Not just rainbows & how people incorporate it at weddings.
I have lost count of the amount of couples who identify as LGBTQIA+ or as Queer or Non-binary or however you identify…who specifically and unequivocally say ‘we don’t want the rainbow flag’. You might incorporate it subtly somewhere but don’t want it to be the first thing anyone sees. In other words you don’t want it to be ‘in your face’! and many of you don’t want it at all.
I totally get that. Couples who find me might search for Queer Affirming Celebrant or check out that I am not a homophobic bigot but your primary concern is to be treated the same way as anyone else and represent yourselves at the same time.
None of you want to be pigeoned-holed or to have everyone assume that you love rainbows. It stands to reason I think. LGBTQIA+ people are as unique and different from each other as anyone else.
Ironically whilst the rainbow flag represents this, for many couples who get in touch with me, it doesn’t. The rainbow flag is important and Pride is important but it is equally important that it doesn’t end up unwittingly becoming another straight-jacket. The rainbow flag represents diversity but it is still the case that many of you don’t really want to be explicit associated with it in your ceremony for all kinds of reasons all of which are different. There are many ways to resolve that creative tension.
You come to me for a unique and personal ceremony because that is what I do. You are as likely to be Boho Brides with a love of muted pastels as any other lover of a rustic style wedding. Or you might choose to subtly incorporate multiple colours without literally flying the flag!
Recently I worked with my lovely friends and neighbours on their ‘Conversion to Marriage from Civil partnership’ ceremony. We called it a Gratitude and New Beginnings Ceremony. They are proudly Gay men who have been in love for two and half decades. One of my friends, in particular, is fascinated by history. Any history, and that includes the history of Gay people. He was delighted when I asked him to share some of his knowledge with me and generously gave of his time.
One of the most significant aspects of our conversation was that he highlighted something I had always known but not really had a conversation about. He simply said, “we’re not all the same!” We don’t have the same history.
A Lesbian Woman’s history is not a Gay man’s history, is not a Trans person’s history or a Non-binary person’s history. He said that he might not relate to a Lesbian’s story of their love affair or the history of Lesbian relationships and she might not relate to his. They are actually very different, as are their respective current realities. This is obvious on one level, but I found it helpful to be reminded and the flag does it’s best to represent all that diversity. So why do so many of you decide its not for you at your wedding?
LGBTQIA+ couples book me because I see you as human beings first. You are people who are not defined by your Sexuality or Gender. You are people who happen to also be Queer or Gay or however you identify. Your humanity is what matters and the uniqueness of who who you are. Frankly I have heard way more about your cats and dogs than the Rainbow Flag. I have seen more fur babies in your homes than flags, or rainbow colours.
Have I admired your kitchen tiles? yes!, poured over your mood boards for your wedding day? worked with your dogs as ring bearers, absolutely! Met your Nan, found out what you like for breakfast? Shared vegan mezze… sure! Discussed your Cultural and Ethnic backgrounds? yup! Been asked to incorporate an explicit rainbow flag? only once in 8 years. Heard about your sex lives? Never… we’re ‘British!’
There is always a conversation around the tension between feeling a moral duty and desire to honour past and present fights for equality and a desire to not only be defined by gender and or sexual identity. A Cis-Het couple wouldn’t choose a theme based around a Cis Het Vanilla colour flag, and so why should you be obliged to have rainbow flag table cloths?! But nonetheless you often do incorporate it in your own way.
Couples who want to have a Special Day totally value the Legal ceremony as it represents your hard won Equal Rights and all the sacrifices made to win them. But you also tell me that you feel that you shouldn’t have to feel grateful or be made to feel grateful or feel obliged to be grateful for something that should have been be so fundamentally yours all along. You also, all, without exception tell me that you are much more than your Gender or Sexual identity, which doesn’t represent who you are in your entirety any more than it does anyone else. You want a wedding that is about YOU and those you love, not about your sexual or gender identity.
I’ve created ceremonies with Lesbian Artists, Counsellors, Mums, banana-bread experts, Cat-Mums, Play Therapists, travellers, poets, musicians, Equal Rights Activists, Office Managers, Home-Makers, Social Workers, Performance Artists.
I’ve enjoyed the company of Gay Business Owners, Hospitality experts, dog lovers, hill walkers, Charity workers, Adoptive Dads, Foster Carers, Fashionistas, Make up Artists, Personal Trainers. I’ve listened to the stories of Non-Binary people from different Religious backgrounds, LGBTQIA+ individuals who have become Spiritual Orphans, unceremoniously chucked out of family homes and churches.
Young Christian Lesbians, Muslim Lesbians, Mature Gay Catholics. If you have anything in common at all, apart from the fact that you invited me to work with you and you’re all fabulous people…it is that a)you want identify as a Unique Human before anything else and b)you all without exception happened to love animals!
And that is as likely to be the fact that you identified with me and have seen my cats plastered all over the internet, than anything relating to your Gender or Sexual identity or mine.
So, whist it is true that only once have I seen an actual flag incorporated and everyone says they don’t want it… often an LGBTQIA+ couple will add a pop of rainbow, in this case in amongst the sunflowers, as Lydia and Miriam did here with their hand fasting cord.
One family who did opt to deck the halls with actual rainbow flags were utterly gorgeous people called Tracy and Traci and they had a little baby daughter, they named her at the Winter Solstice and it was amazing. It made total sense for them to do that in ways that it doesn’t for all of my LGBTQIA+ families. I surmise that this is partly generational. They were a more mature couple and had a different relationship with Queer histories.
You all fly the flag for your own unique selves and your weddings should reflect that freedom and the freedom to choose your own self expression at your wedding.
Many LGBTQIA+couples will choose against a monochrome palette, incorporate colour throughout or have ‘no fixed colour scheme’ allowing for a more eclectic aesthetic.
This is a beautiful choice regardless of your identities and also very ‘on trend’ right now regardless. I will never forget this doughnut wall at a #festivalwedding!
There are many ways to respect your history and honour the ongoing fights for justice, but not all involve an obligation to embrace rainbows and I for one am all in favour of avoiding anything that puts us back into yet more confining boxes. But if you can sneak in a diverse range of coloured doughnuts so much the better! #queeraffirming #theaffirmingcelebrant