How Gay Marriage Can Make The ‘Institution’ of Marriage Better
By Maggie Winters
As a wedding photographer, I’m something of a regular at weddings.
I’ve photographed the weddings of so many awesome couples of all genders, and being part of so many couples’ special days has made a huge impact on me over the years.
One of the most frequent questions I get is how same-sex weddings are different from opposite-sex weddings. It’s a strange question for me to answer and I tend to stumble on it, because I don’t base my photographic style on what gender my couples are. I photograph same-sex couples the same way I photograph opposite sex couples — with tons of fun and high fives and giggles.
But as I talked with Kathryn Hamm recently, it clicked for me. I realized why it sometimes feels to me like same sex weddings have an extra helping of magic. She asked about my favorite moment while photographing a same-sex wedding, and once I had a chance to think about it my mind flooded with memories of my couples saying things like “I can’t believe this is actually happening, we’re married!” and “We never thought we’d be able to legally marry, we’re so lucky!”
I realized I’d never heard a statement like that from an opposite sex couple. Heterosexual people grow up expecting that they’ll find their beloved one day and get married (with the woman being whisked her off her feet by her prince, of course), and ride off into the sunset together. And while that’s a total dramatization, it is true that opposite-sex couples get to live out that legal-marriage dream without a second thought.
Same sex couples run into so many hardships, even today, along the road to marriage. Legal marriage is not a given for all same-sex couples. And when they overcome all of the outdated legal and societal obstacles, and stand together to declare their intentions to marry, the flowers and the decorations and the food all melt away, and all I see are the most giant smiles and the happiest two people standing in front of my camera.
The extraneous wedding things don’t matter — their marriage matters. The happiness and excitement are SO obvious and SO overwhelmingly beautiful and that is exactly what all marriage should be.
Some people say that same sex marriage will ruin “the institution of marriage” and our society as a whole. With every fiber of my being, I believe that marriage equality has the power to refocus the way our society thinks about marriage and bring it back to the love. It can take the focus away from all the stuff, and bring it back to the beginning of a life-long commitment between two people.
A lot of people have been asking us lately if this “popup” or “flash” wedding thing is a trend. When I say no, this is why: the tiny weddings where it’s all about the marriage aren’t a trend. They’re a brand new way of celebrating marriage. Our company, Pop! Wed Co., was inspired by all of my couples who came to DC to be married in the past three years and asked me for elopement photography. Ultimately, we want to make their weddings the best days ever so that when they celebrate their legal marriage, our couples don’t have to worry about a thing except how many times they should kiss at the end of the ceremony. (Hint: always twice for extra photo fun!)
It’s not fair that same sex couples can’t be married in all fifty states, and I wish it were different. But it’s partly because of the creative ways that same-sex couples are marrying today that our whole society has figured out a new way to celebrate marriage. Whether you call them flash weddings or popup weddings or just itty-bitty weddings of awesome, they’re an amazing way to celebrate a new marriage.
But it’s partly because of the creative ways that same-sex couples are marrying today that our whole society has figured out a new way to celebrate marriage.
The “specialness” of weddings isn’t about whether or not you have a venue or flowers or an open bar for a hundred guests. It’s determined by how you and your partner feel about each other and the day you committed to be partners for life.
It’s about that moment when you say your vows to each other and promise to stand side by side for the rest of your lives. It’s the moment when your wedding officiant pronounces you legally married and you make this exact face:
If every person getting married, regardless of their gender or orientation, feels this way about marrying the love of his or her life…just imagine what could happen.
This is the magic of weddings. And this is why marriage equality has the power to make the entire “institution” of marriage just plain…better.
About Maggie Winters
Maggie Winters is one half of Pop! Wed Co (the tiny, technicolor half), and an experienced designer at iStrategyLabs. She chases pure happiness with her camera and listen to ska along the way. She is also a contributing photographer to The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography. Find her most anywhere @moonstompmaggie.