Gay and Lesbian couples today are creating their own traditions but also following some of the steps of traditional wedding planning.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
A couple's first major decisions involve guest list, budget, the date and time for their ceremony, and style of the celebration. While most etiquette in the "Weddings" section of the site can easily be adapted for commitment ceremonies, there are some specific guidelines that can help same-sex couples plan their big events.
Same-sex ceremonies can be religious or secular, and couples are free to plan the kind of occasion that is meaningful to them.
You can ask as few or as many as you like - or none at all. Just be certain that attendants understand that they will not be legal witnesses, except where same-sex unions are recognized by law. Attendants are often called "honor attendants," especially when they stand with someone of the opposite gender. Children can be included as junior attendants, flower girls, and ring bearers.
Couples who want a religious service might consult their own clergy. If this is not possible, there are a number of faiths and sects today that allow individual congregations to determine policies about gay and lesbian ceremonies. When you first contact a member of the clergy, clarify the exact nature of the service and your relationship - that you are a gay or lesbian couple and you want to arrange a commitment ceremony. In addition to being courteous, full disclosure at the outset can save time; if the person does not perform same-sex services, you can ask for recommendations and then get on with your search.
A licensed officiant is required where gay and lesbian unions and marriages are legal. For less formal commitment ceremonies, couples can ask friends, family members, or respected mentors to officiate. Some couples have no officiant, choosing to exchange vows themselves and perhaps to include readings and musical contributions by friends.
Even if couples do not have a house of worship in their area that conducts LGBT marriage services, there are still many location options. Your own home or a family member's or friend's home; a hotel, club, or restaurant; a civic or historic site; a park or beach setting; a fabulous resort destination - the choice comes down to what you want and can afford. If you plan to rent a space, inform the management about the nature of the event. An increasing number of commercial sites have experience with same-sex ceremonies, but if you sense discomfort or antagonism in your initial contact, it's probably best to find another spot.
LGBT organizations can also often provide information about ceremonies, officiants, local vendors and suppliers. Internet searches might provide links to resources in your immediate area. Another new source to try is Equally Wed Magazine, which also has a website, equallywed.com.