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10 years since the first same-sex marriage in England and Wales: How to plan your dream LGBTQ+ wedding

Elaine Cripps from Pink Wedding Venues shares some top tips. By Abi Jackson.

From venues and outfits to designing your ceremony, there’s a lot to think about (Alamy/PA)

A decade ago, on March 29, 2014, the first same sex marriages in England and Wales took place, as the 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act came into force.

This was a huge step in the fight for equality for the LGBTQ+ community in the UK (Scottish laws followed soon after), meaning same sex couples could celebrate their love and unite in marriage with the same legal recognitions as everyone else. Tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ couples have since tied the knot, with many more planning their big days.

Are you and your partner one of them? We asked an LGBTQ+ wedding expert for their top tips for planning the day of your dreams…

This is your day

First and foremost, remember this is your wedding. Forget about people-pleasing, making things Insta-perfect, or what you think you ‘should’ be doing (because there can be a lot of external pressures when planning a wedding), and focus on what you as a couple want.

Ready to plan your wedding? (Alamy/PA)

“Planning a wedding is an exciting journey, and for LGBTQ+ couples it’s an opportunity to celebrate love, authenticity, and unity,” says Elaine Cripps, managing director or LGBTQ-focused wedding directory, Pink Wedding Venues. “The key to a memorable wedding lies in authenticity,” adds Cripps, who encourages couples to reflect on their “unique journey together, their shared values, and what makes their relationship special”.

One of the (many) wonderful things about LGBTQ+ weddings is that there’s less pressure to follow traditions that don’t really fit. As Cripps says: “From the venue to the vows, every aspect of the wedding should reflect their personalities and love story. Starting with authenticity sets the tone for a celebration that is truly theirs.”

Set your budget

Whether you’re splashing out or need to keep costs down, it’s definitely possible to have a beautiful day on a range of budgets. The important thing is to decide upfront about how much you want to spend. Make a list of your non-negotiables and do a bit of research on costs, so you’re clear on where any compromises might need to be made. For example, what are you prepared to ditch so you can get that amazing photographer?

Cripps suggests couples “prioritise their spending based on what matters most to them and explore creative ways to save money without compromising on their vision. Being financially savvy allows couples to enjoy their wedding day without unnecessary stress or debt,” she adds.

Think carefully about your guest list

Before getting stuck into the next steps, Cripps suggests starting with your guest list, as this may help you set your priorities.

“This ensures couples choose a venue that can accommodate their desired number of guests comfortably,” she says. “While it can be challenging, try not to feel guilty about culling a few guests off the list if necessary – does great-aunt Maude’s neighbour really need to be invited?! Prioritising those closest to you ensures a more intimate and meaningful celebration. Plus, by only inviting those special to the couple, money can be saved for other aspects of the wedding.”

Find a venue that suits your vibe

What do you want the day to look like? (Alamy/PA)

Choosing your venue is one of the single biggest decisions couples will make while wedding planning. This will dictate the location, costs, as well as the type of day you want. For example – do you want a DIY wedding where you’ll be sourcing everything yourself? Or are you happier choosing a venue where they supply everything? Are you going for fancy, or a good ol’ knees up at a local pub? Do you want the ceremony and reception all in one place? Or are you thinking more along the lines of registry office for the legal bit, and then a symbolic ceremony with a celebrant and a party somewhere else?

Cripps adds: “I’d encourage couples to consider not just the logistical aspects of a venue, but also its vibe and atmosphere. Does it align with the style and personality of the couple?”

Finding LGBTQ+ friendly venues and suppliers

Another big thing is how LGBTQ+ friendly the venue is. If they haven’t included inclusive imagery and language on their website, are they going to give you the warm welcome you deserve? And are they a business you want to be handing your cash to and trusting with your special day? The wedding industry still has some catching up to do when it comes to inclusivity, but there are certainly places out there that’ll ensure you feel like the kings and queens you are every step of the way. Websites like Pink Wedding Venues and The Gay Wedding Guide are a helpful starting point.

Cripps suggests keeping this in mind when it comes to suppliers too, if going down that route: “While you may be confident a wedding venue of your dreams is LGBTQ+ friendly, they may have a ‘preferred suppliers’ list they’d like you to use. Speak with the venue and make sure any suppliers are also on-board with same-sex weddings and will give you the welcome and respect deserved.”

Be organised – but enjoy the ride

Make those to-do lists! (Alamy/PA)

Whatever size and style of wedding you go for, there will be admin involved so it’s a good idea to map out your to-do list and timeline for ticking off vital jobs – like getting your marriage licences. You might encounter some stress (and maybe even have a bit of a freak-out along the way – this is very normal!).

“Despite careful planning, unexpected challenges may arise during the planning process,” says Cripps, who suggests couples try to “stay flexible and adaptable” – and remember it really doesn’t have to be perfect.

“Above all else, remember the purpose of your wedding day – to celebrate your love and commitment to each other surrounded by loved ones.”


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