Following on from her previous column about proposing in a same sex couple, bride-to-be Becky shares more about the minefield of attending wedding fairs as two brides…
The day I proposed, a cloud of euphoria and happiness consumed us. We were in a little bubble of happiness. Then the moment we started seeing family, the questions started coming in – the most popular one being: “What date have you picked?”
Our little engagement bubble burst and we were expected to know everything there and then. Now the wedding planning was about to begin…but we had no idea where to begin!
Is it dress first, then venue? Or flowers then celebrant? I know, taste our signature cocktails over and over again then wake up the next day with the perfect day planned! If only it were that simple. We asked a few of our friends that were already married/in the middle of the process and they all said the same thing. We needed to go to the motherland of all things wedding, a wedding fair.
A Bride & Her Bridesmaid
I have a confession, the two wedding fairs we went to were not my first rodeo. Before I proposed, I trailed Ciara all over the country to them. The one perk of being two women going to a wedding fair is you really don’t look out of place. The vendors make assumptions about you, like, ‘Oh! A bride and her bridesmaid.’
But when you let it slip that not only are you actually a couple, you’re also not even engaged yet, instantly you’re made to feel like a timewaster. Pained smiles crept across their faces, and they’d make excuses to go and speak to another couple, one that were actually engaged and therefore more evidently committed to the process.
Had they actually taken the time to talk to us, they would have understood that we love being prepared and to plan ahead – hence why we were at the shows!
It’s lucky Ciara and I don’t get easily offended, but it was something we talked about. It’s not so easy to prepare and plan ahead for when people aren’t as understanding or keen to speak to you, or they make assumptions about you on the spot.
Best of Times & Worst of Times
One of my favourite experiences was when I went to the Quirky Wedding Fair for the first time. No matter what you want, you’ll find it there – such as a wedding cake in the shape of the Hogwarts Castle!
I was going with a bride-to-be. It felt amazing and slightly overwhelming. But every vendor was a joy to speak to. It was relaxed, bright and well, quirky! Everything you could dream of was under one roof. Each time you approached the vendors, they wanted to know you, your love story, what you needed or wanted.
They would offer freebies (game changer!) like cupcakes, special offers and full portfolios of their work. After all that, they gave you clear, precise information about the services they provided, reassuring you that if this package didn’t suit, you could contact them and they would work through it with you and tailor one to your needs. I was so impressed and I couldn’t wait for it to be my turn and go as part of a wedding planning couple.
13th January 2020 was the day that, after many years of campaigning, Northern Ireland was finally in line with the rest of the UK & Ireland and same sex marriage became legal. I had a ticket to a large wedding fair in Northern Ireland which was to take place shortly after this date.
This fair was more mainstream. You imagine going with all your bride tribe and snatching up the freebies, taking selfies and generally being a bridal maniac indulging in every conversation with every vendor, AS THE BRIDE. Not the friend or the bridesmaid.
But what about Ciara? She’s a bride too with a bride tribe of her own. Was this wedding fair just for brides or was it for couples? It’s awful to say, but I was so preoccupied with feeling confused about what was ‘normal’ that I had forgotten about what MY bride would want. At no point did I second guess my decision to trail Ciara to those fairs before I proposed, so why now?
I put all of my thoughts to bed and told myself to put my big girl bridal pants on and go have fun. Unfortunately, Ciara couldn’t join me but my best man and one of my bridesmaids were up for the task of being my bride tribe for the day.
With the recent change in law and the fact same sex marriage was now legal, my assumption was that wedding businesses here were going to celebrate same sex marriage. I also assumed they’d maybe be a little more mindful of the different types of couples they may now get. There I was, gay best man and bridesmaid by my side about to see what was out there, expecting rainbows and to see people like me represented at the show. This was certainly not the case and only one vendor had some images of same sex couples on their stand.
The next problem I faced was that they were assuming my best man was my groom! Instead of going straight in with “Is this your groom? No? where is he?”, maybe let the people you’re talking to introduce themselves. You will swiftly know if they are together or not.
Once you get past that awkward moment, you’re straight into the next one: the dreaded forms. Pens are poised as they ask to take your information.
“Erm, there isn’t one…”
Suddenly, you feel embarrassed again. Sometimes they’ll cross out the word ‘groom’ when adding Ciara’s name, but really, the forms need to be updated. How hard is it to have ‘wedding couple’ as the field name?
My other stand out memory from this day was seeing two men, clearly a couple, walking around together, clutching each other. I didn’t see anyone address them and they looked so out of their depth. The wedding industry is very bride-oriented and grooms can be a second thought – but grooms can have a dream wedding in their heads too – don’t forget, it’s also their day.
A couple of weeks later, Ciara and I went back to the Quirky Wedding Fair. The atmosphere was completely different.
There were stands with pictures of same sex couples and appropriate questions were asked. Assumptions were still there, but it was like they knew how to address them properly and there were no awkward silences.
Even when looking at suits, one guy came over and asked about us. He made us feel so welcome and comfortable to ask questions because at the end of the day, we know dresses and not so much about suits.
We came home and talked about how different the experiences had been and tried to figure out why. Is it a case of they have not had enough time to change their branding? Or is it a case of worrying about offending heteronormative couples and therefore not getting the right kind of business? I was faced with the problem that yes, these vendors will probably be able to help me but I don’t feel represented.
As I am marrying another bride, the only place I felt represented was at an alternative wedding fair, but we’re not an alternative couple. Nor do I feel my wedding will be any less ‘normal’ than anyone else’s, so why did I feel like this place of happiness is the wrong place for me?
Let’s hope that 2021 brings about change and the industry becomes a little more inclusive of every type of love. As they say love is love!
Want more? We surveyed same sex wedding planning couples to find out more about what the ‘average’ same sex wedding looks like.