Tag Archives: vendors

Coming Out: Wedding Vendor Edition

6 Jun

“Do you have a problem working with a same-sex couple?”

It’s a simple question; it’s a series of words with a question mark at the end. It is also a necessary condition for Chris and I as we plan our wedding in Birmingham Alabama. It’s an important question for us, as a key element of our wedding day is avoiding feeling uncomfortable at any point in the day.  I also feel it is important to establish exactly the kind of people we are working with up front.

Like any good sales operation, wedding vendors like to talk to you and get to know you before they talk numbers. Most of wedding planning is done via phone and email which leads to additional complications. The online forms and websites you have to fill out to get a phone call from venues and vendors are surprisingly gender neutral as they ask for a Fiancé’s name instead of bride/groom etc.  However, I’d hate to start working with a vendor only to discover their horror when they realize the nice couple they’ve traded emails with is in fact their version of a walking abomination. Although one might assume that using the terms “partner” and the name Chris would lead to the conclusion that this is a same-sex venture, I’ve learned it is best not to assume. So within the first minutes of any conversation I have to open with “just so we’re clear, do you have a problem working with a same-sex couple?”

As someone who has lived an out and open life for quite some time, this shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Nevertheless in this moment that is supposedly about affirming the love between two people we open ourselves up for people to say no. What would I do, how would I react?

For the last few weeks since starting this process I have imagined what this would feel like so often that I’ve simply avoided contacting anyone all together. I wondered, would I be righteous enough to circle the wagons and lead a media firestorm? Could I follow the footsteps of the couples in Oregon & Denver who turned a trip to get their wedding cake into a national conversation on free speech and religious exceptionalism? If that can happen in Oregon, what will it be like in Alabama? I know what Chris would do if he were the one doing the talking, he’s not afraid of anything and I love that about him.  The truth is, despite all the talking, reading, and writing I do about identity and social change, when faced with a potentially oppressive situation, there’s a dreaded fear that I might not do anything at all.

As a rhetorician, I’m also at odds with the language. Is “same-sex ceremony” the right term, does this make it seem like something other than a wedding?  Calling it a “gay wedding” makes it sound like the qualifier is necessary. Does the practical needs to convey the type of persons involved in our ceremony overpower the political ramifications?   I wish that Chris’ name didn’t carry an androgynous connotation so that when I told people my fiancé’s name that I could be assured that this would clue them in that there would indeed be two men involved in planning this wedding. I wish that there wasn’t a heteronormative assumption when it comes with making a lifelong commitment to the person you love. I wish I was not required to ask a perfect stranger for approval of my relationship prior to engaging in a business relationship with them. I wish that this question wasn’t necessary. But it is, and we have to deal with it.

So, back to the question. Two weeks ago I got up the nerve and I did it. Like everything in my life the response was both comforting and oddly hilarious. It was the second venue we wanted to look at, a large warehouse with exposed brick and a place that was prominently featured on wedding websites. When I talked with the event coordinator I took a deep breath and just blurted the question out “I just want to make sure that you are comfortable with working with a same-sex couple” opting for a statement instead of a question.

The woman on the phone paused, more out of surprise than indignation.

“Oh…..well….no of course not. We hosted an AIDS fundraiser here in the spring….so we’re very supportive of….of that organization.”

And I breathed a sigh of relief as I silently chuckled at the woman who was very clearly caught off guard and forgave her ignorant correlation of AIDS and homosexuality.

Then the woman sputtered out “Oh and one of our bartenders is…….he and his partner celebrated their anniversary here….do you know him? Steve ______”

And I laughed, I laughed hard.

I wanted to tell the woman that I had failed to see him at the most recent track lighting convention. Instead I simply stated that I had not met Steve. Perhaps this whole experience would be less judgmental than I imagined. It was then that I remembered that the wedding industry is first and foremost about money. As a service organization that trades in dramatic symbolism, the wedding industry is made up of people who want that money, no matter who you are.

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