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Seventy percent of gay couples live in states where same-sex marriage is now legal, according to Gary Gates, a scholar at UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute. Close to a half a million same-sex couples can now. This means an invitation may soon appear in your mailbox.

And the first thing to know is, It won't be so different from what you're used to.

"Whether it's two brides, two grooms, or a bride and groom, at the heart of it are two people who are committing their lives to one another and who are expressing that love and commitment before their community of family and friends," says Marc Solomon, author of "Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits — and Won!"

But dig deeper and the differences start to appear. "While certain steps in the planning process are neutral, such as selecting a menu, there are many questions for gay grooms and lesbian brides," explained Jason Mitchell, author of "Getting Groomed: The Ultimate Wedding Planner for Gay Grooms." Certain traditions, especially those based on gender roles, are often eschewed (such as the garter or bouquet toss and the "daddy dance"), and some couples skip the walk down the aisle, the receiving line, even the cake cutting, in their desire to avoid heterosexual conventions entirely.

So, for those invited to their first same-sex wedding, here are some answers to common questions about what to expect:

Do we throw a shower for one bride, or both? What about the bachelor/bachelorette party?

Traditional shower etiquette doesn't cover two brides, or none, which may explain why a 2013 gay wedding survey by the Knot and the Advocate noted that only 8 percent of same-sex couples reported having a shower (compared to 22 percent for opposite-sex couples). If a shower is hosted, both brides should be invited.

Christopher Hamilton, who tied the knot with Wayne Fong a year ago, admitted his best man found planning his bachelor party hard because he wasn't sure whether to invite Fong and then didn't. Fong acknowledged he was "disappointed" when he wasn't invited and then found himself with no party of his own.

This being uncharted territory, Kathryn Hamm, president of, said the best advice is simply to ask the couple what they want.

What side of the aisle?

"Bride's side or groom's?" is becoming an outdated question even for heterosexual couples, and guests at same-sex weddings are likely to be friends of both brides or grooms. "Couples want to define their wedding party around support of themselves as a couple, not individuals," explained Hamm.

How much of a kiss will that kiss really be?

For many straight guests this is the moment of truth: seeing two men or two women lock lips. Steve Drysdale, whose daughter Rebecca married her girlfriend earlier in the fall, told me, "This was the first time a lot of the straight guests had seen that in the flesh. It's different than cheering for equal rights. It's more visceral — it makes people uncomfortable."

Roseann Foley Henry, who married her wife in 2008, advised guests to keep their cool. "That first kiss seals the deal on the new marriage — concentrate on the love and the commitment it represents, nothing else, and you'll be fine." She also suggested that all couples use a little discretion: "This is not the best time for any couple to have a make out session."

Source: Steven Petrow, author of "Steven Petrow's Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners” and The Washington Post


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