I love planning gay and lesbian weddings – I learn something new every time. Because there are no hard-and-fast etiquette rules about it, couples may do just about anything that makes them happy. And I have a lot of fun making their most creative visions come true. But in eight years of planning, the most important thing I’ve learned about lesbian weddings is that you have to find out early in the process if you’re dealing with two “brides” or not.

What I mean is you have to ask if both halves of the wedding couple will be wearing wedding gowns, getting their hair and makeup done, etc. If one of the brides is less girly than the other, and isn’t wearing a gown, and couldn’t care less about her hair and makeup, the following instructions may not apply to that couple. But you have to ask – you can’t assume. Every couple – gay or straight – is different.

If you’re a destination wedding planner and you might not meet the bridal couple in person before the actual wedding weekend, sometimes you simply have to ask the right questions to figure out what your two brides actually need to make their day complete. And if you don’t know where their style and wedding preferences lie, you have to ask. Even if it’s a little bit awkward.

In the case of two girly brides, you have to prepare for the wedding beauty preparation and the photography as if you were planning two complete weddings.

For example, two brides who don’t want to see each other on their wedding day cannot share a hair and makeup team. They can’t get ready in the same bridal suite. They can’t do their dressing pictures together at the same time, even if they’re getting zipped up concurrently in different suites.

One photographer cannot be in two different places at the same time in order to get dressing photos of both women. Nor can a single photographer manage all the special pictures women want of their own friends and family, times two! It totally fouls up the timing of the entire wedding. It can cause the brides to go down the aisle late if they’re waiting on the other to be finished. And if formal photos take twice a long, you’ll lose a bunch of time at your wedding reception because the bar clock starts running the minute your guests begin cocktails, not when the brides grace everybody with their presence.

The solution? You have to hire a wedding photography company that can send two photographers to cover the day separately, but together. Or you must hire two completely separate teams and ask them to play nicely together. In my experience, professional wedding photographers simply want to make sure that they get EVERY important picture for the wedding couple, and if they’re not staffed to handle two brides, they appreciate being given additional camera support.

In telling my brides about this conflict I’ve discovered, and asking if we need to double up on vendors, I share the true story of a wedding I planned a couple of years ago for two gorgeous women who almost came to blows on their wedding day because they couldn’t share one photography team.

The wedding ceremony started almost 45 minutes late because the second bride to be photographed (we had one photography team) wanted lots of pre-ceremony pictures with her friends and family, not just dressing photos of herself. So they weren’t ready when it was time to go down the aisle. And her friends were a little aggressive about it with my staff when we tried to get them all moving so we had to back off and let them take their time.

Shelly and Anna just married

The battle for center stage continued during the formal wedding shots after the ceremony, and the photographers did their best to accommodate everybody. But it was nearly impossible. These two women were taking far more separate pictures with friends and family than would usually be done for a newly married couple. With the exception of a few photos, I don’t think both brides were in many of the pictures that weren’t just of them alone. It was a little strange, but it was what they wanted.

By the time formal pictures were finished and it was time to make their grand entrance, the brides were barely speaking to each other because each bride felt like she’d gotten cheated on pictures with her own family and besties. Trust me when I say this doesn’t happen at straight weddings because grooms just want the pictures to be over and done with as soon as possible.

This problem also doesn’t happen at lesbian weddings when one bride is less girly than the other, didn’t choose to wear a wedding gown, and only wants to be photographed as much as necessary to have a nice wedding album.

That wedding, in particular, was a teachable moment for me and the photographers, too. After that experience, I decided it was always best to just tell the true story to my brides, laugh with them, and then let the women actually paying for the photography decide what to do.

If both of you are divas, and both of you love to have your picture taken, and you both picture being pampered, treated like a queen, and photographed constantly (but separately) on your wedding day, the solution is pretty simple. You need two separate photography teams or somebody will end up unhappy and feeling cheated.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!

Sandy Malone
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