Blush and Bashful: How To Plan a Lesbian Wedding Ceremony

feature image photo by martinedoucet via Getty Images

Somewhere in between thrifting 50 floral print hankies and meeting with the queer chef who is catering my wedding, I realized that I had to actually… figure out what I wanted my wedding ceremony to look like. Sure, the event is essentially a backyard campout weekend with an incredibly specific aesthetic, but it’s also the time we’re setting aside to get married. So I guess we should… do that!

Whether you’re planning on legally involving the state in your union or not, the ceremonial part of the wedding is a major component (unless you choose not to include it, which we’ll touch on in this post, too). So it’s worth talking about a little bit or a lot a bit when planning a big gay wedding, and we’re here to talk about planning a big gay wedding! So let’s get into it!

What does a wedding ceremony entail?

Haha, okay, so the first thing I did when writing this post is google “what do you need to do to legally get married.” I’ve clearly spent more time thinking about the floral arrangements than the nitty gritty details of marriage so far! But the thing is, legally getting married and having a wedding ceremony are not really the same. To get legally married in the United States, you need to get a marriage license and then a marriage certificate. The laws are mostly the same across state lines, but a quick internet search will give you the details of your specific state.

A wedding ceremony is not something that can be dictated by a quick internet search, because it’s highly personal! You and the person or people you’re marrying will work together to create your ideal ceremony, and that can truly include… well, anything. A lot of big wedding websites will have “guides” for the general flow of a wedding, but having attended quite a few queer weddings at this point, I can say that our ceremonies do not always represent those ones at all. For example, my partner and I don’t have a wedding party, so no one is coming down the aisle before us in the “processional” — it’s literally just us walking down the aisle together. For another example, two of my best friends did a beautiful hand fasting ceremony together at their wedding, and there was no aisle at all — they were already standing together at the front of the space when the guest filtered in, and we all did a spiral dance together to close out the ceremony and then dispersed naturally, rather than having a formal exit or “recessional.”

So while I do think it can be useful to look up general templates of wedding ceremonies if you have no idea where to begin, I also think if you want to just throw the whole template out the window and do it however you want to, that’s cool as hell. The main point of a wedding ceremony is for you and your partner to declare your intentions in front of your community, and as long as you do that in a way that feels good to you, you’re killing it.

Who is going to officiate?

One thing that all wedding ceremonies I’ve ever attended have had is an officiant. That’s the person who leads the ceremony, and in movies says things like, “You may now kiss the bride!” (They say that in real life too, it just feels like such an epic movie moment to me every time, lol.) An officiant can be a religious leader (many Jewish people have a rabbi officiate, for example), a good friend, or anyone who is legally certified to officiate a wedding (my understanding is that you can become an officiant swiftly and easily on the internet, so it’s truly a “whoever you want” kind of moment).

Some things to think about when choosing an officiant: Is it important to you to have a religious leader officiate? Would you like a family member or friend to do it? If you’re choosing someone you don’t know, do they have the same values as you and do you think they will listen to your desires for the way your ceremony will go? Do they have experience officiating a wedding before? Do you think they can pull it off without crying? (One of my best friends was recently demoted from officiating another friend’s wedding because she sobbed so hard at the last wedding she attended no one believes she could make it through her little spiel, lol.)

My partner and I asked two of our best friends to officiate our wedding because we didn’t want any strangers at the wedding, we didn’t mind if the officiant wasn’t a rabbi even though we are Jewish, and because we want them to bring their personality and their energy to the ceremony. It’s just one more way we can make the event intimate and special for us.

Will your community participate?

Something that is quite common during wedding ceremonies is asking your community to participate in some way. This can mean assigning a few readings to people (it can be very meaningful to choose readings with the people you’d like to read them, so you know they believe in the words they’re sharing, or to give them some options to choose between), having your guests all pass around a special crystal or other magic object to imbue with love and community that you’ll then hold onto, or doing a “group vow” which is essentially when everyone at the wedding recites a promise to support the people getting married.

Some religions have community participation built into their rituals (to speak from my experience, in Judaism the Seven Blessings are usually read by seven different guests, and we’re having all our guests recite the final blessing together so every single person feels involved with the ceremony) but it’s easy to include this in your wedding even if you aren’t religious and won’t be doing any explicitly religious rituals; you just have to plan accordingly and decide what would feel good to you. I am always a fan of having guests read poetry at a wedding ceremony. Perhaps that’s a given as I’m a writer and a lesbian, but truly, what is better than a love poem read by a hot queer in celebration of a big gay wedding?!

How the fuck do you write your vows?

When I originally pitched this week’s column subject I said it would be “How to write your vows” but lol, it turns out I do not know how and the internet has been only mildly useful in educating me! So I pivoted to a subject I felt more knowledgable about, and now we’ll address the vows as one aspect of your ceremony. And the answer to how you write your vows is… if anyone knows please tell me?!

Seriously, I’ve polled lots of different friends about this and have not received much useful advice. One friend said, “I wrote them the night before the wedding in a panic and honestly blacked out while reading them so I don’t even know what I said,” and that does seem to be the vibe. Currently I know my partner feels pressure about writing her vows because I’m “the writer” of the family, and I feel pressure about writing my vows because I’m “a writer”… perhaps the only truth of wedding vows is you will feel some pressure around writing them?!?!

I will say that I have been getting aggressively targeted ads on Instagram for this app called Provenance that helps craft ceremony scripts and vows, but when I finally decided to try it out (for science!), it immediately asked me to pay cash money to access the vows portion of the website, so never mind on that.

So, okay, here’s my answer to this question as of now. When I have sat down to write the rough draft of my vows, I’ve tried to think of it as four parts: 1. Our love story, 2. What I love about my partner, 3. Why I appreciate our community and their support, 4. What I promise/vow to do for/with my partner in our married life together. And my goal is to keep it between 1-3 minutes because in reality, as much as our loved ones love us, no one is at our wedding to attend a long reading… they just wanna celebrate our love and get to the dance party! I realize this is a very tiny amount of practical advice and I apologize. I’m finding that it’s really hard to write wedding vows! If anyone has any better practical advice, I’d genuinely love to hear about it in the comments.

Will you include religious or cultural rituals?

There are so many religious and cultural rituals when it comes to wedding ceremonies, and what you include will be entirely up to you. My partner and I are Jewish witches (Jewitches, if you will) so we’re doing a few Jewish rituals plus a magic ritual. We’re also signing a ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract) as well as a state marriage license. The way we pick and chose what rituals we wanted to include was very intentional — we are lucky enough to not have any immediate family members telling us what to do for our wedding, so we just went through the options of what we could do and decided which ones mattered to us. We included some and set aside others.

It should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway: If you are choosing a religious or cultural ritual for your wedding, make sure it is from your collective religions or cultures, not an appropriative moment. I saw some white women selling “dream catcher bridal headdresses” at the bridal expo I went to and it was truly disgusting — do not be this person!

I would actually really love to include some guest posts to this column about specific wedding rituals for different religions and cultures, so if you’ve participated in one and would like to write about it from a first person perspective, please pitch me (vanessa [at] autostraddle [dot] com, but please don’t expect a reply until late June because, you know, my wedding is coming up, lol).

What if you want it all to be private?

That is totally okay! I have friends who hosted a wedding party but wanted the actual ceremony to be private so they did it on a separate day a few weeks before the event. I have friends who wanted their entire wedding to be very private so they only invited ten people. I have seen a lot of Instagram posts about couples saying “private vows” to each other that are more personal (or simply longer) and then saying shorter more public vows during their wedding ceremonies. If you want things to be extremely private you can always elope! And I’m sure there are a million other ways to create a more private wedding ceremony. While legally you do have to have a couple of witnesses to call it a marriage, your ceremony can look any way you want it to, and if that means you actually don’t want others looking at it, then they shan’t! Your wedding, your calls.

Blush and Bashful is a biweekly queer wedding planning column.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. When writing our vows, my wife and I talked about our shared values and what would feel meaningful for us, ending up with a list of seven or so basic ideas/principles. Then we individually wrote out our own versions of each of those ideas in our own words. That way, our vows mirrored each other and reflected what was important to both of us, but they weren’t worded in exactly the same way.

  2. I think I got this from another Autostraddle comment section but going to say it anyway lol. A thing you can do with vows is share them with a trusted friend so they can let you know if the vibe kinda matches or not. It could be pretty awkward if one person went for something super deep/intense and sincere and the other went for something really light/funny.

    • yes! a genius idea. our officiant offered to do this for us and we’re letting her. i also really like the idea above of coming up with the same general important values and then writing separate vows about them. THANK YOU AS COMMENTERS AS ALWAYS <3

  3. I am not married, but I am one of those online ordained folks. I did it initially as a bit of a joke, but it came in handy when my cousin and her now wife wanted to elope to a nearby town. They asked me to perform the ceremony and it was really fun and sweet to go through and customize a script with them. I know that experienced officiants are also great, but I think it was a neat experience to really tailor a ceremony without previous expectations attached. They wrote their own vows, and we also wrote a community vow where we made the six people in attendance call out their affirmation to support the couple. Also, make sure to check what the legal requirements are! I did my ordination through the Universal Life Church. I know the term church can be off-putting, but it is really not attached to a specific religion. If you are not a justice of the peace, you usually need to be an “ordained minister” to perform a ceremony. ULC also has some great resources on legal requirements by state in the US.

  4. We wrote our vows the night before and read them to each other that night (before the wedding). We also walked each other down the aisle. We picked out our rings together; we planned the wedding together; and we paid for the wedding together. We’re a team, so why pretend for a day that we weren’t a team?

    Also, remember that a vow is not just a speech. It’s a promise.

    No one can give you good advice about what to do, because it’s a day for both of you. So, communicate and see what works for the two of you. No two relationships are exactly the same, so ask your soon to be what would work for her and you. It would also help reduce the nervousness!

    • We also read our speeches to each other a few days before the wedding and it was lovely. When everything was focused on planning and flowers and who sat where it brought it all into focus.
      We didn’t do personalised vows because I’m a real cryer. We literally circled the shortest vows on the registry offices ideas sheet in order to minimise the time I publicly sobbed so early on in the day!

  5. We both had the template of:

    2-3 things about the other person,
    2-3 things about ‘us’,
    2-3 promises for the future.

    In any order, not strict or prescriptive. Then it meant that we were mostly ‘even’ in length (which is awkward if someone has a 45 second vows and their spouse has 4 minutes.) and without planning it intently our vows had a similar rhythm and vibe.

    It worked really nicely! They were a surprise to each other on the day, and it was delightful.

    Have fun!

  6. speaking up in support of the long vows/ceremonies as a sentimental fool who grew up attending hour+ catholic wedding masses. if the straights can claim more than an hour, you’re also allowed the time and space for a ritual and ceremony that is meaningful to you.

    as long as I can actually HEAR what’s going on and your vows aren’t page after page of inside jokes.

    and no shade to the short ceremonies! we’ve been to a bunch of short and sweet ones the last few years! but also to reassure anyone who like us was worried about taking too much time: it’s your commitment; I’m here as your community; there will be time for the party soon enough.

  7. Hi I’m one of those online wedding officiants and I’ve officiated 2 weddings so far with a 3rd coming up this summer. For the first two weddings, the couple wrote their own vows separately and shared them as promises for what they are committing to in the marriage. For the third wedding, the couple shared with me a list of “reasons they’re getting married” and what “being married means to them” and I wrote vows that they will read. They’re both reading the same thing, which is sweet! I wrote it, which I think feels more formal, but it came from them so it feels true to their union. I think what I like to hear as an officiant and attendant to a wedding is what it means to the couple to be married, and why they’re doing it. Sometimes at straight weddings the vibe is “we’re of the right age and getting married was always the plan, so here we are,” but getting married is not a guarantee!

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!