By Charlene Rue & Miriam Tuliao
Although the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage, gay couples’ right to wed is legally sanctioned in six states as well as the District of Columbia. In June 2011, when New York became the largest state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, massive celebrations (and protests) ensued. In downtown New York City, the streets were vibrant‚ as in Elizabeth Bishop’s poem The Fish, everything/ was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! The New York Times reported that hundreds of gay and lesbian couples rushed to city clerk and town hall offices to wed in the first hours after same-sex marriage became legal.
As Steven Petrow, author of Complete Gay & Lesbian Weddings and New Gay Wedding (both reviewed below), notes, Every time two brides or grooms make the decision to publicly announce their relationship and affirm its strength, they’re taking another step forward in coming out‚ and helping to change the stereotypes of LGBT people and their families.
Despite the plethora of wedding planners and guides published each year, few titles have focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender unions. The noteworthy books and resources listed below are intended to provide readers with practical information about same-sex unions, affirmation ceremonies, life partnership ceremonies, public declarations of partnership, and weddings.
Ayers, Tess & Paul Brown. The Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings. 3d ed. The Experiment: Workman. 2012. 288p. illus. ISBN 9781615190546. pap. $16.95. HOME ECON
Recognizing the difficulties of maneuvering through straight wedding planners and trying to make them work for gay ceremonies, Ayers and Brown set out to write an informative, how-to wedding book specifically for the LGBT community. Now in its third edition, this guide offers 22 chapters of witty, wise, and practical advice, covering everything from domestic partnerships and the concept of marriage to how to cope (e.g., being gay in a straight world). The section on logistics is comprehensive, covering key activities such as setting priorities, budgeting, understanding legalities, preparing invitations, choosing a location, and planning the ceremony. The final section, called The Big Event, focuses on last-minute personal needs, the rehearsal, wedding day details, and the honeymoon. Verdict This indispensable book also contains illustrations, inspiring photographs, and an extensive list of web resources.
deMotier, Beren. The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage. iUniverse. 2007. 164p. ISBN 9780595439874. pap. $15.95. MEMOIR
When Multnomah County, OR, announced on March 2, 2004, that it would begin granting marriage licenses, word rippled across the state via text messages, e-mails, and phone calls. DeMotier, a lesbian stay-at-home mother of three, and her longtime partner, Jannine, beamed jubilantly upon hearing the news. Marriage would not only represent an important legal step in their 17-year relationship; the opportunity to say I do before family and friends would be profoundly meaningful. Desperately wishing to marry the love of her life, deMotier admits she couldn’t look at a bridal registry sheet without misting up. Verdict With great wit and candor, the author refreshingly chronicles her own and others’ stories of same-sex marriage in Multnomah, highlighting the behind-the-scenes personal dramas, the steady outpourings of support, the protests, the momentous celebrations, and the unexpected heartbreaks.
Equally Wed. www.equallywed.com.
Launched in March, 2010, this online publication describes itself as the nation’s premier same-sex wedding magazine, providing gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and genderqueer couples with a modern, elegant and unique guide to gay wedding planning. The magazine is published monthly, but some departments are updated daily. Verdict An inspired one-stop resource, EW offers tips on shopping and style, blogs, and wedding photographs contributed to the site by subscribers.
Here Come the Brides!: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage. Seal Pr.: Perseus. 2012. 448p. ed. by Audrey Bilger & Michele Kort. illus. ISBN 9781580053921. pap. $17. SOC SCI
Forty-five women lend their voices to this collection of essays, stories, and images to express what lesbian marriage means to them. We present a wedding banquet that includes not just sugary-sweet multitiered cakes, but some sour pickles and a dash of hot sauce, too, write editors Bilger (literature, gender studies, & yoga, Claremont McKenna Coll.) and Kort (senior editor, Ms. magazine) in their introduction. Verdict That is exactly what readers will find in this emotionally candid collection in which the chapters are arranged like a courtship that hopefully ends happily ever after.
Hertz, Frederick with Emily Doskow. Making It Legal: A Guide to Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnerships & Civil Unions. 2d ed. Nolo. 2011. 297p. index. ISBN 9781413313185. pap. $29.99. LAW
This essential guide for same-sex couples considering marriage, domestic partnerships, or civil unions offers a comprehensive history of the same-sex marriage equality movement in the United States as well as clear explanations of the legal landscape facing same-sex couples who make the decision to marry. Attorneys Hertz and Doskow offer advice on such subjects as prenuptial agreements, what to do when there are children involved, and choosing where to live; they also explain how the laws governing same-sex marriage differ from state to state (and abroad). Verdict An excellent resource; since these laws are evolving, the publisher offers free legal updates at www.nolo.com. (Note: in this edition, New York is not listed as a marriage-equality state.)
Lipper, Don & Elizabeth Sagehorn. The Everything Wedding Vows Book: How To Personalize the Most Important Promise You’ll Ever Make. 3d ed. Adams Media. 2008. 224p. ISBN 9781598698619. pap. $10.95. HOME ECON
While planning a wedding requires substantial energy and time, writing vows, according to husband-and-wife team Lipper and Sagehorn, can be like kitten play. Special features include an A‚ Z vocabulary list designed to jump-start couples’ thought process, creative free-writing exercises (e.g., Produce Your Own Blockbuster Soundtrack), and a list of classic vows from western and eastern religions. Other chapters include Great Verses of Love, Great Love Lines from the Movies (e.g., You make me want to be a better man, from As Good as It Gets), and Vows for Renewals or Subsequent Marriages. In the brief chapter devoted to gay and lesbian weddings, the authors present helpful tips on composing unique vows that stand apart from the average heterosexual couple’s vows (e.g., incorporating quotes from notable LGBT authors like Walt Whitman, Audre Lorde, or Sappho). Verdict A practical handbook of useful advice on an important tradition.
Petrow, Steven with Sally Chew. Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners: The Definitive Guide to LGBT Life. Workman. 2011. 448p. ISBN 9780761165224. $22; pap. ISBN 9780761156703. $17.95. ETIQUETTE
This guide to LGBT etiquette offers useful advice on what to do and say in everyday situations (from dating and parenting to work) and on special occasions (e.g., illness and death). In the chapter called Tying the Knot, Petrow (The Essential Book of Gay Manners & Etiquette), former president of the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association and same-sex wedding expert for the New York Times, notes that in planning a same-sex wedding, couples are navigating unmapped territory in the sense that many of the rules have yet to be figured out. Do gay men and lesbians get engaged in the formal, traditional sense? he questions. Are the roles and responsibilities of the wedding party different when you have two brides or two grooms? Still, he stresses that the principal focus needs to be on the joys of affirming the union. The book covers a wide variety of details from prenuptial contracts and changing names to choosing rings and planning engagement parties, couple showers, and ceremonies. Essentials such as budgeting, choosing an officiant, understanding sound vendor practices, and selecting invitations, vows, and music are also discussed. Finally, Petrow imparts thoughtful advice on a host of conundrums (e.g., I want my ex-wife at my wedding) and questions (e.g., Do you invite unsupportive or hostile family members?). Verdict An authoritative and comprehensive collection of advice.
Petrow, Steven with Sally Chew. The New Gay Wedding: A Practical Primer for Brides and Grooms, Their Families and Guests. Workman: Workman Shorts. 2011. 130p. ISBN 9780761169000. e-book. $3.99. ETIQUETTE
Workman Shorts is a line of bite-size, subject-specific ebooks. The content herein is taken from Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners: The Definitive Guide to LGBT Life. The volume’s format and length make it an essential go-to for everything you need to know about same-sex marriage planning and etiquette, whether you are planning a wedding or attending one. Verdict In addition to offering a brief history of the marriage equality movement, Petrow provides definitions of domestic partnerships, civil unions, and marriage as well as information on how to buy a ring, hire a photographer, and handle disapproving relatives. Worthy of consideration.
Richardson, Tracey. The Wedding Party. Bella Bks. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9781594932342. pap. $15.95. F
After six years together, Dani and Shannon are eager to make a lifelong commitment and start a family. With Shannon’s niece Amanda and good friends Jordan and Claire, the power couple sets off for Las Vegas for an intimate wedding extravaganza that promises unlimited champagne, unparalleled entertainment (by top R&B singers and drag queen Marilyn Monroe impersonators), and gaming excitement. However, while Dani and Shannon see their future as a pristine and perfectly drawn map, the brides-to-be also harbor secrets and find themselves caught in a total freefall at the worst possible time: right before their wedding. Verdict Richardson’s (No Rules of Engagement) highly entertaining novel features well-developed lesbian characters and sizzles with steamy passages and romantic passion.
Toussaint, David (text) & Melanie Wesslock (photogs.). The Gay Couple’s Guide to Wedding Planning. Sellers. Oct. 2012. c.160p. ISBN 9781416208495. $22.95. ETIQUETTE
Toussaint’s (Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony) comprehensive wedding planner for male couples features more than 100 photographs and offers advice on everything from wedding rings to getting in shape for the special day to honeymoon planning. A list of gay-friendly vendors is included. Verdict With New York becoming the most recent state to legalize gay marriage, this is a helpful addition to a rather sparse subject area in need of recent material.
Charlene Rue is the director of collection development at the Brooklyn Public Library. She currently serves as co-chair of the ALCTS and RUSA CODES collection development in Public Libraries Interest Group.
Miriam Tuliao is the assistant director of central collection development at the New York Public Library. She currently serves on the RUSA CODES Education Committee of the American Library Association.