Jewish traditions on our sites.)
It’s quite difficult to answer this question in one quick blog entry or email as so many details and personal preferences for the couple will play into the answer. I do hope, however, that these generalities will help any GLBT couple get started with building the ceremony of their dreams.
Next Up: “Where Can I Get Married?” — Part Two: Making It Legal

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