» Gay Wedding Trends: A 2015 Year-in-Review Snapshot

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.com, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

Though the spiritual implementation of wedding rituals for same-sex couples has remained steady since GayWeddings.com was founded in 1999, the practical implementation and legal opportunities have changed dramatically.

Gay Wedding Trends: A 2015 Year-in-Review Snapshot

Besides the most dramatic change–same-sex couples having legal access to marriage rights in all 50 states–gay and lesbian wedding trends now look overwhelmingly different than they did 20, or even 10, years ago.

Where once we were having small, private ceremonies that might or might not have included our family members, we are now celebrating our unions with many more guests in attendance (100 on average according to a recent WeddingWire survey), with more family members than ever celebrating with us and, it’s worth noting, often pressuring us to hurry up and get engaged already.

I’ll be speaking at WeddingWire World in greater depth on the latest LGBTQ wedding trends, data insights, and how same-sex couples continue to impact the larger modern market, but I hope you’ll enjoy this brief sneak preview of the themes ahead.

LGBTQ wedding trends look an awful lot like those for non-LGBTQ couples

Yes, wedding ritual assimilation is well underway. Thankfully, that street goes both ways, which means that straight couples are gaining a few fun twists just as LGBTQ couples are lining up behind wedding trends shared by all couples in the mainstream market.

If you are looking for a crystal ball into 2016, GayWeddings.com’s lead writer, Whitney Teal, offered couples a fabulous summary of the 2016 style trends that are important for couples to keep in mind. Her summary includes 7 trends from mixed-gender wedding parties to drones (the camera carrying kind, not the dull guests!) to hashtags and retro menswear. It’s a great read so check it out to learn more about what’s ahead.

Pro Tip: Share the GayWeddings.com 2016 Style Trends post with your LGBTQ couples or prospective couples as a conversation starter.

Structurally speaking, we’re more alike than different…

Many of you are now familiar with the tradition and trend statistics the WeddingWire team released summarizing the behavior of same-sex couples in 2014. You might not be surprised to know that we continue to find a similar pattern for all couples in 2015, including:

  • LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples who use WeddingWire report similar levels of use of planning apps, announcing an engagement on social media and using a wedding hashtag.
  • LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples who use WeddingWire report a similar number of months for their engagement period.
  • LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples who use WeddingWire report a similar number of dollars spent in wedding costs.

…But some differences are essential to remember and integrate into your toolbox

In 2014, we found that LGBTQ couples broke from “tradition” and expressed themselves a bit differently when it came to wedding rituals. For individual LGBTQ couples, this was largely determined by fit with or rejection of heteronormative gender roles (eg. what a bride “does” and what a groom “does”). But, that was yesterday.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind for today: In 2015, our data revealed a larger gap of difference between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples, especially when the ritual expression involved LGBTQ couples in the broader market. Among same-sex couples, it is important to expect more variety than one might expect among heterosexual (non-LGBTQ) couples.

Pro Tip: It’s important for wedding pros to understand that same-sex couples do re-purpose wedding rituals and pros must be prepared to provide a space for couples to authentically express themselves.

Before I share some of those differences, please consider one note of caution about the 2015 data: last year was an unusual year in that more states than ever legalized marriage (thanks to the Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 2015). This meant that, for as many couples that may have been planning more weddings over the long-term, there were plenty of couples in our sample who might also have had quicker legal elopements or wedding celebrations as a function of the legal opportunity over a more typical engagement trajectory where legal status is not a consideration.

Time will ultimately answer this question for us, so, for today, I encourage wedding pros to keep in mind these interesting trend differences revealed for same-sex couples.

In 2015, LGBTQ couples were less likely than heterosexual couples (even more so since 2014) to:

  • Have an equal number of wedding party members on each “side”
  • Perform a first dance
  • Have at least one of the couple wearing white
  • Leave for a honeymoon within a day or two after the reception
  • Have women in the wedding party all wearing the same dress
  • Have the father of one/both members of the couple provide an escort down the aisle
  • Have a bouquet toss
  • Have parent-child dances
  • Approach parents ahead of the engagement for their blessing/permission to get married
  • Have separate bachelorette/bachelor parties
  • Spend the night before the wedding apart
  • Have one person change last names to his/her partner’s last name
  • Divide wedding party members by gender (ie, females supporting female; males supporting a male)

This remains an exciting time for same-sex couples as we celebrate our unions with full marriage equality. So much of this is due to the incredible acceptance and leadership of the wedding industry. I look forward to hearing many more wonderful stories about the couples you’ve served and encourage you to submit your weddings to GayWedddings.com via RealWeds.com and keep an eye on the trends revealed in the coming months via the GayWeddings.com.

Before I go, one quick request for support on my mission to challenge Bridal Bias in 2016. If you haven’t already updated your language (verbally and in written form) from “brides” to “brides and grooms” or “couples,” please do. If you keep talking about “bridal shows” instead of “wedding shows,” please break the habit. It’s time to update your language (and to ask your industry peers to update their language) to speak to today’s couples, not yesterday’s brides. And, if you have a good story about challenging bridal bias, please share it with us via email or social media using the hashtag #BridalReBrand. We’d love to hear your story and share it with others.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Williams