What to Expect at a Gay Wedding 

BY Steven Petrow

July 22 2011 10:00 AM ET

The rush to city hall is on, as thousands of gay and lesbian couples finalize plans to legally marry in the state of New York starting on Sunday.  Whether you’re marrying, or a guest, at one of Central Park’s pop-up chapels, the Niagara Falls wed-in on Monday, or at any city hall in the sixth state to legalize same-sex nuptials, you’re looking at a lot of questions and very few established traditions.

And for some, not a lot of time.  In a sign of pent-up demand, 823 couples in New York City alone applied for a lottery instituted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the “fairest way” to distribute licenses so everyone gets their turn without overwhelming city employees. Luckily, the city announced it could accommodate all of the couples. But that leaves only 48 hours to get to “I do!”

To help settle wedding nerves, here’s our etiquette guide to what you should expect at a gay wedding.

Uh oh, who pays for the rings?

If there’s one prevailing custom today, it’s that most lesbian and gay couples shop for their rings together and pay for them jointly. This scenario usually results from a conversation where one of you, after waiting years for New York to legalize same-sex weddings, says, “Hey, want to get married?” However, if you’re planning to surprise your sweetheart with an engagement ring, then you’ll be footing the bill.

As for where to wear them (if, in fact, you choose to have rings), nothing says “married” quite like a gold band on your left ring finger. But this is a straight wedding tradition that gay couples have been known to play around with, in this case by wearing our commitment rings on our right hands to symbolize (and protest) the fact that we couldn’t legally get married.

Not surprisingly, some long-term couples plan to move their rings from right to left when they officially tie the knot. Actor Neil Patrick Harris, who has been engaged to his partner for five years, once joked that his right hand had become calloused during the long wait. "It'd be nice to move the ring over here someday," he said, indicating his left hand. Evan Wolfson, author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry and the founder and executive director of the organization Freedom to Marry, has also said he plans to move his band from right to left when he gets legally wed.

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