Is Your Language Discouraging Same-Sex Clients?

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Kiss the “bride” and “groom” goodbye!

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Gay marriage is now legal in 12 states, including here in Washington. While the wedding industry is excited about the new revenue, no one can just assume that gay clients will magically appear. Especially if you are unknowingly making some mistakes that might limit your potential client base in the LGBT community. Let’s talk about what you can do as a provider to be sensitive to those client needs.

As industry professionals, we need to be aware of how much focus is on the bride and the word “bride.” If we are going to have marriage equality and nurture this new business curve, we need to change the way we talk about it.

I challenge you each to think about how you address these wedding industry terms. Listen to how frequently elements of nuptials are referenced to the bride. Changing your phrasing will make your client comfortable and affect the wedding industry as a whole. Even with the best intentions, it’s not easy to change, but start by considering the following terms and their gender-neutral corrections:.

Bridal suite = Green room. Yes, challenging, because some venues only have one room for “the bride.”
Bridal party = Wedding party. And honestly, gay or straight, wedding parties are often a mix of sexes.
Bridesmaids/Groomsmen = Attendants. (See Wedding party)
Bride’s side/Groom’s side = Ushers can simply ask seating preference within the space. Most same-sex couples don’t ask guests to sit on one side or the other. Read on for some Questions and Answers from some of my LGBT clientele that I presented to them in regards to working with wedding vendors.

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What was most important to you in hiring vendors?
Randall and Robert: We just want vendors who can deliver a quality product for a fair price. On top of that, a good working relationship is important to us. We want to work with vendors who are LGBT friendly and have their pulse on what is trending in our community.

Jennifer and Marita: Aside from quality, high recommendations, and reasonable pricing, sensitivity to our (somewhat) “unconventional” wedding was a must.

Were you interested in traditional wedding activities or did you want something that skewed far from customary?
Randall and Robert: For our wedding, we’re definitely not interested in most of the traditional formalities. And perhaps being part of the LGBT community, we certainly don’t feel constrained by any traditions.

Jen and Marita: We wanted a mix of traditional and unconventional. One of the beauties of doing a same-sex wedding is that the rules are already out the door, so we could really pick and choose what we wanted from the traditional, and make up our own version of everything else.

Did you have any interactions with vendors where it was assumed you were marrying someone of the opposite sex? If so, how did that make you feel?
Randall and Robert: So far, we’ve been quite forward in making our genders known early in the process. I think most folks who are in the business, at least in a state where marriage equality exists, have realized that not all potential clients are going to be heterosexual. Personally, if they initially assumed an opposite sex wedding, I wouldn’t be hurt. But at the same time, we are consciously making an effort to screen out any homophobes.

Jen and Marita: Yes. Because we were in Seattle, it really wasn’t a big deal. You correct the assumption and no one bats an eye. We found it amusing more than anything else. It’s kind of nice to buck people’s stereotypes.

What is one thing you would tell all wedding vendors about LGBT weddings?
Randall and Robert: I would probably just remind them not to assume anything. You’ll want to avoid the “Are you friends of the bride or friends of the…umm…other bride?” Better to take careful notes ahead of time to prevent future problems.

Jen and Marita: Embrace the opportunity to do something totally unique and outside of the norm.

Bottom line: Whether your state is qualified legally for gay marriage or not, should you want to attract LGBT wedding business, it’s important to address the terms you are using in your online and offline marketing, current contracts and practices.

About the author : Kelli Bielema

Kelli Bielema

Kelli Bielema is the owner and lead event producer at Shindig Events in Seattle, WA. Shindig specializes in offbeat weddings and corporate events. Kelli has more than 16 years in the industry including theme park entertainment, movie premieres and Hollywood parties.

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2 comments
ElaineWay
ElaineWay

Great post Kelli.  My learning curve was last summer when I officiated the wedding of two lovely women -- for free!  I told them that I had not yet had the experience of officiating a same-sex wedding and wanted to knock it out of the park for them -- so basically we were going to be each other's guides.   They were so grateful and informed me that they would like to make a donation to my favorite charity.  The day of their wedding was an amazing day.  My heart was beating, everyone was crying with joy and to say they were happy would be an understatement!  They went on to get legally married in the courthouse and invited me to be a witness.  I was honored to meet them at 3:00 a.m. on the first day same-sex marriage in Washington State became legal.  I think we were in the first 25 couples to enjoy this day in history at the King County Courthouse.  Since then I have officiated dozens of same-sex weddings.  I have found that I really didn't have much of a learning curve after all.   It's still all about the couple's vision for their wedding ceremony.  It doesn't matter what sex they are.  It's about the love that is shared between them and my passion to bring this love to their ceremony.  One more thing -- I couldn't be more proud of Washington State for passing Ref 74 in December 2012!

TheShindiggery
TheShindiggery

@ElaineWay What a fabulous story, Elaine! It's vendors like YOU who are helping lead the charge in equality for all, so YAY! And it's so kind of you to donate your services and in turn, for them to donate to charity on your behalf. I think more vendors could learn from your example. I mean, why not just say "hey--this is a first for me...let me help us BOTH along this journey so I can help more people like you?!!!" LOVE IT! YAY!