Bronte Price is one of Melbourne’s best-known LGBTI celebrants. He’s been conducting ceremonies since 2015 and has now taken more than 60 same sex wedding bookings. In his spare time, Bronte conducts LGBTI Sensitivity Training for wedding suppliers to pass on his tips and hints about how to work respectfully with LGBTI couples. We spoke to Bronte about his experiences in the marriage equality revolution.
Bronte, how did you get started in the wedding industry?
In early 2014, I was in between jobs. I’d been made redundant from my position as a senior executive in the Tasmanian government, after a change of leadership, and I’d relocated to Melbourne. One day, my old friend, Suzanne, asked me if I’d considered becoming a celebrant. It was a lightbulb moment , when you wish you’d thought of that years ago! Being a celebrant brings together a heap of skills I’d honed throughout my careeras well as my innate love of people – advanced writing skills, strong interpersonal skills, my ability to reduce stress and so on. And it added to other skills I’d developed as an English and Drama teacher. By the end of the day when Suzanne and I spoke, I’d enrolled in the course to become a celebrant. It took me 9 months to complete the 52 assignments, and then another three months to get registered by the Attorney-General’s Department. It was just in time for me to marry my former PA – and now friend – Kylie and her man, Daz. A very special first wedding for me!
How have things changed for you since marriage equality became legal in Australia?
Personally, they’ve changes lots! I proposed to my man, Clint, on the day the results of the postal vote on marriage equality were released. We’re planning our wedding, which will take place in April 2019, so we’re both very excited about that!
I’d been marrying straight couples and conducting commitment ceremonies for LGBTI couples since I became a registered celebrant in 2015. I’d also been preparing for the day when marriage equality happened in this country. And so, my business was ready for marriage equality. I wanted to be heavily involved with my tribe, to offer them something special, rather than a faded replica of the weddings I – and others – might offer straight couples. And here’s the thing: fundamentally, LGBTI weddings can be so different from straight weddings, but we have to make LGBTI couples aware of how and why, at least as options.
I’ve become a bit of an expert on marriage equality – I know this space pretty deeply. And I’ve greatly enjoyed being approached by the media – national, state and local – during the past year, to get my opinion on a range of related topics and issues. You can check out these interviews on my website: https://gaycelebrant.melbourne
As I write this piece, I have just taken my 60th LGBTI wedding booking. I’m thrilled by that. The past year has enabled me to get to know and marry couples from across the entire LGBTI spectrum, as well as the broad canvas of wider society. But there’s so much more work to be done.
In your experience, what do you think are some of the key differences between straight and same sex weddings?
I know lots of straight wedding suppliers who believe there are no differences between a straight wedding and a gay wedding. If they believe that, they’re correct. And they’ll never offer any LGBTI couples anything other than what they know about.
If LGBTI couples want a traditional wedding, that’s great. Give it to them. But as wedding suppliers, we have a responsibility to acknowledge that LGBTI people have grown up differently from straight people
If LGBTI couples want a traditional wedding, that’s great. Give it to them. But as wedding suppliers, we have a responsibility to acknowledge that LGBTI people have grown up differently from straight people – and that many of the rituals and trappings associated with straight weddings are just not relevant to, or appropriate for, us.
Each part of a wedding has been constructed over decades.
Two examples of significant differences between LGBTI and straight weddings:
- LGBTI weddings are far smaller and more intimate, and potentially closeted. That’s got implications for weddings suppliers – never assume a couple is ok about having photos taken or posted on social media – always ask.
- Treat the wedding space as just that. Why have an aisle, with each party’s guests on either side, down which one party will walk to the other, to be handed over for life? Why not treat the space as something to be explored in a more contemporary manner – eg
For us, as a wedding band, of course the music is of particular interest to us. What music trends have you seen at same sex weddings?
The choice of music by LGBTI couples is part of many decisions they’ll make. Because lots of LGBTI marriage ceremonies are just that – a marriage ceremony without the wedding – often, there is no music at all. The ceremony is the focus – and we’re all out of there within 10 – 15 minutes.
On the occasions where there is a wedding, LGBTI couples typically choose music that means something to them. Often, they’ll have a playlist they’ve devised, using Spotify, or they’ll put together their own playlist on a laptop. It’s pretty rare, in my experience, for LGBTI couples to hire a band or a DJ. Also, often the music played will be reflective of the music they’ve grown up with – so prepare yourselves for LGBTI anthems, sung by icons such as Kylie, Madonna, Lady Gaga, MJ, Prince, Elton, Village People, Backstreet Boys and Cher. And, importantly, the lyrics will reflect them – for example, you’re probably not going to hear “when a man loves a woman” at an LGBTI wedding 🙂
You are getting married this year…what music will you be having? Surely not a DJ??!!
My feyoncé, Clint, is a walking encyclopaedia of music. It’s one of his abiding passions. As with most things we do in our lives, we’ve been discussing all part of the wedding with each other. We’ve done that informally – and certainly not to a wedding planner’s timeline. So with regards to music, we don’t feel constrained or pressured to have any of those love songs that are highly gendered. In fact, one of the most difficult things about choosing songs for our wedding has been to find songs that have gender-neutral lyrics. If you’re reading this, try a test – name 10 love songs off the top of your head, that are gender-neutral. And we’re also keen to include artists who have been long-supporters of the LGBTI community. We’ve found a terrific help has been a Spotify playlist called – wait for it – Homo100. Some great, relevant music on there.
For your own wedding, how important is it to you that the venue and suppliers you choose are sensitive to same sex marriage? And how do you go about ascertaining this?
It’s crucial. We don’t anyone at or near our wedding who is homophobic or who hasn’t supported us in our relationship. That’s certainly been a factor in settling on our guest list. But we’ve been careful, also, to ask suppliers we’ve approached a list of questions that help us gauge how sensitive they are working with LGBTI couples. Remember, we LGBTI people have massive crap-detectors from our upbringing. So, when people say they support marriage equality, we ask “exactly how have your shown that?” It gets people to move beyond simply thinking it’s a cute thing to support or it’s something they support in their beliefs, to pragmatic ways. And we also take careful notice of people’s body language as they begin to interact with us. There’ve been some doozies: suppliers who have used inappropriate language and refused to be corrected. See you!!! The biggest single tip I’d give those wedding suppliers is “don’t assume”. The second tip is “get educated and don’t’ be ignorant”, because it’ll eventually cost you business.
Do you have any advice for same sex couples who are planning their wedding?
Don’t get caught up in the rituals, the “must haves”, the expectations of weddings.
Don’t get caught up in the rituals, the “must haves”, the expectations of weddings. Set a budget and stick to it. Don’t get pressured by parents or straight friends into doing things that don’t sit well with you – eg you must have a hens’ night! Or you have to have an aisle etc etc. Do whatever reflects how you live. If you’re a couple of bears, then of course have lots of leather etc at your wedding. Remember, it’s your day. Do it your way!
And on the flip side to this, do you have any advice for venues and suppliers (and guests) about same sex weddings?
Be yourselves. Check out my blog on how to behave at LGBTI weddings and what to wear. If you’re a wedding supplier, think about undergoing some LGBTI sensitivity training www.theequalitynetwork.com.au ; don’t force stuff on to LGBTI couples; use appropriate language; don’t treat LGBTI weddings as some sort of freak show; and don’t just offer LGBTI couples a lazy, templated version of a straight wedding. They deserve better than that. Educate yourselves about the possibilities.