NOTHING! That’s right, I said nothing. As same sex wedding photographers in Phoenix and Hawaii who have also planned our own gay wedding, we have first hand experience from the shopping side as well as from the vendor side. We specialize in photographing gay, same sex, and LGBT couples in Phoenix, Hawaii, and internationally. With all of the experience we have in this area both as a couple and as professional wedding photographers, we thought we would share with you the differences between a “gay wedding” and a “straight wedding”. Here is the thing, when it comes down to it a wedding is a wedding: two people madly in love who want to share the rest of their lives together so they throw a massive celebration and invite their closest friends and family to witness the event.
With all of the controversy about “gay marriage” it’s easy to get worked up or confused about what the whole thing even means. First of all, there is technically no such thing as a “gay” wedding. In the wedding industry we use all sorts of terms to decipher what type or style of wedding it is based on various traditions that may go with that particular style. For instance, a Jewish wedding may incorporate traditional Jewish elements that would differ from that of a Catholic wedding or the traditional elements of an Indian wedding. These terms help to describe what traditions one might expect from such a wedding. However, a “gay wedding” is only attempting to describe the type of gender to gender relationship that the couple who is getting married has. For this reason, we like to think of “gay weddings” as just a normal wedding! For the purpose of this post and understanding the differences, I will continue to refer to them as gay weddings.
One of the things I love most about photographing gay weddings is that they have never been legally performed until the last couple of years so there are NO TRADITIONS. We find that our couples are creating their own traditions by understanding what it is that they value most rather than what they are “expected to do”. We see and hear it too often with many of our traditional couples that they feel like they have to have a bouquet to toss, or cut a cake, or wait to see each other until one of them walks down the aisle, etc. Far too few of them realize that all they really “have” to do to be married is repeat after their officiant to declare their promise of love to each other in front of a couple of witnesses and sign a marriage license. BOOM! That’s basically it! You don’t have to walk down any aisle, wear a particular outfit, buy flowers, feed a bunch of people, cut some cake, throw the flowers, or dance for the first time as a married couple in order to be married. Our same sex or LGBT couples really understand this as they are forced out of those gender roles that traditional marriage has made us accustomed to. Gay and LGBT couples do their wedding exactly the way THEY WANT TO!
FORGET ABOUT GENDER ROLES
I am often blown away by some of the questions people ask regarding gender roles and gay weddings. Things like, “which one of the girls is the groom?” or “if there are two guys then who do I pose like the bride?” This tells me that as a society we are really just uneducated on the topic and are being led by stereotypes of who gay people are. Don’t worry, I don’t hold any of these questions against anyone but rather feel a bigger need to EDUCATE so that we can move even closer to a place of understanding.
Just because there are two females getting married it does NOT mean that one will be “the boy” or that one will wear a suit and the other will wear a dress. Or, if there are two males it does not necessarily mean that one will have more female mannerisms than the other or that they will both be very masculine. Don’t place your couples into gender roles but rather treat them as individuals and you will find that you have a much easier time assessing how to interact with them.
POSING: STOP MAKING IT SO DIFFICULT
Once you can understand that gay or LGBT couples are unique just as traditional couples are and that they may not have the typical gender roles that society has placed them in then you can begin to pose them as just another happy couple who is in love! Just like any other couple who is in love you want your couple to get close and stay close unless you’re going for something totally editorial.
Don’t be afraid to step back and give them some space. Get out that 70-200mm lens and shoot from afar to allow for your couple to be intimate without feeling the added pressure of the camera.
Pose your guys in a way that speaks to the casualness of their chemistry without making them look like two guys who are meeting up for a business meeting. Suit jackets can tend to lend a “business” feel. So, if you’re not feeling it and it seems too formal and stuffy, don’t be afraid to have them remove some of their layers and get comfortable.
Photographing two girls offers a wide range of options from what they will wear, to body language, to overall chemistry. Getting to know your couple ahead of time will really aide in your ease of posing. That being said, same rules apply no matter what. When in doubt, get them close and encourage them to focus on each other and then take a few steps back to allow them some space.
PERMISSION TO COMMUNICATE
Whether I’m photographing a gay couple or a straight couple, I always encourage all of my couples to keep the lines of communication open. If something doesn’t feel right they should feel comfortable letting you know so that you can get the best possible result. This is one of the BEST reasons to also offer them an engagement session so that you have a chance to practice and see what works with them as a couple and what doesn’t. This will be your chance to do something fun and crazy; try new things. You have nothing to lose as long as you do a few of those “safe shots”. You know? The ones where they are close all the time. Seriously, if you can’t figure out what to do and nothing is seeming to work, do something fun and crazy, “Run as fast as you can right towards me. Ready? GO!” or “Just lay there and stare at each other and don’t laugh, whatever you do!” or “Screw this, let’s get a Bloody Mary!”
Expect the unexpected when it comes to your couple planning their wedding. They will likely include some really cool and unique elements that you will wish more couples did! When it comes to gender roles, if you aren’t sure what to say then just ask! Let your couple know that you support them 10,000% and want to ensure their comfort in the process. Most people will appreciate your support and acceptance and that will only make them feel more comfortable. If you’re stuck on posing, don’t be afraid to watch movies with same sex couples in them so you can get a visual example of how they might interact in a natural way with one another. Look at magazine ads. So many ads these days feature two people of the same gender in unique poses. When all else fails, never give up!