This is what I learned when I attended a wedding fair to plan my gay wedding
When we finally announced we were getting married to each other, the reaction was one of surprise and discomfort; it hadn’t even crossed their minds that we were a couple
After a nine year relationship and incredible amounts of patience, my partner and I are tying the knot next year. While I, forever the independent woman, always viewed marriage as nothing more than a mere contract between two individuals, my fiance believes that if we can, then we should.
And so, during our extensive planning (visiting two venues and sampling copious amounts of red velvet cake), we decided to attend a few wedding fairs in a bid to gain some inspiration as well as nab a few freebies along the way.
Rather naively, we entered these shows in a confident and explorative mood. That dissipated the moment we arrived; we were the only gay couple in the room.
This will come as no surprise to the thousands of same-sex couples getting married each year: wedding fairs are designed with straight people in mind. Everywhere I turned we were greeted with broad smiles and multi-coloured flyers promising jewelled tiaras, meringue skirts and honeymoons in the Bahamas, men and women basking in sunshine and clinking champagne glasses. Photography portfolios were filled with heterosexual couples and their families captured under 'Mr and Mrs' marquee lights. Most stalls were bride focused, displaying delicate bouquets, floral cakes and so much pink. Endless pink.
Even as a heterosexual man, I would have felt lost. As a bisexual woman, I was utterly out of my depth.
Once we were spotted, the natural reaction was to assume that I was getting married and my partner was a bridesmaid. I, dressed in feminine attire, was automatically placed as the bride; vendors asking to see my engagement ring, whether I had a date set, what colours my husband-to-be and I had decided on. My fiance meanwhile, being the more masculine of the two, loitered behind me rocking on her heels. When we finally announced we were getting married to each other, the reaction was one of surprise and discomfort; it hadn’t even crossed their minds that we were a couple.
My partner enquired about getting a custom suit that would fit her frame. This was the final straw. The vendor, becoming extremely animated, proceeded to describe exactly what he believed she wanted: a cinched in waist, accentuated bust and peep toe shoes. My partner hasn’t worn heeled shoes since she was 10.
When gay marriage was legalised in 2014, it was revolutionary: suddenly my rights were up to par with the rest of society and I was able to walk up the aisle and exchange vows with my partner just like our straight counterparts. It felt like victory. And, in a way, so it has been. In 2014 alone there were 4,850 same-sex marriages in the UK, with 2,411 converting their civil partnerships into a marriage. In 2015, this number rose to 6,493, with a further 9,156 conversions, according the Office for National Statistics. Gay men and women all over the country are choosing to marry rather than cohabit, their unions finally visible in the eyes of the law. (This matters; I can’t recall how many times my partner has been unable to stay with me in hospital because she is not considered a member of my family.)
The triviality of being disillusioned by a something as simple as a wedding show is something that I struggle with. It seems petty, considering how far we have come, to want more from society, to desire for my partner and I the ability to slot ourselves into a heteronormative space and feel like we belong. But are we unreasonable in wanting to enter a fair and feel ourselves be represented? Suits cut for female silhouettes, a multitude of colours other than dusty pink and ivory, cake toppers with two women grinning from ear to ear?
It’s evident that we still have a long way to go in terms of acceptance within a institution that still holds such rigid cultural and societal traditions. We both profoundly agree on the concept that marriage is archaic and yet something about the traditions of walking down the aisle, exchanging our vows and drinking copious amounts of vodka in celebration (I’m Polish, it’s a necessity), appeals to us nevertheless.
Wedding fairs too need broaden their spectrum; the UK is a melting pot and our society and commerce needs to reflect that. I just want to see a woman trying to sell me a tuxedo or a gaudy pride flag fluttering off the side of a cake stand. It’s not equality, but it’s a start.