How to Be Authentically LGBTQ+ Inclusive in Your Wedding Business

As we celebrate five years with full marriage equality in the United States on June 26, 2020, more wedding 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 my LGBTQ+ wedding magazine, Equally Wed for the past decade, I’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 intentionally be welcoming with your words and actions.

For a wedding business to be authentically LGBTQ+ inclusive means that you have taken at least these measures to embrace all couples:

  1. 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.
  1. Share your pronouns whenever possible, and ask others to tell you theirs. Put them in your signature, on your nametags, 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?”
  1. 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” instead of the “bridal suite.”
  1. 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.) I highly recommend incorporating diversity in more ways than just sexual orientation and gender identity. Show people of all races, ethnicities, body shapes and sizes, and physical abilities.
  1. Celebrate LGBTQ+ couples and marriage equality with efforts that go beyond language by ensuring all other vendors you recommend are also LGBTQ+ inclusive, and work with vendors new to LGBTQ+ weddings to make sure the couple is treated with respect.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Speak up for LGBTQ+ equality in private conversations. If someone makes a joke about LGBTQ+ people or says something incorrect, say something. 
  1. Do not do business with anti-LGBTQ+ businesses. Educate yourself on how companies like Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A give hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations actively fighting against LGBTQ+ rights.
  1. 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.

It takes sincere effort to be fully and authentically LGBTQ+ inclusive, 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, my wife and I built an immersive digital course that trains wedding pros and venue owners to be LGBTQ+ inclusive on every level of their business.

Everyone who graduates from the Equally Wed Pro online course receives their CIP (certified inclusive professional) credential as well as a complimentary listing in our directory of LGBTQ+ inclusive wedding professionals on the leading LGBTQ+ wedding website, Equally Wed.

Kirsten Palladino

Kirsten Ott Palladino (she/her) is a multi-award-winning seasoned writer and editor with 20 years in media. Ott Palladino has served as editor at several newspapers and magazines, both regional and national. She’s been a guest speaker on air on CNN, NPR and several iHeartRadio shows and podcasts, as well as has spoken at multiple wedding conferences around the globe, including Engage Summits and WIPA. In 2010, along with her wife, Maria, the Athens, Ga., native launched Equally Wed, the digital leader for gay, lesbian, transgender, queer and bisexual weddings after realizing that nothing similar existed on the market when the couple was planning their own nuptials. She is the author of the book “Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding” (2017). In 2019, she and her wife launched Equally Wed Pro, an LGBTQ+ inclusive educational platform to teach wedding and hospitality pros how to be authentically LGBTQ+ inclusive.

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