Planning a gay wedding in London – top tips from two grooms

I’m so pleased to be able to share some wonderful words of wisdom from a couple I photographed last year for planning a gay wedding….take it away Carl & Jack!

It’s been a year since we became Mr and Mr Ayento-Graves and a perfect time to reflect on the challenges and also great joys of planning a gay wedding, not least considering the unfortunate situation facing many couples planning weddings during the current pandemic.

From the moment of our engagement in 2017, we launched right into planning our special day. Living in London meant that we planned far ahead… we thought. Turns out that even two years isn’t as long as you’d think.

We started by selecting the dates (we picked a few, just in case venues were not available) which suited our holiday availability and knowing that we wanted a weekend.

While Carl was all about careful budgeting, searching frantically for cheap venues, Jack had aesthetics and entertainment in mind.

We settled on the extraordinary Asylum Chapel for our ceremony venue on our first visit and never regretted it.

asylum wedding gay wedding photography London

It all followed from there, selecting The East Dulwich Tavern as the reception venue, transport to it, and catering, music, flowers, suits, etc.… Just like any other wedding, right?

gay wedding photography south london

Well, in many ways, planning a gay wedding was actually quite different. So, our top tips for the day:

1. Choose gay-friendly wedding suppliers who understand you when planning a gay wedding

We were so lucky to find Fiona. Not only is she a brilliant photographer, but she takes the time to get to know you and what you want from the day. She fitted herself seamlessly into our plans and gave us so much advice that meant our day went perfectly. During our engagement shoot (a year before the special day) she spoke with us over coffee in Kew Gardens and got us used to being in front of a camera.

gay engagement shoot kew gardensnatural engagement photography london

Fiona told us to make sure that our day was what we wanted and to shake off any shackles that traditional church weddings might stipulate if we didn’t want it. Planning a gay wedding, this made us feel much more comfortable and gave us the confidence to play around with the setting more. Our florist, Jem at Floral Jems, and venue’s wedding coordinator, Liza at Maverick Projects, were equally supportive and reassured us of our decisions.

boho wedding flowers asylum london

2. Make your wedding day about you

Based on Fiona’s advice we made sure our day was all about us. It’s so easy to fall into tropes of song choices, what people expect to see, or how the day should be scheduled. Why be tied to this? Play around with it and challenge expectations. We had readings from our closest friends taken from Kylie Minogue (Come into my World):

Come, come, come into my world
Won’t you lift me up, up, high upon your love
Take these arms that were made for lovin’
And this heart that will beat for two
Take these eyes that were meant for watching over you
And I’ve been such a long time waiting
For someone, I call my own
I’ve been chasing the life I’m dreaming
Now I’m home
I need your love
Like night needs morning
Come, come, come into my world
Won’t you lift me up, up, high upon your love
Na na na na
Take these lips that were made for kissing
And this heart that will see you through
And these hands that were made to touch and
feel you
So free your love
Hear me I’m calling
Oh won’t you
Come, come, come into my world
Won’t you lift me up, up, high upon your love
I need your love
Like night needs morning
Oh won’t you
Come, come, come into my world
Won’t you lift me up, up, high upon your love
and Disney (If I Never Knew You from Pocahontas):
If I never knew you
If I never felt this love
I would have no inkling of
How precious life can be
And if I never held you
I would never have a clue
How at last I’d find in you
The missing part of me
In this world so full of fear
Full of rage and lies
I can see the truth so clear
In your eyes
So dry your eyes
And I’m so grateful to you
I’d have lived my whole life through
Lost forever
If I never knew youI thought our love would be so beautiful
Somehow we made the whole world bright
I never knew that fear and hate could be so strong
All they’d leave us were these whispers in the night
But still my heart is singing
We were rightIf I never knew you (There’s no moment I regret)
If I never knew this love (Since the moment that we met)
I would have no inkling of (If our time has gone too fast)How precious life can be (I’ve lived at last…)
And I’m so grateful to you
I’d have lived my whole life through
Empty as the sky
Never knowing why
Lost forever
If I never knew you

Being half-Filipino, Jack organised special canapés from the Adobros for after the ceremony. We took our guests on a two-hour bus tour of Central London between venues with a packed lunch en route.

red london bus wedding photography

Rather than a sit-down dinner, we opted for one big buffet so that we could have as many guests for the entire day as possible. It was all very informal and, in small venues, meant that people were constantly circulating and mingling. We were not tied to father-daughter dances, giving away brides, or even having bridesmaids. We dismissed the expectation of best-man and father-of-the-bride speeches and instead asked our siblings (Jack’s younger brother and Carl’s younger sister) to perform those roles. Instead of anyone giving us away, we walked ourselves down the aisle behind our siblings.

walking down aisle asylum wedding venue london

Do you need to break the bank on a DJ? – we had a personal playlist (female-vocals-only) on Spotify for the reception. Sure, not everyone loved every song (Carl’s mum for example), but at least we did – and judging by the amount of dancing, most guests did too! Ultimately, break conventions; there’s no need to conform, make your day about you.

east dulwich tavern first wedding danceeast dulwich tavern wedding reception dancing

3. Delegate to dependable friends when you’re planning a gay wedding!

If you’ve followed the tips above, your day is already pretty unique. So, you’ll need a select (note, ‘select’) group of dependable friends that know exactly what is happening so that they can ensure that you enjoy your day. We catered lunch ourselves which meant that family were drafted into sandwich production the day before and others stored it in their AirBnBs, while a final group laid it all out for our guests. We had others in charge of bus playlists (again female-only vocals) and even managing the ceremony music.

asylum wedding venue just married

After receiving our initial tip from Fiona, we enjoyed the planning process and made sure that we were both happy with every decision – from our suits bought at Next just three days before the special day to the cake tasting with our six-year-old niece (who, it turned out, doesn’t like cake), every moment was special. Ultimately, your wedding is your special day, so make sure everyone knows that it’s you that unites them together.

succulent wedding favours plant themed wedding caketwo grooms wedding london

Our wedding turned into a three-day extravaganza and whatever you do, like us, enjoy your day and every challenge it throws at you!

Carl & Jack

Suppliers involved:

Wedding ceremony venue: Asylum Chapel

Wedding reception venue: East Dulwich Tavern

The florist: Floral Jems

Caterer: Adobros

Suits: Next

Massive thanks to Carl & Jack for sharing their top tips for planning a gay wedding. Their day was amazing, it was a total joy to be a part of it and to capture their engagement photos and their wedding photography. I was truly welcomed by their friends and family and had the best time. Here’s their Kew Gardens engagement shoot and here is their fabulous laid back gay wedding in London

I am proud to work with all clients, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, or other ideologies. Its been my privilege and joy to photograph a number of same sex weddings, engagements and proposals (take a look at the moment Josh proposed to Lee) so do get in touch if you are planning your wedding and want an LGBTQ+ friendly photographer.

I hope you have found this helpful if you are planning a gay wedding or any wedding for that matter! You can see more top tips and advice on planning your wedding in my planning guide.

Thanks for popping by

Fiona x