It’s okay to be gay. No really, in the 21st century, as we move forward, it’s more okay to be gay every day… and more and more men and women are coming out of the closet, announcing their sexual orientation, and now getting LEGALLY married to members of the same sex. Even the US military is finally starting to do the right thing (yeah, it’s still messed up – but it’s improving every day compared to what soldiers of even five years ago had to put up with on a daily basis). I firmly believe that we will see marriage equality in my lifetime and I’m 40. That’s saying something.
So now, as a professional wedding planner, I have to ask a very difficult and controversial question – and I really want to know the answer – why are so many gay men continuing to marry straight women in big white weddings with the promise of a lifetime together when half the guests at the wedding know that the groom would rather be marrying his best man?
Let me back up a little to put things in context – I had a rainbow collection as a child before rainbows meant anything other than leprechauns and pots of gold. I grew up in Washington, DC, in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was first becoming okay to be gay in public. I took the Metro home from my prep school through Dupont Circle most days, and I assure you gay was EVERYWHERE back then (though more men than women seemed to be representing). Homosexuality has always been there – this is nothing new. Throughout history, there have been famous leaders worldwide whose sexuality is extensively questioned in our history books even though almost all of them were married to women and had families (who knew what the gossip was about them when they were alive). But only in the past 30 years (and really more in the last 10) have gay men and women been able to be open about their orientation and still hold their rank in business and society without being ostracized completely. For the military, things are still in the process of changing. But they are changing. Big time.
With a whole world of opportunity opening up for people of all sexual orientations, with so many states legalizing gay marriage and benefits FINALLY being extended to those partners the way they should have been all along, why are so many gay men continuing the ruse and marrying straight women? Maybe some of them are bisexual and their wives are okay with it – and if that’s the case, more power to that couple – but I’m here to tell you that I have planned quite a few weddings over the past few years that seriously made me wonder what the heck was going on. I am absolutely positively certain that not all of these beautiful girls with hopeful smiles, tripping down the aisle in bridal white, clearly understand that they aren’t really their groom’s first choice for a life partner. They might be his favorite girl, but she isn’t who he wishes he was marrying forever. And most of those marriage don’t last. It’s a fact.
How dare I ask this question? How can I call out some of my own clients like this? Maybe it’s because nowadays about a third of my client roster are gay weddings, and although I’ve been accused of having terrible “gaydar,” now I do recognize when a straight couple getting married is mismatched in the most horrible way. And if I don’t pick up on it before they arrive, or even when they do, don’t worry – either my vendors (some of whom are gay) or their wedding guests will make sure that our staff knows the whole skinny before the wedding weekend is over. And then, after months of planning and executing the perfect wedding, I feel a little sick and sad when it’s all over because I’m afraid of what’s going to happen within the next five years when he finally gets up the nerve to come out. Generally speaking, I just pray that it happens sooner rather than later because when they hang in there long enough to build a life and have children, the damage is cataclysmically worse when the truth finally comes to light.
This happened to a few of my friends in high school – I graduated in 1991. And even though my friends were almost technically adults, they were destroyed because their families were obliterated. They hadn’t grown up in unhappy households. The shock was palpable, and humiliating for some (think back 20 years). It wasn’t your normal spend time with mom and spend time with dad separately kinda divorce. It was dad leaving mom for somebody else’s dad. I don’t care who you are or how accepting of the gay lifestyle you are… it messes with kids’ heads pretty badly. And in some cases has impacted all their future relationships because trust is a huge issue for them. How can you grow up for 18 years believing your parent is one thing when he or she is another? I’m not trying to lay blame on those parents now, they didn’t have the same options back then. I am saying STOP THIS SILLY SHIT now! It isn’t necessary anymore.
I could have made this a funny blog. I could tell you some of my fave stories about my straight (so gay) grooms who threw fits at their own weddings and behaved like brides. I could tell you about the groom who cried because the napkins were the wrong shade of orange (in his opinion) – true story! Or the one who sang show tunes all weekend and had a temper tantrum when it rained on his beach party while the bride kept a stiff upper lip and tried to convince their guests all was well. Or the groom I caught kissing his best man in the staff rest room while the bride was out line dancing with the rest of the group two hours after they said “I do.”
At the time, it was funny. Not LOL funny – more like sad, pathetic and depressingly funny because the only person at the whole damned wedding who didn’t know the groom was gay was the bride. Every time, I felt sick afterwards, like I’d masterminded the end of her happiness instead of helping kick off a mind-blowing happy future. But I never said a word. That’s not my job, not my business, and not the way to get a good review and referrals. But I don’t feel good about those weddings. I couldn’t have known ahead of time, and yet, I blame myself to some degree for not blowing the whistle when I became aware. But my job is to execute a flawless wedding, not destroy clients’ lives. Or is that what I did by facilitating the marriage licenses?
Gay people should marry gay people, and straight people should marry straight people, unless there’s some private understanding that’s none of my business anyway. But if you doubt your sexuality in any way – if you’re still figuring out which team you play for or if you play for both – do not make a lifetime commitment to somebody who doesn’t know where your heart truly lies. All is spells is heartbreak for everyone eventually. Every man and woman deserves a lifetime of happiness… but be sure you’ve chosen the right gender of spouse to spend the rest of your life with creating that bliss.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. She is also the star of TLC’s new reality wedding show “Wedding Island,” premiering July 17, 2013 at 10 pm ET/PT. Sandy and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands. Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events. She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004. Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas. She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada. Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island), Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm), and Boutique in Vieques (a clothing and home décor shop). Sandy has a regular column on the Huffington Post and has been rated “Five Rainbows” by her happy gay clients!