Most of us operate our businesses to be welcoming and accepting to all, no matter their gender identity, sexual preference, race, culture, or ability. However, in an industry that has been excluding people for decades, we can all stand to learn and grow as wedding professionals. After all, same-sex marriage was only legalized on a federal level in the United States four years ago — a learning curve is to be expected.
If you’re reading this, you’re in the right place. As wedding pros, we owe each and every couple the same level of respect, professionalism, and service, from the marketing materials we put out to the quality of service on the big day itself.
Despite the best intentions, some subtleties may be overlooked simply out of ignorance. It’s up to each of us to continue learning and spreading knowledge to create an industry that is inclusive of any and every person.
Here are 3 things you may not have realized you were doing, but can still send the wrong message.
Using the wrong language
Take a look at your marketing materials and website content. How many times do you see gendered terms, like “bridal suite” or “bride and groom”? Remember: Not all weddings have a bride and groom. Heteronormative language can cost you a client, and it can damage a pre-existing relationship. Be mindful of your verbiage and avoid using these types of terms to prevent clients from feeling frustrated or uneasy.
Pro tip: It’s not just language, either; assess your social media and website imagery for diversity as well. Aim to share a good balance of hetero and LGBTQ+ couples for fair representation.
It might feel natural to make assumptions about the couples that walk in your door, but individuals and their relationships aren’t always as they seem on the outside. People are complex, which is a beautiful part of life. Don’t assign your clients with identities and don’t assume anything about their relationship or personal style. Please get to know them and let them reveal that information to you.
Pro tip: Share your preferred pronouns in your About section on your website to make clients feel comfortable. Ask for your clients’ pronouns in their initial inquiry form. He/Him, She/Her, and They/Them are the most common, but leave a line for those who identify with others like Ze, Hir, and Ey.
Forgetting the guests
You may feel like you can be more comfortable using heteronormative language with hetero couples, but you would be doing yourself—and them—an injustice. Many hetero couples consider themselves allies and have LGBTQ+ friends and family members, so they will likely look at how their guests will be welcomed at the event. For example, a venue with gendered restrooms may turn off a bride and groom with non-binary or transgender friends.
Pro tip: Educate yourself to understand the sensitivities of LGBTQ+ guests at a wedding. If you’re a stationer, for example, display your knowledge of envelope addressing etiquette to same-sex couples and knowing titles such as Mx. for non-binary individuals.
The world is changing, and the wedding industry is following in suit, so it’s your responsibility to shift your message and communicate your inclusivity responsibly. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, apologize in private, learn from it, and move on. As humans, we all make mistakes but acknowledging it shows that you recognize the issue and that you aim to fix it.
Brittny Drye is the founder and editor-in-chief of Love Inc., the leading equality-minded® wedding blog and print publication. Her inclusive efforts have been celebrated by the New York Times, Forbes, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, Refinery29, NY Daily News, Cosmopolitan, and more. She serves on the 2018-19 North American Advisory Board for the International Academy of Wedding & Events and is a Wedding Pro Educator for The Knot.