How to be authentically LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming in your wedding business
By Kirsten Palladino
More wedding and event pros are opening their hearts and business doors to the LGBTQ+ community. As this welcoming happens, it’s important to take note of the level at which businesses are saying yes to equality.
While running our LGBTQ+ wedding magazine, Equally Wed, since 2010, we’ve found that inclusivity and acceptance is happening on multiple levels, from “willing to take money from gay people” all the way to celebrating the full spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community. Being LGBTQ+ inclusive doesn’t just mean being kind to everyone. It requires more work on your part to be intentionally and consistently welcoming and affirming with your thoughts, words and actions.
For a wedding business to be authentically LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming means that you continually take the following measures to embrace all couples and marriers:
- Use gender-neutral language throughout your website and social media posts, i.e., couples or marriers instead of bride and groom. Keep in mind that not all LGBTQ+ marriers identify as a bride or a groom. So keep the gendered language out of the conversation until you know how your client(s) identifies. Use gender-neutral language in your contracts, i.e., couples instead of bride and groom. Other terms to consider include client, lovebird, partner or something specific to your brand.
- Share your pronouns whenever possible, and ask others to tell you theirs. Put them in your signature, on your name tags, in your bios. And though you might have been told that it’s “preferred pronouns,” that’s not accurate. The word “preferred” implies choice, and we don’t choose our gender identity. The best verbiage for your question is, “What pronouns do you use?” or “What are your pronouns?”
- Demonstrate inclusivity in communicating about the wedding day, such as calling the attendants the wedding party instead of the bridal party and referring to the getting-ready area as the “couple’s suite” or the “wedding suite” or “dressing rooms” instead of the “bridal suite.”
- Show a variety of couples in your business’ imagery, not just cishet couples. (Cishet means cisgender and heterosexual. Cisgender is the opposite of transgender. Cisgender people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.) Incorporate diversity in more ways than just sexual orientation and gender identity. Show people of all races, ethnicities, body shapes and sizes, and physical abilities.
- Celebrate LGBTQ+ couples and marriage equality with efforts that go beyond language by ensuring all other vendors you recommend are also LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming, and work with vendors new to LGBTQ+ weddings to make sure the couple is treated with respect.
- Train your entire staff to treat LGBTQ+ couples and event guests with dignity. Full stop. From the front of the house to the back of the house to second shooters to your valet team, no matter who is interacting with your clients and their guests, they all represent you, your company and your morals. So discuss your inclusivity mission with everyone working for you. Need help? We offer group and individual training as well as consultations and audits at Equally Wed Pro.
- Don’t tokenize LGBTQ+ people. If you’re going to do a styled shoot, use actual LGBTQ+ people. If you’re going to educate on LGBTQ+ inclusivity, bring in an actual LGBTQ+ person to do the educating. It’s inauthentic and insulting to our community to pretend to be something that you’re not or to elevate straight voices and faces over LGBTQ+ voices and faces.
- Speak up for LGBTQ+ equality in private conversations. If someone makes a joke about LGBTQ+ people or says something incorrect, say something.
- Do not do business with anti-LGBTQ+ businesses. Learn who is against marriage equality in your community and steer clear of them.
- Understand that there are differences between LGBTQ+ weddings and straight weddings, such as double proposals and inherent challenges that LGBTQ+ couples face in society and their families. Yes, love is love. We all deserve to marry the person we love. But it’s also OK to recognize that there are inherent differences and celebrate those differences just as it’s critical to acknowledge how hard it is to be LGBTQ+ and plan a wedding.
It takes sincere effort to be fully and authentically LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming, and I encourage everyone to do the work. In an effort to help our community have more LGBTQ+ inclusive wedding pros to choose from when planning their own weddings and to help the wedding industry lead with love, we built an immersive digital course that trains wedding and event pros and venue owners to be authentically LGBTQ+ inclusive and affirming on every level of their business. Ready to become Certified LGBTQ+ Inclusive™? Visit equallywedpro.com. Use code WIPA15 for 15% off your purchase of Equally Wed Pro’s LGBTQ+ Inclusive Certification Course.
Kirsten Palladino (she/they) is the DEI director for WIPA – Atlanta; the cofounder of Equally Wed, an online LGBTQ+ wedding magazine; Equally Wed Pro, an educational platform teaching LGBTQ+ inclusivity to wedding and event pros; and Equally Inclusive, a members-only education community for wedding and event pros who want to better serve historically marginalized and typically excluded clients and their guests; and the author of Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding.
Editorial note: This article was first published on equallywedpro.com, an online resource for wedding pros to learn through courses, workshops, training and resources on how to be authentically LGBTQ+ inclusive.