By Sasha Lamprea
I spent most of 2017 planning (and secretly dreading) a queer southern wedding. My partner and I were together for nearly seven years before getting engaged, and a full eight before the actual wedding. We went through undergrad, grad school, four apartments, three cats, two dogs, countless trips together, an infinite number of laughs and tears, and more than a handful of awkward family moments before finally getting to the altar. During our engagement, we would often stop and look at each other and say, “Can you believe we’re doing this in Texas? When we started dating, this wasn’t even a legal option!” Today, two years after the legalization of marriage equality, it still feels like a pleasant surprise that same-sex unions are actually allowed and recognized by the state and nation. That marrying my partner was even an option in the South. In Texas. The magnitude and significance of what we were doing was not lost on us.
The wedding planning process, however, brought us back into reality. While choosing a venue, vendors, and even wedding attire shopping, we were both acutely aware that we weren’t just two people in love—we were two lesbians in love, gay planning a gay wedding in the Lone Star State. And y’all, if we ever forgot it, someone made sure to remind us. Southern mentality doesn’t change just because laws do.
We decided to begin our gay wedding planning by choosing the location. I drove from our home in Austin to a beautiful little venue outside of the city. The tour began and I was living out my blushing bride dreams; floating instead of walking, and giggling before every sentence. My tour guide showed me the dancefloor, cute picturesque spots, and the fire pit before, unintentionally, knocking me from my marital bliss. She stopped in front of the bridal suite and, in her sugary sweet southern voice, announced, “Here’s where you will get dressed! We don’t have a groom’s suite because guys are just easier, ya know?” My excitement was suddenly swept away. Once again, I was reminded that I was not just a blushing bride, but a gay blushing bride. I softly smiled and we continued on with the tour—this time, my steps were heavier. My happiness was replaced with feelings that ranged from annoyance at her lack of sensitivity (Are we seriously still working on being bare minimum P.C. with our customer service?) to the ever-present hesitance and concern that comes with this identity—what if they’re not okay with the fact that I’m queer?
It wasn’t until after the tour was over, right before I departed, that I finally told this very nice, very sweet woman that my wedding would not include a groom. I informed her that I was marrying a woman, and politely asked if that would be a problem. Y’all should have seen the look on her face. Her jaw dropped, her cheeks turned red, and with her hands clasped together and eyes open wide, she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! Of course that’s okay! How exciting!” Her positive reaction made me feel silly for dreading this coming out conversation. She very obviously wanted my gay business. I drove home laughing at myself, thinking that of course it’s okay. In the wedding industry, no one cares about who you’re marrying, they just care that you’ve got money to spend. How silly of me to be so defensive, even paranoid.
But then, we began our search for a wedding planner. My partner’s brother, who happens to be in the wedding industry, tried to connect us with someone in his network. He returned empty handed, though, awkwardly explaining that the moment he mentioned his sister’s fiancée was a woman, the wedding planner quickly said, “Oh wait—sorry, no. I don’t do gay weddings.”
I can’t lie and say I was devastated, hurt, or surprised by this reaction. Honestly, I had been waiting to run into this kind of attitude from day-one of the planning process. It was almost a relief to have finally been proven right—that the legalization of marriage equality means absolutely nothing in terms of the quotidian treatment of same-sex couples. This encounter was a reminder that, while it’s important to push for laws and policies that are inclusive of everyone, legislation does not guarantee true equality. Laws are not a solution; they are merely steps in the right direction.
In any case, I am not writing this story to discuss the institution of marriage, the wedding industry, or even just to share my experience. I am writing this story as a way to process the real lesson behind my experience as a queer bride. The lesson that queer love cannot be defined, demonstrated, or authenticated by institutions that it was never supposed to be a part of. The legalization of marriage equality is great, but it doesn’t validate who we are as queer people or the way we love. Yes, I had a beautiful queer southern wedding. It was intimate and it was sweet. But my favorite part of the whole process was learning I didn’t need that wedding at all. That my queer love transcends institutions. That my queer love is enough.