When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013 legalizing same-sex marriage, city halls across the country filled with couples that could finally make their love official under the law.
Commitment ceremonies had been taking place for decades and individual states had already passed laws legalizing same-sex marriage, the but the federal ruling ushered in a new era for the country’s $72 billion wedding industry.
“With same-sex weddings, there’s no real rules,” says Shai Tertner, owner of Shiraz Events with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and London. “They can do it as they wish. They don’t have to obey traditions. They can choose to if they want, but they don’t have to.”
Whether it’s ignoring the superstition around seeing the bride before walking down the aisle in favor of a “first look” photo session, skipping the bouquet and garter toss or forgoing the bridal party and groomsmen, couples are planning weddings that reflect who they are.
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There’s also a strong emphasis on throwing a fun reception that feels more like a party than a formal affair. At these, buffets and food stations are often prefered over traditional plated dinners. “People want to it to be fun and entertaining. They want to see people mingling,” says Monika Moreno, principal at Swankey Events in Key West.
For same-sex couples, there’s even more to parse when interpreting wedding traditions. One thing Tertner’s noticed is that many are forgoing the engagement party. However, for Miami’s Giancarlo Perez and Bernardo Möller, the surprise wedding they were planning in St. Barths turned into their engagement party when their dream venue — Vizcaya Museum & Gardens — suddenly became available thanks to a cancellation. With St. Barths already booked, they invited an intimate group of friends to celebrate in a private villa perched on a bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
The engagement is also a time to get creative with jewelry. One couple, who got engaged in the South of France, opted for Cartier bracelets instead of the traditional ring. Perez and Möller exchanged bands by Nak Armstrong. In South Florida, great jewelers include Gray & Sons in Miami Beach, Morays Jewelers in Coral Gables and Barclays Jewelers in downtown Miami. For a high fashion symbol of love, a trip to Kirk Jewelers in downtown Miami can lead couples to mesmerizing engagement rings and bridal jewelry from brands like DANHOV and Scott Kay.
Perez and Möller’s wedding at Vizcaya became the first official same-sex wedding at the lavish historic property overlooking Biscayne Bay. Solving the question of who walks down the aisle and who waits at the altar, Perez and Möller made their grand entrance together aboard a sleek black Van Dutch open yacht.
Other excellent venues around South Florida include MAPS Backlot in Wynwood, The Biltmore and Hotel Colonnade in Coral Gables, Casa Casuarina and Fontainebleau Miami Beach, The Breakers in Palm Beach, W Hotels and the Casa Marina in Key West.
Perez and Möller had one of their best friends officiate and wrote their own vows, a trend that Tertner says has pretty much become the rule in same-sex weddings. “They’ll take care of the legal process of marriage at city hall and then choose a friend who knows the couple well to officiate and make the ceremony more personal,” he says.
For couples seeking a traditional church ceremony, the Coral Gables Congregational Church, Metropolitan Community Church Key West, Unity on the Bay in Miami and Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale all perform same-sex weddings.
In lieu of bridesmaids and groomsmen, Perez and Möller requested that the ladies invited dress in white or blue gowns for a unified composition at their black tie affair. This is in line with the trend toward shedding the wedding party and opting out of the matchy-matchy bridesmaid dresses, according to Moreno.
Inspiration & Planning
Like any wedding, Tertner points out that the dynamic of same-sex weddings can vary depending on the couple.
“It’s such a new industry,” he says. “For these couples, it can be very emotional on many levels. Fortunately, as same-sex weddings are becoming more of a norm, it’s becoming a little less so, which is a good thing.”
He suggests that couples turn to Pinterest and websites like The Knot and Style Me Pretty for inspiration. He’s also had clients create their entire color story based on a men’s luxury ad. For some lesbian couples, the question of what to wear, a white dress or a tux, often arises. The Little Black Tux online shop is an excellent resource for suits tailored to women for those who’d like to go for the tuxedo look on their wedding day.
Attending conventions like Your Wedding Experience presented by David Tutera — which takes place at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center on May 21 — is a great way to start planning. Of course, hiring a professional wedding planner like Tertner, Moreno or Rainbow Bells, which specializes in same sex weddings, is key to a stress-free planning process.
At Perez and Möller’s wedding, the couple took advantage of Vizcaya’s formal gardens by incorporating long, romantic tables arranged with white roses and tall branches by florist Roman Cusco that reached the willow trees above for a rustic and visually unifying effect. The use of simple materials, including branches, rope, dried beans and clothespins, creates a chic barnyard aesthetic that’s currently very popular. “The trick is taking these humble, natural materials and elevating them,” Tertner says. Other top local florists include Miami’s Trias Flowers & Gifts and Fort Lauderdale’s Doris the Florist.
Perez and Möller hired a live saxophonist and percussionist to complement the beats set by their DJ at the reception, creating a party atmosphere and keeping the energy lively. In addition to an open bar, they also created six separate sitting room-inspired vignettes throughout Vizcaya’s gardens with bottle service set-ups that mimicked the setting at a nightclub. Enlisting Junior’s Entertainment Group, with offices in Miami, Palm Beach, New York and the Dominican Republic and their high-watt production value, is a great alternative. With 72 entertainers and a collection of 3,000 songs in 50 genres and seven different languages to select from, you can become another guest at your wedding.
The reception is an opportunity to get creative. Cake toppers can be anything from customized figures to laser cut words. Naked cakes — which are stripped of the traditional exterior fondant and buttercream, and constructed in layers with floral decor — are another fun way to switch things up. “It’s a great modern twist to the traditional wedding cake,” says Moreno. “[Couples] who lean towards this concept are open to new ideas and like to get creative with their wedding style.” Top wedding confectioners include West Palm Beach’s Earth and Sugar Bakery, Miami’s Elegant Temptations Cakes and Key West Cakes.
Tertner says that after parties, whether hosted at a couple’s home or with an extended reception, are a popular addition. Destination weddings with an entire wedding weekend planned offer yet another way for couples to personalize their celebration and buck tradition. “I think straight couples go to gay weddings and say, ‘Oh, we can do it this way. It doesn’t have to be a stuffy white wedding. We can have fun,’” says Tertner.
Ultimately, a wedding day is about having friends and family come together over a couple’s love.
“I never thought that much about gay rights,” says Möller. “But planning a wedding [with Giancarlo] and preparing for our special day brought such a level of maturity to our relationship and a strong bond. And I thought, ‘Why would that be denied to someone?’”