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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Being labeled as a bride... it makes you want to punch them in the face" : an exploratory study of queer weddings in Vancouver, Canada Lebenkoff, Sharon


Although the theoretical literature debating the significance, implications, and consequences of queer participation marriage is vast, only a few empirical studies that focus specifically on queer weddings have been carried out. This research examines queer weddings in the distinct political, legal, and cultural context of Vancouver, Canada. Using in-depth qualitative interviews and participant observation, I investigate the decision-making and labor practices involved in planning and hosting a queer wedding. As well, I examine how couples negotiate feelings and relationships before, during, and after the wedding. I explore these practices to illuminate how queer weddings both support and challenge the institution of marriage. My findings suggest some significant distinctions between heterosexual and queer weddings, highlighting that producing a queer wedding presents unique challenges and rewards. Without exception, participants in this study felt they had tremendous freedom to shape their weddings according to their own beliefs, values, and desires. However, I argue that their personal freedom was mediated by the legal requirements of the state, as well as by a desire to attend to the needs and feelings of their families of origin. Further, I found that the wedding industry remains unshakably heteronormative and at times homophobic, often making queer couples feel less than welcome. I discovered that weddings did present my narrators with the chance to resist heteronormativity, traditional gender roles, and the wedding-industrial complex, yet their ability to resist was constrained by the need for intelligibility. I conclude that a queer wedding is a ritual performance of legitimacy and an opportunity to experience a profound sense of validation and belonging. However, the wedding holds a unique temporal and spatial position that does not necessarily reflect everyday realities. My findings suggest that queer couples’ access to legitimacy is inconsistent, causing them to experience dissonance as they move through time and space.

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