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Gay wedding trends in New York

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for The Brooklyn Paper
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Wedding season is here, and in New York, it’s also queer. On July 24, 2011 same-sex marriage became legal and many long-term couples rushed to City Hall to get hitched on the historic day. Yet, there were other long-standing lovebirds that simply got engaged, electing to have planned-out affairs rather than a simple and sweet ceremony performed by a Justice of the Peace. And in the past two years, event planners all over the city have noticed new trends emerging that distinguish gay from traditional weddings — other than the formerly unconventional nature of two people of the same-sex getting married.

And the most prevalent trend is unconventionality.

“Instead of your usual DJ or band, couples are opting to create an experience for their guests,” says Tatiana Byron of Hell’s Kitchen’s 4PM Events. LGBTQ couples prefer a celebratory rather than a starry-eyed vibe at their weddings because most are commemorating a newfound right.

“It’s about allowing friends and family to dance all night long,” says Byron.

Couples tend to keep the party swinging by including entertainment like over-the-top, circus-style performers such as fire and Chinese dragon dances.

“We will bring in artists or performers to break up the night,” says Bernadette Coveney Smith, the lesbian author of “Gay Wedding Confidential” and president of Manhattan’s 14 Stories. “We want entertainment, but a DJ or band isn’t enough. So, we turn the wedding into one big party, broken up by interesting elements.”

Another reason why same-sex sweeties choose to have elaborate entertainment is that their wedding parties consist of people who don’t know one another. At gay weddings, relatives from both sides are often meeting for the first time and unorthodox entertainment usually comes in handy.

“They serve as conversation starters,” says Smith.

Themed weddings are also becoming increasingly popular with concepts like the roaring ’20s, Mardi Gras, and even shabby-chic.

“Many times it depends on the culture of the couple or what they like,” says Emily Lester-Cahnmann of EM Event Management in Manhattan. Yet, the more unconventional themes are usually preferable.

“Like disco parties,” says Byron.

And because gay and lesbian weddings are more festive than formal ones, many couples dismiss the idea of a traditional sit-down dinner that disrupts their receptions’ jovial ambience.

Yet, even if guests aren’t required to check off chicken or fish on their RSVP cards, they should still be fed.

“We want to feed the guests as much as a formal dinner, so we’ll keep revealing new styles of food as the night goes on,” says Smith.

For example, your caterer can dispatch a constant stream of trays bearing tasty treats. You can also opt for designated food areas or add a kitsch element with food trucks.

“To keep up with the idea of an experience, couples offer interactive highlights like specialty food stations,” says Byron, who also created and oversees “The Wedding Salon,” in conjunction with Martha Stewart. “Guests are truly able to let loose and get involved with the wedding with the option of taco stations, sushi bars, and carving stations.”

Plus, removing the formal dinner lowers costs and prevents couples from feeling the extra pinch of creating a seating chart. It’s one less aspect to worry about, providing LGBTQ-brides-and-grooms-to-be plenty of time to fret over more enjoyable aspects like aerialists, a Harry Potter-themed fete, or having a Korean or American barbecue station.

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