After the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, many businesses are taking steps to make sure they are inclusive. This includes changing outdated wedding terminology, asking for preferred pronouns on RSVP cards and more.
But not all vendors are equal. There are some that have a long way to go in making their services more LGBTQ-friendly.
1. Ask Your Vendors
After the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality in every state, it’s no secret that same-sex weddings are a big business opportunity for the wedding industry. Whether it’s a venue, florist or DJ, every vendor needs to be aware of how they can accommodate same-sex couples. Luckily, there are many ways that businesses can be LGBTQ-friendly without sacrificing their professionalism.
Aside from making sure all of their work is gender-neutral, you’ll also want to ensure that any vendors you’re considering have a good vibe with gay and lesbian clients. “I’d suggest looking for a vendor that has experience working with LGBTQ+ couples and is open to their specific wants and needs,” Palladino said. Similarly, Savage points out that it’s important to vet potential wedding planners and other vendors to make sure they haven’t been known to ask obnoxious questions or treat LGBTQ+ couples poorly.
Specifically, she points to overtly religious messaging on a vendor’s website or social media as a red flag for LGBT couples. “Overtly religious statements can put off people who don’t believe in the same thing, and that’s not fair,” she says.
Other potential red flags include a venue that only has one aisle for brides or grooms to walk down, which isn’t a great fit for same-sex couples. Instead, consider a ceremony circle or two aisles where the couple can mingle with guests as they find their seats to start the ceremony.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
If you want to be inclusive of all LGBTQ+ couples, it’s important to ask. There are a lot of traditions in weddings that fall under the categories of “gender binaries.” These can feel very uncomfortable for couples who identify outside these binary structures and often lead to feelings of exclusion.
One easy way to determine if a vendor is inclusive is to look at their social media and website. Do they show a variety of couples? Do they use inclusive language on their contact page and in their contracts? Are they avoiding dated terms like “bride” and “groom”?
Similarly, when choosing your wedding ceremony site or venue, consider the ways you can make it more inclusive. For example, instead of using the traditional straight-row seating arrangement, use a circular pattern so that everyone can be equally visible. Additionally, think about your ceremony vows and how you can personalize them to include your relationship’s unique story.
Lastly, make sure that you avoid gendered language and terminology in your wedding photos. It is not only offensive but it also encourages the erasure of identities. Use words and pronouns that are more inclusive, such as he/him, she/her, they/them, etc. This is especially important in your marketing material and in your online presence.
3. Ask for Gender Pronouns
A big part of inclusivity is respecting pronouns. Whether it is bride, groom, they/them, spouse, partner or whatever else is appropriate, asking for a client’s preferred pronouns and using them in all communication will help everyone feel safe and welcome at their wedding.
This is a great thing to include on all your inquiry forms and to start doing whenever you talk to clients. It will make it much easier to cater your work for LGBTQ+ couples, but also for cis-heterosexual clients as well.
It is also important to avoid gendered terminology when talking about the couple’s friends and family. For example, instead of saying “the bride’s maids” or “the groom’s men”, try to use words such as mates, sisters and brothers, or best friends. This will make it easier to include non-binary or asexual people in the wedding party.
Another way you can be inclusive is by not following gendered traditions like giving the bride away or having the groom stand on a specific side of the aisle. This can be replaced with a friend or family member who can escort the couple down the aisle or simply by proceeding hand-in-hand.
It is also a good idea to ask your guests for their pronouns. This can be included on your invitations, and it will help you ensure that everyone feels comfortable at the wedding. This can be as simple as asking on the RSVP form or including it on place cards and seating charts. It is also helpful to include a guide on gender and pronouns for those who are not familiar with them. This will help them to better understand the questions that you are asking and why it is important to ask.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Rules
When it comes to LGBTQ+ wedding inclusivity, it is important not to be afraid to break the rules! This may mean that you need to alter your wedding website copy or any other documents that you might send out. Using terms like “her” or “him” in place of gender-specific pronouns can be offensive for non-cisgender couples, so consider changing them to something more inclusive, such as “they” or “both.”
You also want to make sure that your wedding planning resources aren’t biased against LGBTQ+ people. For example, many wedding planning books and websites have a “gay weddings chapter,” but fail to include all the ways that non-heterosexual couples can get married. This can be especially frustrating for LGBTQ+ couples who are looking for inclusive guidance for their big day!
If you’re working with a wedding venue, be sure to mention that your business is LGBTQ+ friendly and inclusive before booking. This will help ensure that the venue is prepared for a gay or lesbian couple or a transgender couple. It’s also a great way to show your support for the LGBTQ+ community and to let them know that you value them as clients!
Other things you can do to be more inclusive include changing your language in your emails and contracts. For instance, use language that is more neutral, such as “bride” or “groom” rather than “bridesmaid” or “groomsmen.” It’s also a good idea to change your language around referring to your wedding party members. You can refer to them as a ‘wedding party’, a ‘bridesmates’, ‘groomsmates’ or your ‘I do crew.’ Just be sure to ask the couple what they prefer!
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Feedback
There are so many things to think about when planning your wedding. Vendors, venues, invitations, outfits – the list goes on and on! It can be easy to get overwhelmed and miss some important details when you’re busy trying to keep up with the timeline.
That’s why it is important to ask for feedback. Especially if you’re working with a new vendor, or a friend or family member helping out, it can be helpful to give them some guidelines around how to be more inclusive. This will help them understand what you’re looking for and ensure they can deliver a great service.
For example, if you’re working with a photographer, ask them if they have experience photographing LGBTQ+ weddings! If they haven’t, it would be good to make them aware of the difference between heterosexual and cisgender weddings so they can prepare. You can also ask them to avoid using gendered language when describing their work or talking about their clients (i.e., calling them brides or grooms) as this can be offensive for those who identify as LGBTQ+.
Additionally, when you’re planning the seating arrangement, try to avoid making assumptions about your guests’ pronouns. It’s much better to ask them, as this is very important for trans, queer, non-binary, and gender-fluid people!
Lastly, don’t be afraid to change up some of the traditional wedding ceremony traditions. For example, if you don’t want to have the traditional Father-Daughter or Mother-Son dance, that’s completely fine!
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that your wedding should feel authentic to you. If you’re worried about loved ones who carry bias against LGBTQ+ folks, consider creating a safe space for them by sitting them apart from those that don’t identify as cisgender or heterosexual. You could even have another person with you to keep an eye on them so they don’t accidentally hurt or offend anyone at the wedding.