July 25th begins a new chapter. Not only on gay couples enjoying equal marriage rights in New York, but a new chapter in the etiquette books on the ins and outs of gay wedding ceremonies. Whether straight or gay, etiquette is one of those curious, elusive codes for social behavior that were developed to provide one with a rule book on good manners.
A Matter of Style
Etiquette really comes down to matters of style. Just as different cultures celebrate life's moments differently, the same applies to individuals within a culture or community. So first and foremost, once you've decided to tie the knot, how you'll be announcing the exciting news to your family and friends becomes a very personal and individualized communication. Based on your style, it could be traditional, modern, or whatever captures you and your betrothed in a way as unique as your relationship. I think initially many will look to how it's been done by straight couples and emulate their traditions. Others will chart a new course, pushing the envelope, so to speak, just to make a point.
By and large it will be the couple themselves who will be throwing the wedding, so the invitation will more than likely be coming from the two getting married. In my 20-plus years in this business, with nearly 2 million invites that have come across my desk, I've seen almost every conceivable permutation of invitees. Yet regardless of what the 'blue book' says, what always seemed to be the best etiquette is wording one's invitation with authenticity.
Here are some examples:
Because the invitation is coming from the couple, I suggest listing names in alphabetical order.
If the invitation is coming from one set of parents and you want a more formal wording, you include either the parents hosting the wedding, such as:
You could also consider the use of honorifics (Mr., Ms., Dr. etc.) in the above example; however, the use of the word 'Miss,' may seem old fashioned and not truly representative of a modern couple in their late 30s or 40s. Similarly, the use of the title 'Ms.' may feel too corporate and impersonal.
* For those thinking they are being fancy and want to use the phrase 'request the honor of your presence,' keep in mind that this is the one that the etiquette books clearly state is used when the ceremony is in a church or place of worship.
In cases where couples want to be inclusive of both families and may be children of divorced, remarried, or any combination thereof of family structures, one solution I often suggest is:
This version is also great should the couple have children. But if you want to make it even clearer and more personal, here is an example that is simple and inclusive, and captures the essence perfectly:
' Use a favorite quote or lyric to set the tone of your celebration
If you are planning a destination wedding, pick a date that's not a holiday weekend. While your family and friends may love you dearly, they may not always desire to use their vacation time for a wedding. (Unless of course you are planning the special weekend in St. Barts and all expenses are paid!)
' Be sure to include something about attire. A well-informed guest is a happy guest! If you're calling for 'Black tie,' then state it. I'm not a fan of 'Black tie optional' or 'Black tie preferred,' as you'll wind up with your guests wearing a hodgepodge of attire, which isn't the best for your wedding album photos.
' If you are registering, don't include this on the actual invitation. Instead you could include a small insert or simply let your guests know verbally. If you chose not to want gifts, simply state 'No gifts, please' or 'Your presence is our present.'
' Include an RSVP card for guests to respond. The use of e-mail for RSVP's is not the most elegant for your special day. (In fact, kindly put -- it's tacky!)
' E-invitations have their place, but not for inviting guests to the special day. If you are having a shower among friends, then definitely check out the options on Evites.com. There are many templates for same-sex celebrations.
' A designed invitation deserves a well-dressed envelope. Even the most simple of invitations looks luxurious when addressed with hand-done calligraphy. For same-sex couples, each name goes on its own line and are usually done alphabetically. If you are inviting an unpartnered friend, it's always considerate to include 'and guest.'
' To make the envelope even more individualized and personal, you can always customize the stamp too at Stamps.com.
' So as we all prepare for an exciting new chapter in the adventures of modern romance, saying 'we're getting' married has never had so many options.
Marc Friedland is the author of Invitations by Marc Friedland (Clarkson Potter), and founder'creative director of Creative Intelligence Inc. He has created events for A-list celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Timbaland, Jennifer Lopez, Elton John, Quincy Jones,Tom Hanks, and John Travolta. Marc has been commissioned worldwide to design and create the ultimate in invitations and event branding. He is available to answer your questions at [email protected].