Unconventional Couples

11 More Vows for Non-Traditional Weddings

Your big day is coming and it’s going to be the beautiful, exciting, emotional, dream commitment ceremony you have wanted since you were a little kid crushed on a camp counselor and dreaming of long term committed same-sex love.

Nontraditional, unconventional, queer, LGBT, polyamorous and kinky weddings are my favorites because we are up against so many invalidating messages about our love.  It is uniquely beautiful to see two people choose to validate their commitments on their own terms.


There’s just that one thing: your family.  Your mom wanted you to invite your aunt, but you have seen the hateful homophobic and transphobic stuff she posts on facebook.  Imagining what she’ll be like in the same room with your beautiful drag queen friends makes your stomach flip.

You think about your grandpa, and how he stopped talking to you after you brought your sweetheart home for the holidays two years ago.  He’s been distant ever since.  Will that be a downer on your special day?

And then there’s your cousins, you never really came out to them.  Is it weird to come out in a wedding invitation?

Despite all the advice you are going to get, there is no one right or wrong way to decide who should or shouldn’t be there.  No matter what you do, there will always be another possibility to entertain.  The one thing you can be sure of, is that you are doing the right thing for you.

What will make you most comfortable that day?  

What decision will you feel best about one year from now?

Give some thought to each of these relationships.  You don’t have to respond the same way to every one of your relatives.  Choose the path of greatest integrity in each scenario.  Every time you reach a conflict you have five options on how to address it.

Here are some options to consider based on the Five Conflict Management Styles according to Thomas, K.W., and R.H. Kilmann:

Conflict Style 1: Accommodating: This is when you cooperate to a high-degree, and it may be at your own expense, and actually work against your own goals, objectives, and desired outcomes.  This approach is effective when the other party is the expert or has a better solution.  It can also be effective for preserving future relations with the other party.

In your wedding scenario: This means you just invite them.  Your mom is happy to have everyone in one place, and they have the option to say no.  If you choose this option you may want to create support structures for yourself, your partner, and your friends to help buffer them from  homophobic stuff.  Maybe you have a special gathering for just your queer friends, or ask a friend to act as a bigot bouncer at the actual event.  If you choose to go this route, come up with plans to support your celebration so you don’t have to put up with junk you don’t want on your day.

Conflict Style 2: Avoiding:  This is when you simply avoid the issue.  You aren’t helping the other party reach their goals, and you aren’t assertively pursuing your own.  This works when the issue is less meaningfulor when you have no chance of winning.   It can also be effective when the issue would be very costly.  It’s also very effective when the atmosphere is emotionally charged and you need to create some space. Sometimes issues will resolve themselves, but “hope is not a strategy”, and, in general, avoiding is not a good long term strategy.

In your wedding scenario: This means you just don’t invite them.  Your mom may be disappointed (and they might too) but you avoid the issue of having conversations before the day, and or trying to overcome your emotions (and their possible outbursts) on your wedding day.  It is especially helpful if you have family members who are particularly volatile or unsafe in their actions.  Think about the person who just can’t control themselves from saying something rude during your special moments.  If and when physical safety is a concern this is definitely the best route to choose.

You have permission not to invite anyone who will just plain make you uncomfortable.  Remember it is YOUR DAY, YOUR PARTY, YOUR MEMORIES and you have every right to stick to what will being you greatest happiness.  A lot of well-intentioned allies will try to help you just “get over it”, and may even guilt you about your lack of compassion. No matter what they (or I) say only you get to decide what is right for your day.

Conflict Style 3: Competing : This is the “win-lose” approach.  You act in a very assertive way to achieve your goals, without seeking to cooperate with the other party, and it may be at the expense of the other party.  This approach may be appropriate for emergencies when time is of the essence, or when you need quick, decisive action, and people are aware of and support the approach.

In your wedding scenario: You have been practicing setting clear boundaries and stating your expectations with compassion for years, here is a big opportunity to put that practice into action.  Maybe you send them an invite with a letter stating exactly what you expect for their behavior.  Maybe you call them when you receive their RSVP and give them behaviorally specific examples of how you want them to show their support.  Let them know clearly, and with respect, exactly what you want from them on this day, and if they can’t participate and demonstrate support for your partnership they can show they care by staying home.  Or, maybe you don’t invite them and you send them a specific letter addressing why you aren’t including them with compassion, care, and respect.


Conflict Style 4: Collaborating: This is where you partner or pair up with the other party to achieve both of your goals.  This is how you break free of the “win-lose” paradigm and seek the “win-win.”  This can be effective for complex scenarios where you need to find a novel solution.  This can also mean re-framing the challenge to create a bigger space and room for everybody’s ideas.  The downside is that it requires a high-degree of trust and reaching a consensus can require a lot of time and effort to get everybody on board and to synthesize all the ideas.

Conflict Style 5: Compromising: This is the “lose-lose” scenario where neither party really achieves what they want.  This requires a moderate level of assertiveness and cooperation.  It may be appropriate for scenarios where you need a temporary solution, or where both sides have equally important goals.   The trap is to fall into compromising as an easy way out, when collaborating would produce a better solution.

These two conflict styles may overlap in your wedding scenario.  They require more work (in conversation) but can create even stronger more satisfying outcomes.  You have to decide, are these relationships you want to invest in?  Are the other parties willing to meet you somewhere in the middle?

In your wedding scenario: These conflict styles will likely mean these folks come to your ceremony or celebration.  However, they also mean they are coming with an understanding of what you want, hope for, and expect.  And when they arrive you will have a clear understanding of how they can either meet those needs or not.  Either way, you will have had a conversation and may have laid a welcome mat for more communication in years to come.

Remember, only you get to decide what is right for your day.  Consider what will make you most comfortable at your commitment ceremony and in years to come.  Act with integrity and compassion and you won’t regret your choices. 

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a polyamory consultant, sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationshipsjealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

Feminist Wedding Readings

Every year I am blessed with the opportunity to perform weddings as an officiant.  With the recent changes in the legal definition of marriage and more and more couples redefining with marriage and commitment mean to them I have had more exciting offers to join beautiful non-traditional families for these beautiful occasions.

However, so many of my fabulous feminist partners have difficulty coming up with a readings that really work for them.  So many parts of this tradition are linked to beliefs and rules that just don’t fit every egalitarian loving couple.

I mean the institution itself isn’t really based in a social justice framework.  But isn’t reclaiming the ritual on our own terms an activist statement?

I digress….

In order to help you get started planning your big event(s) I want to share some of thequotes and readings couples have used in my ceremonies to give you ideas for your own.  Congratulations on wanting to commit to a shared life.

 Share the vows from your feminist ceremony in the comments- I would love to read more!


Search your profile
For a translation
I study the conversation
Like a map
’cause I know there is strength
In the differences between us
And I know there is comfort
Where we overlap

–          Ani Difranco

But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take.If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.

–          Madeline L’Engle

You have to learn to love yourself before you can love me or accept my loving.

–          Audre Lorde

Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever.

–          Audre Lorde

Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.

–          Bell Hooks

Genuine love is rarely an emotional space where needs are instantly gratified. To know love we have to invest time and commitment…’dreaming that love will save us, solve all our problems or provide a steady state of bliss or security only keeps us stuck in wishful fantasy, undermining the real power of the love — which is to transform us.’ Many people want love to function like a drug, giving them an immediate and sustained high. They want to do nothing, just passively receive the good feeling.

–          Bell Hooks

Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.

–          Bell Hooks

To return to love, to get the love we always wanted but never had, to have the love we want but are not prepared to give, we seek romantic relationships. We believe these relationships, more than any other, will rescue and redeem us. True love does have the power to redeem but only if we are ready for redemption. Love saves us only if we want to be saved.

–          Bell Hooks

Love is an action, never simply a feeling.

–          Bell Hooks

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.

–          Louisa May Alcott


Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a polyamory consultant, sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationshipsjealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).