Covering Same-Sex Weddings

by Harrison Jacobs

October 17, 2012

Same-sex marriage is now officially legal in six states—Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, and laws have been passed in Washington and Maryland that will legalize same-sex marriage there as well. A side effect of these new laws is the growing same-sex wedding business. At the forefront of the business is Bernadette Coveney Smith, considered by many to be the nation’s leading same-sex wedding expert. She is the founder and president of 14 Stories, the first company in the U.S. specializing in planning legal same-sex weddings, and has produced hundreds of gay and lesbian weddings since 2004. Her expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN. As the author of Gay Wedding Confidential, Rangefinder sat down with Smith to find out the desires and concerns unique to same-sex weddings.

What are same-sex couples looking for in a photographer?

Coveney Smith: My same-sex couples want a photographer they can have a really good rapport with, who they trust can do a really great job. I want a photographer that’s going to make my client feel comfortable first and foremost. That puts them at ease.

What is unique about the ceremony for same-sex couples that photographers should be aware of?

CS: Many of my clients walk down two aisles for the ceremony, so when we create two aisles, unless there is a really good pivot point for one photographer, it pretty much mandates having a second shooter. Most same-sex weddings don’t happen in churches and many same-sex weddings don’t have parents involved—that changes the dynamic of the ceremony. Ceremonies tend to be very emotional...63 percent of same-sex couples have the support of both parents, while 16 percent have the support of neither set of parents. That indicates there are a lot of couples that have the support of one set of parents only, which can impact the photos and the ceremony.

What other factors should photographers be aware of?

CS: Photographers need to know that they have to be very inclusive. They need the language on their websites and contact forms to be neutral and not make assumptions that the wedding is going to be just like a straight wedding.

What language is acceptable to use?

CS: [Photographers] can say “attendants,” they can say “wedding party,” they can say “the people standing up with you”...As far as the actual contact form on their websites, they can say “the couple” or “names.” The contract can just say “names.” Other language on the website can say “brides and grooms,” not just “bride and groom;” all of those are relevant.

How can photographers get their work out there more in front of same-sex couples?

CS: Word of mouth is huge; I was talking to an acquaintance who is getting married to his partner, and they are using the same photographer that all of their gay friends used. Submit to gay wedding blogs and magazines [such as] Equally Wed [a gay wedding magazine], or [blogs] and On A Bicycle Built  for Two ( 

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