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Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Weddings

Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Weddings

4.5 2
by Tess Ayers, Paul Brown

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The complete, authoritative, and wonderfully witty wedding planner that will lead gay or lesbian couples through the logistics of wedding ceremonies and celebrations.


The complete, authoritative, and wonderfully witty wedding planner that will lead gay or lesbian couples through the logistics of wedding ceremonies and celebrations.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Although same-sex marriages are not yet legal anywhere in the United States, more and more lesbians and gay men are seeking the right to validate their unions. This wittily written, well-organized, and creatively laid-out guide offers historical background and practical suggestions covering all aspects of the event, from what to call it to wording the invitations, buying rings, and booking the honeymoon suite. Acknowledging the inherently political statement of the act as well as personal degrees of coming out, the authors provide sensitive counsel by encouraging the couple to present a positive (not defensive) attitude to the heterocentric world, keeping their own priorities foremost and making sure the entire process remains fun. Based on their own and others' experiences, they offer many imaginative ideas for a wide variety of successful ceremonies. A resource directory, suggested references, and index (not seen) contribute to the usefulness of this timely guide.
-- James E. Van Buskirk, San Francisco Public Library

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
7.48(w) x 9.45(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

An Excerpt from Chapter One of The Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings

God knows this book is not intended to be Homo History 101. But if all of this gay and lesbian wedding stuff seems incredibly "now" to you, and you think it's just too too trendy, consider what your lesbian and gay ancestors have done throughout the ages.

A Time Line of Same-Sex Couplings

Second Century A.D.: Iamblichus writes the novel Babyloniaca, which includes the characters of Berenice, the queen of Egypt, and the female lover she married, Mesopotamia. At the same time, Lucian writes Dialogues of the Courtesans, in which Leaena describes a woman of (where else?) Lesbos who is married to a woman from Corinth.

During the Roman Empire: Male soldiers are often wedded to one another prior to battle.

Before Europeans Arrive in the New World: 133 North American tribes (including the Navajo, Mojave, Lakota, Eskimo, Yuma, Klamath, Crow, and Blackfoot) commonly accept alternative gender roles involving cross-gender or same-sex behavior, including same-sex marriages.

1368-1644: A form of male marriage develops in China's Fujian province during the Ming dynasty. A younger man moves into the household of an older "adoptive brother," whose parents treat him as a son-in-law. Many such marriages last twenty years or more.

The Nineteenth Century: The exclusively female Golden Orchid Associations are common in the Guangzhou province of China. Within these groups, lesbian couples can marry. After exchanging ritual gifts, the couple hold a wedding feast; later they are allowed to adopt young girls.

1855: Edwin Denig publishes a paper documenting a Crow "woman chief" who has taken four wives.

1863: The Englishwoman Mary East, disappointed by the opposite sex, and an American woman who feels likewise agree to pass the rest of their days as husband and wife. Who should be the "husband" is determined by lot. They remain together for thirty-four years.

1878: "Mrs. Nash," a laundress for Custer's seventh cavalry, dies. She has been married to a succession of soldier husbands, staying in the service even when her husbands are discharged. When some of the garrison ladies prepare the body for the wake, they discover that "Mrs. Nash" was a man.

The Late Nineteenth Century: In New England, "Boston marriages" are common. Women choose other women as life partners, and together work toward a feminist vision of social justice. 1901: The New York Times of January 19 reports that Murray Hall, a prominent Tammany politician, was a woman who masqueraded as a man for more than a quarter of a century. "Furthermore, Murray Hall is known to have been married twice, but the women to whom she stood before the world in the attitude of a husband kept her secret as guardedly as she did."

The 1920's: In Harlem, black lesbians in butch/femme couples marry each other in large wedding ceremonies that include bridesmaids and attendants. Couples obtain marriage licenses by masculinizing a first name or having a gay male surrogate apply for the license. The licenses are placed on file with the New York City Marriage Bureau, and the marriages are often common knowledge among Harlem heterosexuals.

1930: The autobiography of the pseudonymous "Mary Casal" is published in Chicago, presenting an extraordinarily frank sexual and affectional life history of a lesbian. Concerning her future wife, she writes, "We decided that a union such as ours was to be could be made as holy and complete as the most conventional marriages, if not more so. I suggested that we read the marriage ceremony together as a sort of benediction to our union."

1957: The Daughters of Bilitis sponsors a public discussion entitled "Is a Homophile Marriage Possible?" The keynote speaker, a psychotherapist, answers yes: "Any marriage is possible between any two people if they want to grow up."

1960's: "Covenant" services are conducted for some gay and lesbian couples by clergy involved in the Council on Religion and the Homosexual.

June 1963: One magazine ("The Homosexual Viewpoint") has a cover story entitled "Let's Push Homophile Marriage."

October 6, 1968: The Reverend Troy Perry founds the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), which welcomes gays and lesbians and recognizes the sanctity of a same-sex union. Twelve people attend the first meeting.

June 12, 1970: In what is described by the Advocate as "the first marriage in the nation designed to legally bind two persons of the same sex," Neva Heckman and Judith Belew are married by the Reverend Troy Perry in Los Angeles. It also notes that the Reverend Mr. Perry "said he had no immediate candidates for a second wedding, but his lover, Steve Jordan, caught the bride's bouquet." The marriage is later ruled to be not legally binding.

1971: Donna Burkett and Manonia Evans, two lesbians in Wisconsin, file a class-action suit against the Milwaukee county clerk for refusing to issue them a marriage license.

January 7, 1975: Two gay men in Phoenix, Arizona, legally obtain a marriage license and are wed in a ceremony at the local Church of Christian Fellowship. A superior court judge, citing the Bible, later voids the marriage. Soon afterward the Arizona House of Representatives votes thirty-seven to three to pass an emergency measure specifically banning same-sex marriages.

March 26, 1975: After the local district attorney rules that there are no county laws preventing two people of the same sex from getting married, a county clerk in Boulder, Colorado, issues a marriage license to two men. Over the next month, she issues five more licenses to same-sex couples. "I don't profess to be knowledgeable about homosexuality or even understand it," says Clela Rorex, "but it's not my business why people get married. No minority should be discriminated against." In late April, the Colorado attorney general rules that gay and lesbian marriages are illegal and orders Ms. Rorex to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

1976: Two Chicago women, Nancy Davis and Toby Schneiter, are arrested for the fourth time for staging sit-ins at city hall, insisting upon their right to a marriage license. They spend a year in the state penitentiary for their final conviction.

October 11, 1976: Dr. Tom Waddell and Charles Deaton are the first gay couple to be featured in the "Couples" section of People magazine. The article's subhead reads, "We have the same problems as any other couple."

June 30, 1984: The Unitarian Church votes to recognize and approve ceremonies celebrating the union of gay and lesbian couples.

December 5, 1984: Berkeley becomes the first city in the United States to extend spousal benefits to gay city employees' live-in lovers. To qualify under the new program, applicants must fill out and submit an "Affidavit of Domestic Partnership."

1987: The American Civil Liberties Union passes a resolution supporting the legal recognition of lesbian and gay marriages.

October 10, 1987: One thousand gay and lesbian couples exchange vows in a mass wedding held on the steps of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, D.C.

June 22, 1989: Professional bodybuilder Bob Paris marries fellow bodybuilder and model Rod Jackson in a highly publicized formal ceremony.

October 1, 1989: Denmark legalizes same-sex marriages.

March 19, 1992: Four lesbian and gay couples file applications for civil marriage at Westminster Registry Office in London -- the first such attempt in Britain. Their requests are denied.

April 24, 1993: On the day before the second massive gay and lesbian march on Washington, D.C., "the wedding" takes place on the steps of the IRS building. More than 2,000 couples are united in the ceremony.

May 7, 1993: In a decision concerning a lawsuit filed by three same-sex couples, the Hawaii supreme court declares that the state has to prove that prohibiting same-sex marriage does not violate the couples' constitutional rights.

June 13, 199: The annual wedding cover of The New Yorker magazine features two men posed in front of a cake topped with two grooms.

January 2, 1995: Hans Jonsson and Sven-Olav Jansson become Sweden's first gay couple to legally marry under that nation's new legislation.

February 5, 1995: "A Commitment to Love," an event billed as "the World's Only Gay and Lesbian Wedding Fair," is held in Chicago. An estimated 1,000 people attend.

September 1996: In anticipation of Hawaii's decision to legalize same-gender marriage, the U.S. Congress passes and President Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act. This defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and ensures that other states will not have to recognize same-sex marriages.

December 1996: A Hawaii circuit court rules that barring same-gender couples from receiving marriage licenses is unconstitutional sex discrimination.

April 17, 1997: The Hawaii House and Senate approve a plan to let voters decide on an amendment to ban same-sex marriages but give gay and lesbian couples some rights and benefits available to married couples.

January 1, 1998: A registered-partner measure granting gay couples every right of matrimony except access to adoption and artificial insemination goes into effect in the Netherlands.

February 12, 1998: First National Freedom to Marry Day. Lesbians, gay men, and straight people participate in events across the country calling for an end to discrimination in civil marriage.

March 1998: The Methodist Church puts the Rev. Jimmy Creech on trial, charging him with violating Methodist rules for having blessed the union of two women. The jury acquits him. Ninety-two Methodist ministers release a statement of support saying they will perform "rites of union with all couples, regardless of gender."

Copyright 1994, 1999 by Tess Ayers and Paul Brown.

Meet the Author

Tess Ayers is happily married to Jane Anderson, her partner of fifteen years.

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Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Weddings 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With everyone running to city hall - don't forget to celebrate the event!! This book will help you prepare for the expected, and the unexpected. Even has samples of invitations! Yeah - I know you can design your own - but for pete's sake - use this book for great tips on what to say! This book has it all - buy it!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am in the process right now of planning a ceremony. This book puts in perspective a complete how-to and when-to list of planning a ceremony. I recommend it.