While most of our readers are couples planning their weddings or engagements, we do have quite a few wedding vendors who enjoy Equally Wed’s articles as well. One of the questions I get asked at most any function I speak at is: “How can I make my wedding business more gay-friendly?”
I thought I’d take a moment to answer that question the way I do in those conversations for everyone to have a better sense of understanding of how to make your gay, lesbian and transgender clients feel at ease when working with you.
It’s a matter of dos and don’ts, really.
Know that not everyone wants to be referred to as a bride or a groom. Some members of our LBGTQ community don’t identify with a gender or feel a connection to both genders, and many feel that the term bride is both antiquated and antifeminist.
Change all your materials (website content, brochures, all contracts) to reflect gender-neutral terms, i.e. the couple, you and your partner, partner A and partner B (in forms and contracts).
Be respectful to both partners, and treat them with as much courtesy and respect as you would for your heterosexual clientele.
Do consider putting out a basket of white knots in your office with a small sign that reads “I support everyone’s right to tie the knot.” You can get a few hundred mailed to you for a small fee from the celebrity-endorsed nonprofit WhiteKnot.org. This will ensure your gay and lesbian customers planning a wedding feel comfortable right from the start, and it helps educate your straight clients, as well. Proud allies are very influential.
Don't make stupid jokes, i.e. “Who’s the bride?” Whether your intentions are good or not, what comes across is “I’m so stuck in my self-righteous ideas of what a wedding consists of that I will never be enlightened enough to realize that love is love, and nothing else matters.”
Don’t ask offensive questions, i.e. “Are your parents supporting this?” (Whether they are or not is simply none of your business, and your question implies that you think the parents or anyone else has a right not to be supportive of this relationship.)
Don’t isolate your services to gay and lesbian clients by relegating your offerings to a section for commitment ceremonies. The term sends chills down my spine. It’s akin to offering your same-sex couples the opportunity to drink out of a water fountain with a sign above it that reads, “Gays Only.” Not cool.
Don’t ever use the term lifestyle when speaking about someone’s sexual orientation. We’re not necessarily avid tennis players or crazy club-goers. This is not a style of life. This is a genetic, innate part of who we are. We were born this way. A lifestyle is a choice, and being gay is not. Your use of the term implies that you think otherwise.
Don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that a masculine woman is going to don a wedding gown or that an effeminate man is going to, either. But don’t be surprised if they do. It’s just better to ask what they’re planning for their attire, and respond in a respectful manner. People of all orientations dress how they’re most comfortable – on and off their wedding day. The same goes for a couple's preference for two boutonnieres, two bouquets or one of each. Just ask simply what the couple is thinking for their flowers or cakes. Let them tell you instead of implying what you think they should do.
Don’t ask if this is legal. Don’t say “but this won’t be legal.” A wedding is a ceremony of marriage, a commitment of two consenting adults who love each other and are promising their lives to one another. It does not require a trip to the courthouse. Hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples around the world are holding wedding ceremonies without a legal marriage certificate because it’s the right time for them to commit to each other—with or without the government’s recognition of it. If you’re concerned that your clients aren’t getting full marital rights as a gay or lesbian couple, make sure you speak out on their behalf, give money to organizations such as Lambda Legal, Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign, and, of course, vote for marriage equality.
Photo: Ron Soliman Photojournalism
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