In 2019, I made one of the best decisions of my life. I proposed to my girlfriend of four years and thankfully, she said YES - after many tears and a long silence, I might add!
That blissful, newly-engaged bubble lasted all of two minutes before an onslaught of questions of EVERY kind was fired our way. What they don’t tell you when you get engaged is that everyone will want to know all the details of your wedding right then and there. We were like rabbits caught in very bright headlights. Then realisation kicked in, some of these questions weren’t necessarily the same sort of questions you might ask a heterosexual couple.
Of course, we got the usual, “When’s the date?”, “Where’s the venue?”, “You’re paying for my room, right?”. The onslaught was startling at first, but when the Prosecco was drank and the phones had stopped buzzing from notifications of congratulations and well wishes, we sat and realised that our own experience of same-sex weddings was extremely limited. At that moment in time, we had only ever been to one same-sex wedding. Any others that we knew of had been friend’s weddings that we couldn’t attend. However, we definitely knew that some of the questions we were suddenly facing from friends, and in some cases even family, just weren’t sitting right with a same-sex couple.
There's no 'How to Throw a Big Gay Wedding’ book. There’s no mandatory PowerPoint presentation on how to navigate LGBTQ+ weddings. Same-sex marriage had only just been legalised in the North of Ireland in 2020, so we didn’t have much time to think about the logistics of everything. Society had trained me to know what happens when a man and woman get married; it hadn’t at all prepared me for what happens when two brides get married.
If you have managed to find yourself in this predicament, or indeed if you are two grooms, then let us shed some light on what questions we have faced and the things we have discovered along our journey to becoming Mrs & Mrs.
Let’s begin with the biggest and most important question:
“Which One of You Is the Real Bride?”
Yep, that’s right, we have been asked which one of us is the bride. I’ll give you a moment while you process that. We are two women that both identify as female and use She/Her pronouns, yet others still find it near impossible to step out of that heteronormative box where a married couple can only ever consist of one bride.
But here we are, two women, standing with someone staring at us, big smile on their face as they ask us which one is the bride and which one isn’t. I’m about to completely blow their mind when I say, “Hmmm, we’re both brides...”.
I appreciate that for some people, this may not be a silly question. A couple may identify as non-binary and therefore the term ‘bride’ may not be appropriate. Yet we still faced this question from people that know us. My advice: let the couple tell you. Never assume based on your familiarity with the conventional bride/groom narrative and never approach an engaged lesbian couple and lead with, “Which one of you is the real bride?”
Newsflash, in our case, we both are!
“Do You Both Get an Engagement Ring?"
I know in Lord of the Rings there was one ring to rule them all, but not in this household! As I am writing this article, I have not yet been proposed to and I cannot wait until the day Ciara returns the favour. It was important for both of us to be proposed to. I mean, who doesn’t want to have that special moment?!
I also want to add that just because I do not have a ring yet, doesn’t make me less of a bride or fiancée, nor would I be any less even if I didn’t get proposed to in return. I know some couples, heterosexual or LGBTQ+, don’t care for the moment and that is very much okay too! As long as you are both happy and know what is best for you, then that’s all that matters.
“Will You Both Be Planning the Wedding? If So, How Do You Deal With Two Opinionated Bridezillas?”
Do you honestly think I am going to let Ciara decide everything? Not a mission! Do you think I’m going to plan it all myself and not let her have a say? Absolu…no, of course not!
I want her opinion. Whether I take it on board and listen is a story for another day, but I have been very lucky in the sense that we are pretty good at compromising. Although while Ciara says compromise, I say you’re ruining my dream wedding of us floating on a lake with multi-coloured swans gently paddling around us to the musical notes of a string quartet.
Seriously, we actually sit down a lot with our Pinterest boards or magazines and discuss what we would like to see that would best represent us. The day is about us and our love story, so we both need to have a say on how things go.
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“Are You Wanting Rainbow Colours?"
Splashed all over Pinterest a few summers back were images of weddings filled with vivid multicolours EVERYWHERE! It was bright, summery and just stunning. But this question actually has a bit of a double meaning, sprinkled with a heck of a lot of expectation on both sides.
Firstly, you can identify as LGBTQ+ and dislike bright multicolours. Bright multicolours, as much as it pains me to say, do not belong solely to our community. We are inclusive and love to share the colours! But because I do identify as LGBTQ+, it’s like I’m expected to have rainbows everywhere. I’m expected to have gay icons splashed around the walls, with Kylie Minogue on repeat the whole night...which could still happen if Ciara lets me.
Again, we grow up with this idea of how a wedding should look, fit and feel. Suddenly add “gay” to it and the expectation is rainbows and flamboyance everywhere. To be honest, I don’t blame them. I also was one of these people. There was a certain expectation within my head of how an LGBTQ+ wedding would look. I do feel like I need to represent our community in some way though.
Since Covid hit, we’ve had nothing but time to sit, plan and most importantly talk about what WE as a couple wanted. Not what the LGBTQ+ community, our family or our friends want or expect, but what we want. We have chosen to add little nods to the LGBTQ+ community so don’t be surprised if you see a little rainbow somewhere - I’m hoping it’s the kind with a pot of gold at the end. It is Ireland we are getting married in after all!
“I’m Guessing You Won't Be Getting Married In a Church, Then?"
The simple answer to this is no, but not because we can’t.
This one is down to us as a couple: we do not practice religion, so it wouldn’t be right for us. We’re glad that we, or indeed other practicing same-sex couples, now have the option to do so (granted it still depends on the church and whether they are willing to wed same-sex couples).
We are actually getting married in a venue that can hold the ceremony indoors in a stunning barn or, if Ireland gets its act together with the weather, then we are getting married in a little clearing in a wooded area on the same grounds. We chose a wonderful Spiritualist celebrant as it allows us both to still bring elements of our own beliefs and upbringing to the ceremony, but also keep it extremely personal. It also allows us to recognise that our grandparents who have passed are still with us on the day. We cannot wait to go through our ceremony script and add poems and readings that mean something to us.
Usually when we answer this question, it’s followed by, “So does that mean it’s not a real wedding?” Regardless of whether you go to City Hall, or if you have your friend ordained online to officiate your ceremony, it does not make your wedding any less real than standing in a place of worship in front of a priest, minister or vicar. A same sex wedding is just as real and valid as a wedding between a man and woman.
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“Who Gets to Go Down the Aisle Last? Do You Both Get to Walk Down It?"
This was probably by far the easiest decision to tackle and it was actually agreed way back when we first got together. Whoever proposed first got to walk down the aisle last! It’s as simple as that.
I want to add a side note to this. If you are in a relationship and marriage is on the cards for you both, have a think about what I call the two big bridal moments: the proposal and walking down the aisle. These were the moments I had always dreamt about and played over in my head. Are you prepared to give one of these up for the other?
We have both talked about dreaming of these moments. I decided to propose first because there was an expectation from everyone that Ciara would be the one to do it. She’s viewed as the more dominant personality in our relationship so everyone always assumes she will take on the conventional male role. I resent this entirely; we are women and so there is no 'male role'. That’s kind of the whole point of being with her.
But by stopping and thinking about her as my partner, I realised that she had resigned herself to everyone’s expectations and as such, she wasn’t going to have ‘her moment’. I wanted her to feel like, well, a bride. I wanted to give her that moment and, in turn, it became so much more meaningful and important to me. I always imagined walking down the aisle more than I did about being proposed to. So now I still get to be proposed to when Ciara gets me a ring AND I get to walk down the aisle last because I asked her first. Win-win!
“Oh, So Will Your Surname Be Miskimmin-Cinnamond?”
Unless you want to have a hand cramp from writing our names, then NO! Both of our names are way too long and difficult enough to say on their own sober, never mind adding another extra-long surname that is also difficult to say.
We are both very independent ladies that didn’t want to change our names but, as the old tradition goes, I have no brothers to carry on my dad’s surname and Ciara has. So looks like she will be getting a new name and a new signature! No stress of changing bank cards or anything like that for me.
“Do You Think You Will Have Bridesmaids and a Best Man?"
Throughout our journey we have agreed on one motto and one motto only: THERE ARE NO RULES WHEN IT COMES TO WEDDINGS!
You can have whoever you want standing beside you on your big day as long as they mean something to you. You don’t even have to have a wedding party!
Do you want your brother to be your Man of Honour? Do it! Want your Granny as your flower girl? Do it! Want your furry friend to be your doggy bridesmaid? DO IT! Although word of advice, they may steal the spotlight on your big day and they can’t help you lift your dress to pee...
We finally picked our bunch of friends that we have named our wedding clan this year. I have four bridesmaids and Ciara has three. I do have a Best Man, but Ciara also wanted him. What do you do?! Well, you make him the Man of the Day! What’s hers is mine and what’s mine is my own, I mean hers!
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“Who Is Wearing a Dress and Who Is Wearing a Suit?"
As much as we would both rock a fantastically tailored suit, it’s a no from us. We want the white dresses that make us feel like queens for the day.
Will we go and buy our dresses together? Not really. We will look and try on dresses together at least once, just to get an idea of what we each like and to make sure that our ideas will fully complement one another. Most people who ask us this question should know us as a couple or at least individually, but again, step outside that idea of a dress and a suit.
Our family and friends should know the answer to this question but yet we still get asked it. However, I’m not going to rule out a stunning suit to razzle dazzle our guests on our second day celebrations. I would look pretty fierce in one, if I do say so myself.
"Do You Get Jealous?"
I actually recently talked about this briefly in a post on our Instagram page. Naturally, this is going to be a fear. For instance, the North of Ireland is small and the wedding vendor list even smaller, what happens if we both want the same makeup artist? Or the same hair stylist? How do you choose who gets who? It’s unfair to ask your partner to settle in the hopes you get them.
This has happened to us and we both ended up wanting the exact same makeup artist. We sat down, talked about how we felt and made it clear that we didn’t want either one to go without. So, with two bridal parties, we’re having the same makeup artist work on both of us while they’ll bring a second artist along to split the bridal parties up between them. It was the perfect solution.
We have talked about the “What if people compare us?” or “What if I like your dress more?” and other similar scenarios. It can happen and rather than say “Oh no, it won’t” in some pantomime fashion, we recognise that there’s nothing we can do to stop others comparing us. As long as each of us are happy with the dress we chose, with the makeup artist we have and with the hair stylists coming along, then the only opinion that matters is each other’s.
READ MORE: The 50 Best LGBTQ+ First Dance Songs
"We Get to Go On Two Hen Dos... Right?"
We have some friends within the same friendship circle but for one night (or weekend!) we want the focus on just us as individuals. As I have said to some of our friends, suck it up buttercup and get your liver prepped and ready for two hen dos!
Again, it boils down to the individual couples. Even some heterosexual couples want to have everyone in the same place celebrating together. The other side of it is, I am the sort of person that likes a spa weekend, dancing and cocktails. Ciara’s idea of a hen do may involve paintballing or some kind of rough sport or a trip to Ibiza (preferably Ibiza, I’m told). Yeah...I am a delicate flower that couldn’t cope with those kind of shenanigans. I’m sure her mates can keep up better than I can.
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"You Know You Can't Go Nuts and Spend All This Money on One Day If You Plan to Have Children. They Cost Money Too, You Know?"
Yes, Karen from Finance, we are very much aware of the costs that lie ahead. We do not need you to remind us, we’ve had enough sleepless nights over it already!
This is a question we have heard once or twice from not just friends and family but also from people that have been in our situation already. It’s a tough one to answer. On one hand, why should I decide between having the day of my dreams and wanting to have children in the future (IVF/IUI costs serious dough, people)? But, on the other hand, I get why they are mentioning it and it comes from a good place. Having a family will cost any couple a lot of money in some way or another, but we’re still young and have options.
As lengthy as this seems, these are only some of the questions we have been asked. There’s a list of questions the length of my arm that I haven’t mentioned and an even longer list that we’ve asked ourselves whilst being engaged.
Even though I keep saying, “Aw, sure we have loads of time!”, 2021 is already halfway through and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Through it all, I’m so glad I have my family, friends and Ciara to navigate planning a wedding. Without them I would probably have already pulled out half of my hair and still have nothing planned.
My theory is that these questions we get asked aren’t said to offend, but it’s a chance to educate others. Our friends and family are equally as excited and confused as we are. It’s nice, though, to almost have a clean slate and not be expected to follow any sort of ‘traditional’ wedding customs. It will make our guests' reactions to the peacock ring bearer all the better! I joke...It’s actually a llama. (No, Ciara has vetoed this too).
Whatever our wedding day will look like or should look like doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I get to see my beautiful wife at the end of the aisle and I get to say "I do" (and she cries at how stunning I look!).
Follow Becky and Ciara's wedding planning on their Instagram page @bridesbythesea_ni.