Some Things I Didn’t Expect When Planning My Lesbian Wedding

Hello, it’s me again, an unsuspecting lesbian bride planning a DIY backyard lesbian wedding even though at one point in my life I was quite adamant about never getting married. And yet, life is long! I fell in love with a triple water sign! I’ve decided I want a wedding after all! My dad was right, my priorities changed in my thirties! I’m excited to host a big party for all my friends and wear a white dress and eat cake! C’est la vie! La vie est belle! I don’t really speak French, I’m unsure why I’m leaning into these phrases!

I’ve developed better boundaries over 15+ years of writing on the internet (thank you therapy) but I’m still inclined to (carefully) share some of my life with you as it happens, which means you get to join me on this fun gay wedding planning adventure! There are many things one expects when planning a wedding (hiring someone to feed your guests, purchasing a dress, feeling somewhat stressed out about where your out of town friends will stay) but some things about the experience thus far have truly taken me by surprise! For example…

1. I have become the number one purchaser of gently used rugs in my area on OfferUp

What can I tell you — I fell for this Pinterest trend. I am desperate to recreate the boho chic energy radiating out of the DIY backyard wedding photos I keep seeing on Pinterest and I am certain that curating a dance floor out of area rugs in the middle of the gorgeous large property we’re getting married on will make this happen! But did you know area rugs can be really expensive? Like, hundreds of dollars? I shan’t be spending hundreds of dollars on 10+ area rugs, no way! But did you also know that on OfferUp you can find almost everything you need in life for super affordable prices? Including… wait for it… yep, you guessed it, area rugs! Anyway I have truly spent the past few months driving all over Portland and the surrounding areas purchasing a variety of gently used rugs that I will now ask my fiancée to schlep to Southern Oregon in her truck so we can create my dream dance floor in the woods. I also greatly look forward to transitioning from the Number One Purchaser of Gently Used Rugs in My Area to the Number One Seller of Gently Used Rugs in My Area as soon as the wedding is over. If you live in Portland and need a cute large gently used rug for cheap this summer, let me know!

2. I’m in not infrequent contact with a woman named Daphne who is renting me a Fancy Portable Toilet Trailer with air conditioning

The thing is, when you get married on your dream Dyke Land Project, sometimes compost toilets are the Main Way To Go To The Bathroom. While I was all ready to tell my guests how to poop in a bucket and cover it with straw while wearing sequins, my friends who own the land gently pointed out that no one would be interested in dumping the poop out of the bucket all weekend and it would certainly need to be done at least a few times… at which my future mother in law, who is incredibly helpful and willing to do many undesirable tasks, was like, “It really sounds like you need to rent Porta Potties” and I was like okay, if she thinks this is a necessary expense, it actually is! Sold! But in my Porta Potty Research Journey I met Daphne, who works for a company that rents out Fancy Portable Toilet Trailers with air conditioning, and we are now BFF. Or rather, we’ve spoken several times on the phone and she’s assured me the only downside of renting her trailer is that guests may talk more about the awesome toilets than they do about the wedding, to which I say — at least they won’t be complaining about poop buckets! Anyway I love Daphne.

3. I care a LOT about how to organize a refrigerator to peak efficiency

Have you ever tried to host 50+ people for a full weekend of eating in the woods at a property with One Single Refrigerator? NEED I SAY MORE?!?! (In all seriousness I have been studying weird diagrams on Foodie Instagram that suggest things like putting a Lazy Susan in the fridge and using an upside down Dutch oven lid for more room, and I will likely buy a cheap second hand refrigerator to create more space so I don’t have a meltdown on the actual wedding weekend… also if anyone reading this is a guest invited to the wedding who owns a Yeti cooler, text me right now. I’m not kidding!!!)

4. You can make a couch out of hay bales

I’m not doing this, my best friend just discovered it on Pinterest while researching seating options for my backyard extravaganza and I had an overwhelming urge to share this with you. Can! You! Believe?!!!!

5. I’m earnestly excited about this party and I’m having a lot of fun planning it

A few days ago I was having lunch with a friend who is about fifteen years older than me — she just had her second wedding — and we were laughing at our younger selves and how dismissive we’d been about the concept of a wedding party. It’s true that a wedding is expensive, that there’s no way to divest the act of marriage from the state, that some dykes more radical than I am are probably judging me for indulging entirely in Planning My Wedding (and it’s true that ten years ago, I was one of those judgmental dykes) but it’s also true that I am so earnestly excited about this party, that I am having a lot of fun planning it, and that I am letting myself off the hook for all the baggage I used to have around “wedding parties” and what they all mean.

This particular friend was like, “I love love and I love to party! And I’m not sorry!” and I am really into that vibe! I’m deeply in love with my fiancée and I’m a Capricorn who is obsessed with her friends and creating color coded spreadsheets! I’m planning an event to celebrate love in all its forms that will allow my nearest and dearest to dress up in their sparkly best and camp out in the woods at my favorite place in the world for a whole weekend! My best friend is a fucking wedding planning genius and the two of us are having a ball researching how to make a dance floor out of used rugs and how to make couches out of hay bales! I met a woman named Daphne who rents out fancy toilet trailers! What a world! What a life! I feel lucky and happy and deeply amused that my Baby Dyke Self would’ve judged this version of me so hard. I guess that’s part of growing up. I accept it.

I never expected to be a bride but it’s happening and yeah — I fucking love it. So far, that’s the biggest surprise when planning my lesbian wedding.


Have you planned a DIY backyard queer wedding? Do you have any secret hot tips for me or surprising moments of your own? I’d love to hear about the in the comments! And thank you to everyone who commented on my last wedding article, too — I am listening and making notes about what kinds of gay wedding content we can publish in 2023! In the meanwhile, I’ve got some more large area rugs to pick up. Bye!!!


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Vanessa

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 395 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. Okay so I also said I never wanted a wedding?!? But then I fell in love with a double water sign? But then I had so much anxiety about our wedding???!!! but then it was CANCELED BECAUSE OF COVID?!? But then I started taking anti anxiety pills and now I WANT A DO OVER?!? Anyway!!! What I’m saying is I support your rug dance floor that sounds divine.

  2. This sounds so great and I hope it keeps being as fun!
    We had a backyard wedding and if I can say one thing it would be this: however much you think your guests will drink, it will be more.
    We had made a bunch of elaborate cocktails, of each colour of the rainbow, (three were booze-free) and they were gone in under two hours. And we had planned! Enough! Drinks!
    Or so we thought.
    Luckily we had random gin and wine bottles hanging around that saved us.

    Also: people who drink eat a lot. No judgement. But we ran out of food for sure.

    Maybe one last comment: remember to have fun the day of! I was so stressed about the abovementioned food and drinks situation that I didn’t have as much fun as I could have. So, make sure you delegate to trusted friends/famipy members so you can enjoy yourselves.

  3. Part of me would love to have a beautiful outdoor wedding, but the other part would not be into all the DIY. I do love what you wrote about how people’s views on weddings change over time. At one point, I’d wanted the full-on /Experience/. Now, I kind of just want to sit and chill. Spreadsheets make me happy too, and I love that for you two. Toilet trailers rock, also. You’ll be glad you went for it.

  4. I had an outdoor queer wedding, and it was paid for by my cis het husbian’s parents, and the large countryside back yard was free and it STILL cost $6,000 and that was in the year 2000. I still have feelings. Outdoors should mean free, shouldn’t it?

    The caterer was really the main expense because a friend had a past life as a professional club DJ with her own equipment, and the Groom’s family bought cases of wine and there were no cocktails. We had to rent tables, chairs, dishes, etc, and because I love to dance we rented a wood dance floor and a party tent. The tent was important in case of rain and what we got was 90 degree heat and full sun, so it helped us Survive.

    The ceremony was right next to the tent, and artist friends did the decorations on the cheap. I was barefoot (hippie) and bought a used dress that was Union Made! It had a Unite label!!!! My husbian wore my old tuxedo which I had bought at a thrift store years before for my drag king act as “Tomcat Something-or-other, the Toast of Buffalo!” And my drag king contest entry as “Agent Double O Six Nine”

    Because I was so defensive about marrying a cis het man, I counted and there were 18 lesbians in attendance. The officiant was a lesbian minister. I was still estranged from my entire biological family, and didn’t invite any of them.
    I toasted, “To Lesbians!” and utterly baffled the friends of my in-laws. It was great. I barely ate because I forgot to schedule an official time to talk to ppl so they all interrupted my meal, lol.
    The dancing was sublime. I danced alone to one of my adolescent freedom songs as the sun started to set and the sky glowed colors. My gay male mentors, together for decades, took a romantic stroll by the swing and someone photographed it. Another friend made a series of beautiful short films of the entire event and surprised us with it as a gift after they just have done a tremendous job of editing it. I might cry now.
    People in the short films were all having a wonderful, magical time, just because we had created an environment where they could do that. There was no homophobia. My best friend’s homophobic ex left early and did not toxify the event, just spirited her away with him. I got her back a few years later, his loss. Oh, and my other best friend walked me down the aisle.
    It was important to me that ppl wear whatever they wanted, even those in the wedding party. I had my three closest friends as my group, and my husbian’s best friend was his groomswoman. A few ppl read stuff, and it was intimate and charming and warm and real. A musician we knew played solo flute.

    The food was great, and did you know that caterers can lower the price based on what you pick? The price came way down once we switched from shrimp cocktail to cheese.

    I didn’t get involved too much in the food and I think they used the fridge I. The house as well as maybe a food truck type thing, but I don’t know. Portland has lots of food trucks, so…

    I think I was really in the moment for most of it, except walking down the aisle was very weird and I dissociated, but it was still nice to see everyone smiling at me.

    I got my hair done, but I hated the first thing she did, so it’s good we did a dry run not on the day of. I chose a looser updo with tiny white silk flowers on bobby pins and no veil (patriarchy). I also bought a bustier for my mid-sized rack. That was helpful due to the very open neckline of my dress. It had straps but bra straps would have shown, I think.

    I think those are all the things that we spent money on. Oh, and a motel the night before, in which we and some of our friends couldn’t sleep well due to the snoring from a weekly tenant and the thin walls, so we crashed in our friends’ room and kinda dozed. It was actually fun.

    One good piece of advice was to drive away before everything ended, and we did and went to a field and looked at our gifts in the back of our Nissan pickup truck named Sparky. It made us feel strange and so loved to see all the gifts. I think we opened them there. It was moving.
    We went to a nice hotel and husbian got chips at the vending machine down the hall because we never got to eat much. Then we slept very well and drove home the next day and got packed for our honeymoon. That cost money, of course, because we flew to Mexico. We paid for that. It was very nice to spend a week together to digest this big change in our relationship. I recommend honeymooning right away of you can. Even a stay cation is better than nothing.

    I hope your wedding is as magical and fun as mine was, and I hope you can find ways to make it affordable and also low-stress.

    My biggest advice is to try not to stress because it is just one day and a huge party and those are opposite pulls. Try to make choices that serve your needs and your abilities and your limits. For example: my in-laws love to cook but rejected the idea of potluck as a money-saver because they wanted to enjoy the experience, not work. That was wise. But they could afford a caterer. Potluck can be wonderful, and I’ve attended great potluck weddings.

    I think people get too stressed out by wedding planning and things that go wrong before and during. I hope you can avoid that. Things will go wrong, and things are not perfect, and everyone will enjoy themselves despite any bumps in the road. The marriage is way more important than the wedding, and the wedding will be wonderful. Enjoy!!!!!

  5. I went to a wedding with one of those uber fancy porta potties and i DID talk about it quite a lot with the other guests so Daphne is not wrong! Nicest bathroom ever. I would have happily converted it into a tiny home.

  6. i’m loving this wedding content. i got married this past May in my parents’ backyard and have also now planned two weddings (and am planning two more currently) so i have some thoughts!

    some catch-all advice below, but obviously please disregard whatever is not helpful or relevant!

    -i found priya parker’s advice in THE ART OF GATHERING very helpful, and she has a nice worksheet on her website too if you sign up for her email list.

    -if you’re DIYing food, think about what you want to do with leftover food afterwards. it can be a bit easy to forget, and can also be logistically annoying.

    -if you’ll have a meal during the wedding and you’re doing a buffet but not doing a seating chart / calling tables up, think about how you’ll avoid long food lines and ensure everyone is able to sit with the people they want to sit with.

    -it sounds like you have friends helping with a lot of the planning heavy lifting, which is wonderful. it doesn’t sound like a wedding planner is necessary or something you want, but it might be nice to hire one or two helpers to do things like empty trashcans / restock hand sanitizer / refill water jugs (etc) during the event itself. i think it can be very manageable and even fun to have friends do planning / errand running / setting up / helping with cleanup, but it’s less fun to have to be the friend who has to remember to keep checking the trashcan near the drinks cooler. maybe not needed or applicable, disregard if so! but can be a nice, lower cost alternative if you’re not having a planner or caterers to manage some of those tasks.

    -it can be nice to have a friend MC so people know what’s happening when :) also a role that can be v fun for the right person!

    -if you wanna go type A sicko mode… i like to have a spreadsheet of all items being brought to the wedding with a column for “tub number” a column for “packed in?” and a column for “packed out?”. you can build this as you buy/plan things. once you know how much stuff you’ll have, you can decide on X number of plastic tubs, assign each item to a tub in the “tub number column”, filter the spreadsheet by tub number (and increase the font size), print out the spreadsheet, and tape it to the top of the tub. as you pack items in, check them off on the spreadsheet on the tub. and if you have friends helping pack up, they’re then able to see what should be packed up at the end of the night (and you can X out in advance the rows for stuff that can be thrown away etc).

    -bring scissors, duct tape, masking tape, sharpies, blank notecards, and blank card stock paper. inevitably there won’t be a sign for something that needs a sign, and having those ready makes that easier.

    that’s it off the top of my head! i hope you have a wonderful wedding + that things only get better from there :)

    • Wow! I am impressed!!!! Those are some amazing tips! Especially about the bins and last-minute-signage supplies!

      Thinking about pee in the woods reminds me of my P-Style device, which I think AS should do an article on, along with other urination devices. I’m just thinking that if someone wears a big gown with a lot of fabric for the skirt part, it could be hard to get it all out of the way in order to pee…

  7. Yeah, I never planned to have a wedding but then I wound up with a partner who is not from the US so getting married was our best shot for an easy green card. We were living in Japan at the time, so Hawaii was our closest place to get married in the US, and much easier to get married in than the red state my family lived in. I googled gay Hawaii weddings and was very excited to discover gayhawaiiweddings.com. He knew just what I wanted!

  8. Congrats on getting engaged! I too was an anti-wedding person but then it happened and I’m so happy it did! My wife and I rented a summer camp in the Northern California redwoods for a weekend and planned everything ourselves. It was very stressful to plan but ended up being a wonderful party. I would DEFINITELY HIGHLY recommend getting a day-of planner to help facilitate things so you/your friends/family don’t need to be worrying about emptying trash and answering basic questions on the day of. That’s my #1 advice to you! If you ever want to chat about spreadsheets (we made a LOT) or anything else related to outdoor wedding planning where we brought all the food, etc, let me know!

  9. I am currently planning my own queer beach wedding! A good bargain queer knows a free venue feels good. We decided to go micro (meaning 10 people), and I couldn’t be happier. We rented a beautiful house near Astoria with beach access, where we can all stay. I’ve got LED balloons, sparklers, tiny pride flags, a eucalyptus isle, bbq food and booze. I did spend a pretty penny on a sick photographer because ya know, priorities. Done and done. Yay to being in our mid 30’s and deciding stress is silly! Cheers queers!

  10. This (and the comments!) was a delight to read. Yay to loving love and loving parties! I feel like my girlfriend & I will be exactly like this when it comes to planning ours. 🥰

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