If COVID-19 completely derailing and changing our lives in 2020 taught us anything, it is that who we choose to spend our time with is sacred. COVID has changed the dating scene so much, and the pandemic seemed to give a lot of people permission to shed a toxic partner. And, on the flip side, it pushed loving couples even closer together.
My partner and I were one such couple. We lived together pre-pandemic, but reevaluating our lives, work, and the way we spend our time connected us even further and allowed us to plan for the future. We got engaged at the end of 2021, and planning a queer wedding has been… enlightening.
My partner and I are both trans, and the wedding industrial complex has always been such a turnoff to us. With marriage equality still so new, we never thought a wedding would be in the cards for us, let alone had any idea what we would even want it to look like. I have intentionally avoided weddings for so long, so now that I am attempting to plan one, it has taken quite some time for me to even know where to start.
Even in this internet age, queer wedding resources are extremely limited, especially in Nashville. No doubt you will find a host of queer musicians and photographers to curate your wedding, but beyond that, it is challenging to find vendors or venues that you know will be queer- accepting without having heard first-hand testimonials or experiences from friends.
Lots of queer couples have posted wedding blogs to offer suggestions for queer people specifically, but the average price points are very high. There are a plethora of quality venue ideas if you have a large budget, but for those of us looking to be as cost- effective as possible, I wanted to highlight a few suggestions.
Take note that I have yet to include food or baked goods in this discussion. Unless you do an internet deep dive on one particular vendor, it is challenging to find specific accounts that are queer and trans-friendly. This will probably be the biggest gamble in your wedding planning journey, so if that is not a risk you are not looking to take, finding a reception venue that is bundled with food prepared on-site would be your best bet.
Some such amazing and surprisingly affordable venues that have hosted queer weddings are Cheekwood Gardens and Arrington Vineyards. The price points at Cheekwood vary per garden and with the size of your guest list, but if you are looking for a gorgeous ceremony and reception in one place, or simply to do a ceremony, I highly recommend pursuing that venue. Arrington is also scenic, especially if Tennessee rolling hills, greenery, and country chic is your style. Again, you have different price points and options. I would also suggest them as a bachelor/ ette/ex destination! You can tour their vineyards or just have a good time, and maybe catch some of their fantastic live music while you’re there.
Finding an officiant in Tennessee is a challenge, especially one understanding of trans and non-binary issues and relationships. Many couples have had to do a courthouse wedding before doing the ceremony they want so that they can get their legal paperwork while still having the ceremony that feels good to them. One would think that a pastor of an affirming church would be able to officiate, and while many are willing to do so, most denominations have rules against them being involved in weddings. The Human Rights Campaign can help you find someone if you reach out to the Nashville chapter.
The wedding industrial complex impacts all of our weddings, whether we buy into it or not. I proposed to my partner at a state park, and the entire time I was questioning myself—is this a good enough story to tell, is this cute enough to post about, is this silly and pathetic? Thankfully those questions were fleeting. I reminded myself that protected wildernesses are our favorite places to explore, and the future of our relationship is just about us. A wedding is just a dang party after all, but being entrenched in the religious, capitalist wedding narrative that permeates so much of the South is still something I have to deconstruct for myself.
Regardless of your budget or guest list, your wedding will be as beautiful as you and your partner feel. My fiancé and I are still holding out for an officiant in Moira Rose drag, but beyond that, Nashville does have great options. The more people in our community share experiences with each other, the more queer businesses we know to support and hire, so please, share your stories with your community. Even an Instagram hashtag can help another couple.