I had another post scheduled today, but in celebration of President Barack Obama’s statement yesterday in support of gay marriage, I wanted to write on how important it is to ensure that the marketing materials you use in your wedding business are as gender-neutral as possible.
(A disclaimer: This post is for wedding business owners who support marriage equality and want to provide their services to all couples. If you don’t, what I am writing is not for you. Though it should be.)
There are some wonderful resources on the web for wedding business owners who wish to move toward marketing themselves in a more inclusive way. Bernadette Coveney-Smith has done so much for the wedding industry in terms of raising awareness of marriage equality, not just as a legal issue but as a business one as well. Her own wedding planning company, 14 Stories, is so highly regarded, and Bernadette offers a fantastic certification through her organization, The Gay Wedding Institute. If you ever have a chance to participate in one of Bernadette’s seminars, or enroll in her certification program, I can promise your eyes will be opened and your business will benefit from it. Be sure to check out Think Splendid’s fantastic interview with Bernadette from 2011 — lots of good information in there!
My own company has put a lot of effort into being completely open and affirming to all couples (something I touched on previously on WeddingIQ). However, even for us, gender neutrality has been a work in progress. Here are some things we did to ensure our marketing was as inclusive as possible:
- Combed our entire website, and every document we give to our clients, for any wording that isn’t gender-neutral. We replaced “bride and groom” with “couple” wherever possible, replaced “bridesmaids” and “groomsmen” with “attendants,” replaced “bridal party” with “wedding party” and so on. (I think using more neutral language when referring to wedding parties and attendants is helpful to all our couples, same-sex and heterosexual, because so many weddings are choosing their attendants based on closeness, not on gender.)
- Reviewed as many online advertisements and directory listings as we could find, to ensure that their language was inclusive. This has been a work in progress for sure, as any business that’s been operating for a long time undoubtedly is listed on a million websites (including some without their knowledge). However, making sure that as many listings as possible are written in a way that’s gender-neutral is well worth the effort, as you never know where prospective clients will find you.
- Checked any resources provided by outside vendors for gender neutrality. This was something I hadn’t even thought of, until two of our same-sex couples brought it to my attention. Like a lot of DJ companies, we use online planning forms that were created by, and are hosted by, a third-party company. These two couples both let me know that the forms were very biased toward heterosexual couples (basically containing the opposite of the neutral language suggestions I mentioned above) and were both uncomfortable and inconvenient for them to use. I was so grateful for the feedback, because, in spite of our best efforts to be accommodating, I’d never even thought to check these forms. Fortunately, we were able to make changes to the forms and now feel they are much more neutral for all our couples.
- Ensured our social media interactions were neutral. This was pretty simple for us, as we tend to refer more to “clients” or “couples” than “brides,” for example. However, just making sure that our posts wouldn’t be read by our LGBT clientele as excluding same-sex weddings is definitely a priority.
- Added an LGBT-specific page to our website. This may not be the approach for all businesses, but for us, the appreciation we’ve received from both same-sex and heterosexual couples has been so moving. It’s made me so sad over the years that, even though we’ve always been very upfront about our stance on marriage equality, we still have same-sex couples approach us apprehensively, mentioning in their email things like “we need to know in advance if you are willing to work with us.” Putting it front and center — literally — on our website has made a lot of difference, I believe, in our clients’ perception of us.
Bernadette Coveney-Smith’s websites and certification program brilliantly explain the business-related benefits to gender-neutral wedding marketing, so I’m just going to piggyback that, for any business owner — no, any human being — who claims to care about other people, it just feels good and right to use language that includes, rather than alienates, others. Even if you previously decided not to take a public stand for marriage equality, it’s never too late to change your mind. (Look at Barack Obama.) Even if you didn’t think about things like gender neutrality when you started your business, it’s never too late to make changes to your marketing. It’s never too late.