A Straight Mother’s Vision of Marriage Equality: 15 Years Later

Mother-Daughter Team: Gretchen (r) and Kathryn Hamm (l)

Fifteen years ago, my partner, Amy, and I were deeply immersed in what some friends of ours had dubbed ‘The Wedding Vortex.” We were deciding on what we’d serve for dinner, what kind of music we’d have, what we’d wear, and who would officiate at our decidedly non-legal wedding on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1999.

At the time, we knew that we were wandering into largely uncharted territory and undertaking something much bigger than we had tackled together before, but what we didn’t realize is that our wedding would be the crucible for an idea that would grow legs and a life of its very own.

And I have my straight mom to thank for that.

Because my mom wanted to find products and resources to help us with our wedding, she went looking. But she couldn’t find anything. Anywhere. Not even at Crossroads Market–the now-defunct (like so many!) independent gay bookstore in Dallas–where, she says, she was sure that she could find a lesbian wedding album as a gift for our wedding shower.

She came up empty that day, but she did create an ornament featuring two brides for our gift wrap; she found a card with two brides on it that left the room full of lesbians in attendance at the shower oohing and aahing, amazed she had found something that we hadn’t even really considered for ourselves; and, she made a matching pair of “Bride” baseball caps with fussy tulle veils for our wearing pleasure. (Leave it to my mom to figure out the only way she could get a veil on my head!)

But, it’s what happened next that changed my personal and professional identity forever: As a playful dare, a guest at our wedding shower suggested that she start a business and fill that void, and the concept and mission for TwoBrides.com & TwoGrooms.com (our original websites) were born.

Amy and I had hardly finished writing our ‘thank you’ notes following the wedding, only to find that my mom had developed a business plan, found a web developer, and began looking for products to sell in the boutique. Most  importantly, she had penned the words for our vision statement that has guided us from the beginning, in 1999:

We envision a world that embraces marriage equality and we strive to inspire others through our dedicated service and actions.

For the first few years, I acted as a silent partner–giving her feedback on product ideas, offering marketing advice, writing content for the site, helping her with her appearances at Pride festivals–but I should have known that I, too, would be recruited (just like everyone else in her dynamic orbit) to find a more vocal way to carry the flag for marriage equality.

In my case, I turned my experience as a school counselor, coach and health educator into the means by which I would support her vision and the company’s mission to find and make more readily available wedding products for same-sex couples; help wedding professionals better understand what the LGBTQ community’s needs are; and support engaged couples not just in planning their weddings but also, eventually, their legal marriages.

What a challenge and joy this ride has been thus far! It has included the chance to work with thousands of wedding professionals and engaged couples; fabulous celebrations as numerous states have come to recognize marriage equality; LGBTQ relationships being embraced by and included in the mainstream wedding market; and, in a day I truly never thought would come, my own legal marriage to Amy, with our young son serving as best man.

Here we are, fifteen years later, proudly unveiling a brand new look and updated version of our website that features more than 60,000 lgbtq-friendly wedding professionals, and my mom and I can look out from this unique little pioneering perch that GayWeddings.com has afforded us and say, Wow! The era of gay weddings that we knew when we first opened our virtual doors has ended, and we now find ourselves on the precipice of full marriage equality.

I still can’t believe it’s true. Being legally married in my home state of Virginia? Nah, I say. That can’t really be happening!

“Oh, but yes it can,” says Gretchen Hamm. “I have always said that this isn’t a matter of ‘if’ but a matter of ‘when.’”

Wedding innovator Kathryn Hamm (@madebykathryn) is co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014), an Education Expert for WeddingWire and Publisher of GayWeddings.com