I'll never forget the day that I went for a cake tasting with a pair of my brides. We arrived to a bakery where I'd been plenty of times before and had great experiences. When she saw us, the assistant who greeted us that day said, "So, which one of you is the bride?"
I get it. Three women. Surely one of them must be the bride, another the Maid of Honor and the third a sister or the planner—or anyone but another bride. Right?
I was fairly horrified, even though I knew my clients would ultimately have a good experience if they did choose that cake (they didn't). I was horrified because it's my job to make sure this doesn't happen, and that day I failed myself and my clients. I should have called ahead to remind the bakery that the appointment was with a same-sex couple, even though I mentioned it when making the appointment. I should have and I didn't.
Fortunately my clients were very cool and forgave both me and the bakery. This kind of thing actually happens all the time, though—wedding professionals who assume that there's one bride and one groom. I hear from grooms who tell me about approaching a vendor and hearing, "So, where's the bride? " or "What's the name of the bride?"—as if it's not obvious when there's not one!
I know very well that this kind of oversight does not necessarily equal homophobia or discrimination. Often it's just an accidental oversight that carries through on forms, contracts, websites and marketing materials and in employee training. But it can be a very expensive accidental oversight for businesses who cater to the fairytale wedding and unconsciously turn off potential same-sex clients. Some couples are forgiving and others are not.
I talk about this kind of stuff all the time when I train those in the wedding industry about gay weddings through my workshops and webinar course. I get that the laws are changing and there's a lot of catch-up to do. But ultimately gay weddings are good for business. They might not make you rich but even if your business is just seeing one or two gay weddings a year, that can still end up being significant. And if gay weddings are not legally allowed where you live, then you might get some commitment ceremony business—it's still good to be ready.
If there are 2.3 million straight weddings a year, gay weddings will never come close to touching that number. But nevertheless, gay weddings are here—and here to stay. Isn't it time your business caught up?
I wish I made this stuff up but here are 10 real-life examples of things wedding professionals should NOT say to engaged same-sex couples!
"Where's the bride?" (to two grooms)
There may be one bride, two brides or no brides! Be careful not to make assumptions!
"Is one of you going to wear the dress and one of you wear the tux?" (said to brides and grooms)
Gender roles are archaic and potentially offensive to couples. Ask open-ended questions instead, like "What are you going to wear to your wedding?"
"That's not what happens at a real wedding!"
Who's to say what happens at a real wedding? What is a real wedding anymore? Don't invalidate this couple's wedding planning decisions.
"How do your parents feel about all this?"
Their parents may be over the moon, completely horrified, or a little of both. Ultimately it may be none of your business.
"I'm so thrilled to meet you. You know, I was bisexual in college!"
LGBT people hate to be tokenized. Don't try to relate to us by saying things like that. Just be yourself and treat LGBT couples with respect.
"I'm thrilled to be supportive of your alternative lifestyle!"
Being LGBT isn't a choice, so please don't make comments which imply that it is.
"Oh, is that even legal?"
Whether or not the marriage will be legal is irrelevant. If the LGBT couple wants to plan a wedding, fantastic!
"Which way do you swing?" (inappropriate sexual question)
Stay away from anything even remotely sexual ... it's none of your business!
"Yes, we will plan homosexual weddings here."
The word "homosexual" has all kinds of negative connotations related to the early days when it was actually considered a mental disorder to be gay. Stay away from that term!
"So will there be drag queens and show tunes at this wedding?"
Maybe. Maybe not. But just because it's a gay wedding doesn't mean that you should assume that all of the cliches are true.
Bernadette Coveney Smith is the founder and owner of 14 Stories, a gay-owned wedding planning company. Learn more about her and her services in our Local Resources marketplace of gay-friendly wedding vendors who service New York.
Photo: Annie and Sylvia from Real Weddings by Rachel McCauley Photography
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