Do’s and Dont’s at a Civil Partnership Ceremony

Since we have recently seen the implementation of the Civil Partnership Act in QLD, its time for a few Do’s and Don’t’s on the big day!

1. Don’t crash the event.

Let me say it again: Don’t ever crash a ceremony. Do not attend a ceremony for which you did not receive a personal invitation. Anecdotal evidence from a number of same-sex couples suggest that they are more than usually prone to being crashed — often by well-meaning friends of friends who have never seen a same sex ceremony and are curious. This is really not cool. You go because you care about the couple and want to support them.

2. Do use the couple’s preferred terminology.

People in non-standard relationships often have non-standard relationships with gender, and thus, with gender-coded words. Not every woman getting married is, or wants to be called, a bride; not every dude thinks of himself as a groom. Let the couple be the guides of the words you choose, and if you’re not sure, just use their names. Keep following this rule after the event – Not every married woman is a wife. Not every married man is a husband. Again, follow the example people provide — if someone always refers to her “partner,” do not say, “How’s your wife?”

3. Don’t use your card to express your reservations about same sex relationships.

Don’t write your political views about same ex partnerships in your card. If you do show up and take advantage of the open bar and the painstakingly curated playlist just shut your mouth and enjoy the celebrations.

4. Do find a card that reflects the couple’s genders and gender expressions.

Greeting-card companies have started to figure out that same-sex couples exist, which is great, but those cards tend to be really gender-normative – like, they say, “Here come the brides!” or have a picture of two grooms in top hats and tuxes or whatever. That may not be relevant to the couple you’re celebrating, and you run the risk of making them uncomfortable by projecting gendered assumptions onto them. If you’re not sure, find a card with a picture that has nothing to do with attire or gender — maybe something with bells or a cake.

5. Don’t ask when or how the couple plans to have kids.

This is so presumptuous and unnecessary! Not every married couple wants children, and among those who do, the decisions surrounding becoming parents are often intensely personal, not something anyone wants to discuss over cocktails with 25 drunk second cousins.

6. Do expect to see alternatives to traditions at a Civil Partnership Ceremony

A lot of what we think of as traditions are based on heteronormative gender roles that simply don’t apply to most same-sex couples (or many straight couples, for that matter). Be prepared for some changes to the script. Maybe no one will be “given away.” Maybe there won’t be a mother-son dance or a bouquet toss. Don’t be weird about it!

7. Don’t say, “I can’t wait until you can do this for real!”

In QLD, we don’t have marriage equality – so for the time being, you will likely be attending a Civil Partnership Ceremony. But the sentiment is real. The couple is making a real commitment to each other and having a real party with their real friends and loved ones. Don’t disrespect them by treating their celebration as lesser because the government denies them the rights they deserve. In fact, try not to bring up the legal battles surrounding marriage equality at all, unless the couple does it first.

8. Do let the couple know you’re proud of them and happy for them and that you support their relationship.

By the time someone gets around to having a same-sex ceremony, they’ve probably been through a lot — from coming out to weathering discrimination. Life can be hard, and a ceremony isn’t just an excuse to buy some really fancy shoes; it’s a time when we all show up and promise to help each other through the hard parts. The love and support of friends and family members, the knowledge that your community cares about you and has your back, is the most precious gift any couple could ever receive.

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