Erin and I became civil partners on the 25 September 2010, eight years ago today. It was such a brilliant day.
When it becomes legal for same-sex couples to be married in Northern Ireland (I say “when”, not “if” quite deliberately!) we will convert our partnership into a marriage and have one almighty party.
Planning a lesbian wedding is great. By definition, you have already bypassed one of the major traditional elements of a wedding (one bride, one groom) so after that, it becomes much easier to pick and choose the rest. Invite who you want to invite. Have speeches from whomever you want. Wear what you want.
Of course, make sure that you’re friends and families are going to have a brilliant day – but make sure you do it your way.
Now that we run The Edible Flower, we have the pleasure of talking to lots of engaged couples about their plans as we do more and more wedding catering. So far we’ve always had these discussions with a bride and groom-to-be, but one day we’re hoping to talk to some bride and brides-to-be. Maybe one day we’ll be the go-to option for Northern Irish lesbian wedding catering.
If you’re planning a wedding, gay or straight, big or small, here are our top five tips.
Number 1. Great informal food
Great food is vital at a great wedding. Obviously, we would say this – But whatever caterers you choose we have one bit of advice…
We would always recommend a less formal food service at a wedding. The quality of food you can get if you go for a buffet (we call it a “feasting table”) or family-style sharing platters is so much better than a more formal plated meal.
You don’t have to choose one boring main dish that will be OK for everyone but thoroughly uninspiring for all. You can deal with dietary requirements elegantly and subtlety. And you get better value for money, because you don’t have the madness of getting 100 or so identical plates of food hot and served at the same time. For so many reasons, please don’t choose a chicken breast on mash.
Number 2. Short speeches
Erin was pretty militant about this at our wedding. All speech givers were given a strict 3-minute maximum. This forced me and the other speechwriters to write a speech, then review it several times to cut out all but the best bits. Yes, we all ended up going over our time-limit slightly but the speeches were all a whole lot better than they would have been otherwise and it was all over in 20 minutes.
Number 3. Live music
There is something magic about live music.
I’ve always played in bands at school and uni and beyond. I noticed, particularly at uni that some of the bands, the jazz bands and the big bands were populated by some seriously talented musicians (often music students) and they were often thoroughly keen to play for beer money. We hired the University College London Jazz Band – a 17 piece big band who were quite frankly awesome – and unbelievably good value. We actually had three live bands – a mix of semi-professional and entirely unprofessional. It was good fun.
Whomever you choose. Keep it live and keep it cheesy.
Number 4. Timing is everything
Our wedding was a little bit like a military operation. We had everything planned out to the nearest 5 minutes and we stuck to it. Get your timings realistic to start with and then stick to them (by making sure everyone knows when things are happening and getting a friend or family member to be in charge of rounding people up when necessary). That way the food doesn’t get cold, the band don’t get bored and everyone’s happy.
We often get questions about a sensible order of things.
We would recommend an hour or so for a drinks reception with canapes after the ceremony. Then everyone sits down and you have short speeches (perhaps with some nibbles on the table to keep people from starving) then you eat. Or alternatively you have the meal, then have speeches after the main course but before dessert. We think either options work but often the speech givers are keen to get it out the way early!
Number 5. Find An Interesting Venue
We’ve only worked in a handful of wedding venues in Northern Ireland, but there definitely seemed to be a slight shortage of genuinely quirky places to get married. Our intended wedding venue back in 2010, The East Room, burnt down (yes – it actually burnt down) four months before our planned date so we had to start again from scratch. We ended up in Hoxton Hall, a beautiful and tiny Victorian music hall in East London. We could have the ceremony and reception in the same venue (always good to cut down on the hassle factor for your guests) and we knew that our hire fee was going towards maintaining a unique building and a great little arts charity. As an added bonus the Hoxton weekly market (a proper old East End market) happened outside on the street which made for some really fun and unique photographs.
So far we’ve catered for weddings at The Arcadia, Belle Isle, Finnebrogue Woods and in our (tiny) back garden back in London! We have weddings coming up in Larchfield Estate, Clandyboye Estate, Gracehall and The Old Court Chapel.
Try and find a place that means something to you and that your guests will remember. Think outside the box and you never know where you might end up.
Lesbian Wedding FAQs
And finally, here are the classic lesbian wedding Frequently Asked Questions that you always wanted answered but never dared ask:
Who wears the dress? Anyone or no-one. Wear what you like. Erin a lovely vintage wedding dress. Jo a simple 50’s style dress followed by a suit for the dancing and evening activities.
Who carries the flowers? Whoever you want. Both Erin and Jo had a bunch of flowers. Dahlias featured heavily.
Who has the best man? Both of you or neither of you. Jo had a “best man” who happened to be her sister.
Do you have a joint hen do? We had individual hen dos on the same night in London. Then a picnic for all involved the following day in Regent’s Park.
Who walks down the aisle? Jo walked down with her Dad first, then followed by Erin with her Mum.
Who does the speeches? Anyone or everyone – Jo’s Dad, Erin’s Mum, Jo’s Sister and Jo all did speeches at our wedding.
And why can’t two women get married yet in Northern Ireland? Now, sadly I can’t answer that one!