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Falling in love was the easy part. Getting married as a gay couple is still a challenge

The world — and the wedding industry — still has a long way to go when it comes to LGBTQ acceptance. But we did it, and I couldn't be happier.

I first met my wife, Victoria, at a bar in New York City’s West Village on a night out with friends. I had zero expectations of how the night would go, but my life was forever changed when I saw Vic. Within minutes of striking up a conversation, we exchanged stories about our families and relationship histories and confessed that the bar scene wasn’t either of our favorites. Five days later, we were on our first date. The rest, as they say, is history. Our relationship was meant to be.

But as a gay couple, we have faced many unique challenges that have interfered with our love story. On one of our first dates, we were kicked out of an Uber because I kissed her. The driver said, “No, no no, women shouldn’t kiss,” and then asked us to leave the car. The fact that this happened early on was an ominous sign of struggle we’d face throughout our relationship.  

Shortly after that, while walking down the street holding hands, a man looked us up and down, sneered, and shouted loud enough for the entire island of Manhattan to hear: “Find husbands!” 

Since I present as femme, whenever I spoke about my relationship at work coworkers instantly assumed that I was in a relationship with a male. “Who’s the lucky guy?” “When can we meet him?” “You’re the only girl in the city who is actually happy with her boyfriend!” When I informed them that I was in a relationship with a woman, I was often met with bumbling apologies and looks of exasperation. I then felt like it was my responsibility to make them feel better for their snap judgment of my sexuality.

Whenever I talked about my relationship at work, coworkers instantly assumed I was in a relationship with a male. 'Who's the lucky guy?' 'When can we meet him?'

Even though I know deep down this burden shouldn’t fall on me, these frequent occurrences often left me wondering what I could improve upon to avoid others’ rapid assumptions of me. Today, I find myself searching for a moment to insert the phrase “my wife” or “my partner, Victoria’’ to avoid having to correct people or suffer through awkward apologies. This is also my way of normalizing same-sex marriages in conversation. 

Luckily, others’ perceptions of us didn’t do anything to take away from our personal happiness. A few years after that serendipitous night at the bar, Victoria proposed with a beautiful engagement ring, and both of our hearts were singing. (Cue this reaction, on repeat: “He did a great job picking out that ring!”)

Our joy was slightly tempered when we realized that getting married as a same-sex couple wasn’t going to be as simple as we assumed, even in 2023. Ahead of a much-anticipated vacation in Greece, we were told not to mention our engagement while we were there. We wanted to be married in Mykonos (Victoria is Greek), but many people suggested that some might not approve of a same-sex couple overseas. This was a sad revelation for us, but luckily we found that there were venues in Greece that did not frown on our union.

Ivanka + Victoria
The author, left, with her new wife.Melissa Khaki / Courtesy Melissa Anne Photography

We soon discovered that the wedding industry in general remains very old-school in its values. Throughout our wedding planning process, we had to laboriously look for vendors and venues that would support LGBTQ+ couples. Victoria and I emailed photographers for estimates and in each query we would add a line to be sure they would be comfortable photographing a gay wedding. Vendors go as far as to distinguish themselves as “LGBTQ+ friendly” on websites like The Knot so that couples don’t get disappointed being turned away if that isn’t the case. This burden adds an extra hurdle to an already long planning process that most straight couples don’t have to endure.

After jumping through hoops to make arrangements for a beautiful wedding in Greece in 2020, we had to cancel our nuptials due to the pandemic. We decided to say our vows at Town Hall in New York City instead, and rescheduled a ceremony in Santa Barbara, California, in June 2023, Pride Month.  

However, wedding planning in Santa Barbara still had some hiccups. One of our first assignments from our DJ was to fill out music selections, including for the first dance and father-daughter dance. The document was labeled for the groom and bride. Of course, with two brides, this caused confusion! A week before the wedding, we realized that because the document was gendered, the father-daughter dance songs had been mixed up. This could have been avoided had we received a more inclusive document. Instead of bride and groom, perhaps spouse 1 and spouse 2, or just include our names.

Ivanka + Victoria
Ivanka and Victoria kiss on their wedding day.Melissa Khaki / Courtesy Melissa Anne Photography

Getting married in June, during Pride, carried much significance to us both. While planning our wedding showed us that the world still has a long way to go to fully embrace the LGBTQ+ community, we were elated that we would be able to celebrate our love in front of our family and friends and honor the progress we’ve made, embracing how far we’ve come. 

And so, surrounded by our families and many members of our support system, we celebrated our love on June 4 (also, my birthday!), now the happiest day of our lives. Though we had already officially tied the knot at Town Hall back in New York, our wedding ceremony in California was at the heart of the marriage. The pronouncement of us being wives and declaring our love and exchanging vows publicly and gave us a memory we’ll cherish forever. Vic and I are also aware of how fortunate we are to have parents, siblings, extended family and friends who are supportive, loving and full of pride! Our community is incredible.

People in queer relationships possess a unique, special bond with each other: We are all fighting for acceptance and for our love to be recognized equally in the world. Finding the right person can present many challenges, but in a society that still lacks justice for marginalized people, finding that special someone can be even harder for LGBTQ couples. As a queer person, finding love often means finding a safe space that provides comfort and support. Our love is invaluable in that way.

Much has changed since Vic and I started planning our wedding in 2019, for better and for worse. But this Pride, we publicly pledged our love. To us, it was also a vow to our community to continue to fight for our rights and spread awareness for equality. We hope for an even safer and more accepting future for LGBTQ+ people and that our love for one another serves as a symbol of hope for all.