Fabulous Lesbian Weddings—
Planning a wedding? Wondering where to go that will treat you like the blushing bride you are? After a year and a half long engagement, my partner Jeanette and I are getting married this fall and we’re in the midst of planning everything. Here’s my pick list (by no means exhaustive) of the best of the bridal we’ve found in Vancouver so far. For other services the Gay & Lesbian Business Association (http://www.glba.org) is a safe bet. Not all GLBA members are LGTB but all agree to behave respectfully towards us.
Wedding Planners—Our budget being on the skinny side, we opted not to go with a wedding planner. However, there is a (reportedly) lesbian-owned planning company for those who can afford this service, which typically takes up 20% of your budget for the entire wedding. You have to search hard on the Belles and Balls website to find their information on same sex weddings. Once I found the page, I realized why. The belles offer a special discreet service for couples who may not be out to work or family (www.bellesandballs.com/weddings.same.cfm). They also work with gay and lesbian vendors.
Venues—The Greater Vancouver Regional District has inexpensive, private and beautiful heritage buildings in regional parks for rent. Unlike halls owned by religious organizations, they are not allowed to discriminate against us. We rented Inverholme Schoolhouse, a hall that holds 65 people, for $400 for an entire day and evening (add $100 for liquor permit). http://www.gvrd.bc.ca/parks/facility-reservations.htm
Attire—After a day of hearing skinny straight gals in bridal and formal clothing stores tell me and my mom I’d have to get something custom made to fit my tall curvy frame, it was a great relief to enter Tiffany Plus NY Bridal. I was zipped into my gowns by Chelsea, a friendly and slightly punk looking gal with a lip piercing. Goddess bless East Vancouver. They had lots of dresses in my size, and I’m told this is the only plus sized bridal store in the lower mainland.
Watch out, wedding and bridesmaid dresses are about two sizes up from your normal size. Most of us won’t be wearing the white dress with the big train & veil (you go girl if you want to!), but for fancy formal dresses in a wide choice of colour, the bridesmaid dresses gave me some swank options for the occasion for $250-400. It’s apparently not unusual even for het brides to opt for a simpler and non-white bridesmaid dress. I also learned that these stores only stock dresses in one size and colour, so you may be trying on something way too big or small (they use pins and panels to make it fit you when you try it on) and then ordering it in the size and colour you need. Once it comes in, they alter it to fit close to your wedding date. Tiffany has a standard-size store a couple of doors west as well with the same good staff.
For a renaissance look, (but definitely not plus or tall size), the House Gallery had dresses, capes, beautiful accessories and some lovely and butch friendly handmade shirts, brocade vests and coats that can be made in coordinating fabrics. She was willing to make something for me in my size (most bridal is custom anyways), but I would have liked to have been able to try on at least one dress in each style before committing to that. This woman-owned business was pagan friendly and lesbian friendly. She was respectful to Jeanette and I when we were there, and had pictures of lesbian couples in her change room.
Caterers—Potluck Catering is a social enterprise benefiting a café that serves low-cost meals and trains and employs residents of the downtown eastside of Vancouver. They are members of the GLBA and have done the food at the lesbian ball league tournaments. They also were the only catering site found that specifically mentioned they catered same-sex weddings. Typical cost for a fully catered reception is $25 a person, plus rental of dishes and servers. Too steep? If your venue has a kitchen try catering only a main course and asking guests to bring a potluck item.
Officiants—For the religious, the Unitarian Church (a blend of Christianity, secular humanism Buddhism and earth-based spirituality), Metropolitan Community Church (gay evangelical Christian) and United Church (liberal Christian) will happily perform same sex weddings. Unitarian officiants are also happy to marry interfaith couples. The Unity Church in North Vancouver (liberal Christian) has a lesbian minister who will also perform same-sex weddings. Selected Anglican priests in the Diocese of New Westminster (lower mainland) will perform same-sex blessings but not marriages. This Diocese and it’s Bishop are known world-wide for taking a stand in favour of performing these blessings, and have suffered a lot of censure within it’s own church and broader conservative Christianity for doing so. Quaker meetings are largely self-governing and some unstructured meetings will also perform same-sex weddings. Wiccans can have legally recognized handfastings/weddings performed by priests and priestesses of the Congregationalist Wiccan Association of BC in Vancouver and the Okanagan, and the Aquarian Tabernacle Church on the island. Reform Jewish Rabbis are permitted to bless same-sex Jewish couples and some, like Rabbi Justin Lewis in Kingston, will perform marriages. Some Buddhist priests will perform same-sex marriages as well, and Thich Nhat Hanh, a noted Buddhist monk and author has written a Buddhist wedding ceremony designed to be adapted for same sex couples.All BC Marriage Commissioners are required to perform secular same-sex weddings, and like Unitarians, will let you design most of your own ceremony. Unfortunately, there’s no listing of which ones are lesbian or truly supportive so it’s best to do your own screening. Information on getting married in BC and contact info for marriage commissioners is at: http://www.vs.gov.bc.ca/marriage/howto.html