Days before New York's first gay weddings, same-sex couples are celebrating with bachelor parties and showers, some with twists on tradition. But gay or straight, some things are universal.
"My mother would kill me if we weren't having a dinner before the wedding!" said Jonathan Mintz, the city's commissioner of consumer affairs. "And as if that weren't enough, we're also having brunch on Sunday morning."
Later Sunday at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's official residence, Gracie Mansion, on the first day same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Bloomberg will do the honors as Mintz, 47, marries John Feinblatt, 60, the mayor's chief policy adviser.
Couples all over New York state, the most populous state to legalize same-sex marriages and an important political prize for advocates, are aglow with pre-wedding plans.
Rainbow Jell-O shots — a nod to the gay pride symbol — were served at an outdoor feast in Rochester that included Anne Tischer, a 59-year-old retired social worker, and her partner, 55-year-old Bess Watts, a union official. They got married in 2005 at Niagara Falls — on the Canadian side, where it was legal.
Rainbow-tinted lights will illuminate the powerful waterfalls for a reception Saturday night preceding a public wedding ceremony at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
At a community picnic in Genesee Valley Park last Sunday, "we had a grand time, and we were the last ones out of the park," Tischer said, noting that she knows a dozen couples who married in Canada. Some are now repeating it in New York for reasons like access to health insurance.
Jon Paul Buchmeyer and Juan Pablo Chavez, New York City residents who plan to get hitched next June in Manhattan's Fort Tryon Park, had hoped to shake tradition but got talked out of it.
"Part of the process of getting married for me is not having to do what the straight world has done for years," said Buchmeyer, a 42-year-old travel writer.
"It didn't even dawn on me to consider things like a shower or a bachelor party," said Buchmeyer. "But two of my straight friends, two women, said, 'We can't wait to start planning your shower.' First I thought they were kidding, but then realized they meant it."
Buchmeyer knows his eventual shower will be "really fun and different" but he hasn't been able to fully think it through.
"I don't want to be lured into having to do what traditional marriages do," he said. "We discussed whether we were mimicking an institution that we don't necessarily agree with, sometimes."
Another New York City couple, Carol Anastasio, 49, and Mimi Brown, 57, changed plans overnight on legalizing their union of two decades from just a quick municipal ceremony to a white-limo affair preceded by a lavish bachelorette dinner.
The change came when the owners of Manhattan's Old Homestead Steakhouse plucked their names from media reports about gay couples and offered to throw them a dinner party Thursday.
"We'll be eating and drinking and singing rowdy songs," said Anastasio, a city parks department employee.
The feast would include top-grade beef, single-malt scotch — "and maybe a cigar across the street," Anastasio added with a giggle.
"This is a wonderful celebration for us; it's not a stripper popping out of a cake," she said. "That's not us; we're down to earth, simple, and we love good food and good company."
The pair from Queens had waited years for New York to legalize same-sex marriage, Anastasio said, "because I really felt very strongly, why should I seek refuge for marriage in another state when I'm a civil servant here, with the right to the same benefits as anybody?"
Their actual wedding will be at the steakhouse, too, with about 70 guests, arriving by limo and a white-carpet entrance.
Like many other same-sex couples, Jeanette Coleman and Kawane Harris bucked tradition by attending their pre-wedding night out with their spouse-to-be in tow.
Coleman, who was booted from the military after coming out of the closet, kissed her partner under a saber at a party thrown by a friend in a 40th-floor apartment in midtown Manhattan. The word "EQUALITY" topped strawberry shortcake along with two brides in traditional attire.
"We just want what everyone else has," she said.
Sunday's ceremony for Coleman, 41, and Harris, 35, will feature two sabers, signifying the couple's safe transition into their new life together.
In the village of Sharon Springs, west of Albany, a historic inn called the American Hotel is hosting several same-sex weddings — but has booked no bachelor or bachelorette parties, manager Heidi Meka said.
Among the weddings is the one for owners Doug Plummer and Garth Roberts, who just celebrated 26 years together and will get married Sept. 10.
"For them, this is a celebration of equal rights and legal protections that should have been in place for them a long, long time ago," Meka said in an email to the Associated Press. "It's not a celebration of the last of their 'single days'; therefore a bachelor/ette party is not appropriate."