» Top 4 Questions about LGBTQ Wedding Terminology

education expert

 

 

 

 

gay weddings

Photo by Stephanie W Photography

For the past six years, I’ve been working closely with wedding pros in the WeddingWire family via webinars and conferences. And although the marriage equality landscape and technology available to small businesses has changed dramatically over the course of that time, the most popular questions I receive from pros who want to improve their service offerings to same-sex couples and the larger LGBTQ community have not.

This past Pride month, WeddingWire hosted our annual LGBTQ wedding-focused webinar (Premium members can access it here). As always, we hosted a lively Q&A after my presentation and, as always, I couldn’t get to everyone’s questions. Thus, I decided to take a few more minutes to answer some important – and common – questions about language for those of you who remain curious about improving your business practices to be more inclusive of and successful with LGBTQ couples.


“Do gay couples typically have a ‘Bride & Groom’ or is it ‘Bride and Bride’ or ‘Groom and Groom’? What is the correct term to use for same-sex couples?”

Some variation of this question was the most asked during our recent webinar. And, in fact, has been one of the most popular questions I’ve received over the years. Language is incredibly important in marketing materials (a proactive effort) and in speech (a receptive and service-oriented effort). One of the reasons this question persists is because there is no one-size-fits-all answer, although there are some general best practices to follow.

One of my biggest pet peeves for all couples in the wedding industry is the intensity of the heteronormative, gender-role driven expectations in planning and in the ritual itself. Truly, this limits non-LGBTQ couples as much as it limits LGBTQ couples. In my ideal world, each couple has the opportunity to participate equally in the commitment ritual that is most meaningful and reflective to them. Period.

That said, I offer this short answer to your question: the correct terms to use with a same-sex couple are the terms they themselves prefer. If you aren’t sure because, in your eyes, they appear to falling into a pattern you recognize as a ‘bride role’ and a ‘groom role,’ please ask them how they wish to be addressed and/or how they are referring to the event and their “roles” in it. Never, ever, ever, ever, never ask a couple: “Which one of you is the bride and which one of you is the groom?”

The majority of couples identify as “two brides” or “two grooms,” but this is not always the case. Sometimes couples might get creative with their language (eg, appropriating the term ‘bridegroom’ to mean something a bit more non-binary) and some might choose to go with “bride and groom” and be queer-identified. Just don’t assume.

Please also do your best not to overthink the issue. Be open. Be inclusive. Be welcoming. Be curious. Ask the couple about how they met. What they hope for in their wedding day. How you can best help and support them. And be sure to ask if they have any additional concerns about which you might not have inquired. Finally, be sure to give the couple permission to give you feedback if you’ve made a mistake in the language or approach you are using. Open communication and building relationships is everything. Continue reading

» The 6 “T’s” of Client Communication

Client communication in the modern market can be very confusing. Technology has transformed everything about the way we communicate, so it’s important to be familiar with the best communication practices. Check out this infographic featuring 6 simple tips to connect more effectively and get more replies from engaged couples from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg.

For more tips on client communication, check out this webinar for Premium members with WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg.

Client communication tips infographic

» Summer Reading List for Wedding Businesses

It’s summer and that means you’re in the midst of peak wedding season- who has time to read? Hear me out! When it comes to business development, you don’t want to fall behind no matter how packed your weekends are and reading the latest and greatest in business books is an easy way to stay ‘in the know.’ That way, you can hit the ground running when winter hits and you find yourself with more time on your hands. So, grab your sunscreen, some iced tea and relax outside with one or more of these bestsellers!

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

A fun fact about me: back in the day, I was once an intern at the Nike headquarters outside of Portland! So of course, the moment Phil Knight released this book I jumped at the chance to read it. It’s filled with tons of great stories about the early days of Nike, how he set himself apart from the competition, ignored the nay-sayers, and ultimately created a $30 billion company. For me, personal stories are the most effective way to inspire, and Knight’s story does just that.

Superbosses by Sydney Finkelstein

As business owners, we all have different styles when it comes to being a leader. Finkelstein’s book dives deep into what makes someone not just a good boss, but a superboss. Creating an effective master-apprentice relationship, the cohort effect, and how to say goodbye when the time is right are just a few examples covered in this must read. I am constantly searching for new and innovative ways to improve my leadership skills and this book has been a phenomenal resource.

The Power of Broke by Daymond John

As a fan of the show Sharktank, I was very excited to pick up Daymond John’s new book. In it, he talks about starting what would eventually become FUBU with just $40 in his bank account, as well as the out-of-the-box ways he promoted his products. John points out that desperation can drive your passion and push your creativity, efficiency, and innovation to the limits. If you like to run a lean business (I do!), then this is the book for you.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Yes, you’re a business owner, but working in the wedding industry means you’re probably also a creative at heart. Elizabeth Gilbert has been a long time favorite writer of mine and, in her newest book, she’s sharing her views on how to live a more creative life by being curious, braver, and more open-minded. Gilbert’s style will have you not wanting to put this book down and thinking about it long after you’re finished.

Enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation this summer in between weddings with one of these great books- you won’t be sorry!

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

 

» Wedding PR: The Art of Managing Press Expectations

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

Between print deadlines and calls for submissions, it can seem tough to navigate the waters of media relationships. It’s exciting to begin a press campaign for your company but with that, it’s imperative to understand press expectations so you can best determine if your efforts are successful.

Below, you’ll find our top things to keep you mind (and keep you going!) when managing press expectations as you represent yourself:

Patience is a virtue

PR takes time – it’s not a one-time overnight fix; it’s a continuous process. While it may be tempting to shoot out emails to every media outlet you think of, the best approach is a carefully calculated one. Take your time to properly research the media outlets that best fit your brand and create a media list based on your findings. From there, you can craft up a pitch to send along that shows how you can be of value to each outlet. With that said, keep in mind that not every pitch will get picked up but if you offer yourself as a resource and successfully engage with the editors, you can still consider that a job well done.

Print vs. Online

With the wealth of online media outlets and blogs that are available to us, it can be easy to overlook the value in a print feature. While it may not be your primary target, magazine placements can speak volumes about your company. When it comes to print, however, the pitching process tends to be quite different than that of online press. When we submit our features to an online source, we expect to hear back within several weeks and, if picked up, we expect to see it within a few weeks. Many magazines, on the other hand, are published quarterly, bi-annually, or even annually and come with strict deadlines, meaning you may need to hold on to that gorgeous wedding or shoot if you don’t pitch by the deadline.

Continue reading

» How Big Should Your Wedding Business Get?

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

I’ve had several conversations recently with established wedding professionals that were reconsidering their business size. Rather than looking for ways to get bigger, they were downsizing – on purpose. The most recent business was an entertainment company downsizing from a staff of 6 down to just the owner. I’ve heard this from planners and photographers, and other wedding pros. There are many reasons feeding this particular DJ’s decision, from wanting to simplify his life to being able to spend more time with his family. It’s what’s right for him and his family.

How Big Should Your Wedding Business Get?What’s right for you?

The only vision of your business that matters is yours. From however many weddings and events you do to how much money you make, the goals and targets you set should be your own. There’s no magic number that’s right for everyone in your market and category. Just as with the example above, there’s more to your decision than just money. I once had a wedding pro tell me that he wanted to do 250 weddings per year. I asked him why 250? He said that he felt it would present him as more successful to his peers. The problem with his strategy was that he was taking on lower-dollar, lower-profit business to increase his volume. While his total number of weddings was going up, his bottom line wasn’t. He’s since backed away from that and is happily doing fewer weddings.

Too many people try to model their businesses after others they see or, as with the previous example, they try to chase an arbitrary number. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring for more, just be sure to do it for the right reasons and get all of the facts. From the outside, other businesses often seem smoother and more successful than they really are. A common analogy is of a duck, gliding smoothly across the water, while it’s paddling like mad under the water. That happens a lot on social media, as we see a skewed view of people and businesses. Their triumphs are plastered for all to see, while their failures never make it to their posts and tweets.

business weddingWhat’s the right number?

If you’re currently doing 25 weddings per year and you want to get to 50, how are you going to get there? If you only want to personally do 25 weddings, who’s going to do the rest? Are you already getting so many leads that you’re turning business away? If not, then you’ll need to get more leads, which means increasing your marketing, advertising, and networking efforts. If you’re getting multiple leads for the same days, then you can’t double your number of weddings unless you staff-up. One person can’t be in two places at once.

I was consulting with a DJ company who told me he wanted to get from his current rate of 200 weddings per year up to 500. I told him that getting more equipment was easy. Getting more DJs, since he was already a multi-op, was a little harder – but still doable. The questions he needed to answer included:

  • How much could he afford to increase his marketing budget to extend his reach?
  • What were his plans for a new website?
  • How was he going to get enough leads to be able to close 500 weddings per year?
  • Who was going to handle the thousands of leads he’d need to close 500 weddings?
  • Who was going to oversee all of those new DJs and jobs?
  • What affect would that have on his family life?

Find the balance

What each of us needs to do is find the balance between size and profitability. Doubling the number of weddings you do may feed your ego, but if it doesn’t also feed your family, what’s the point? The key is to build a stable, sustainable business model, while also having time to enjoy the fruits of your labors. Don’t build someone else’s idea of your business. Build the one you can not only be proud of, but the one you’re going to want to run, day in and day out.

Now that my kids are grown, I’m grateful that this industry has afforded me the time to spend with them when they were younger. I’m also grateful that we’re in a recession-resistant industry. While things change every year, people are still choosing to get married – and if they’re choosing to have you be part of their wedding, you should be proud, and grateful, too.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.

» 5 Ways To Show Your LGBTQ Pride This June

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

Each June, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community celebrates Pride Month to commemorate the 1969 uprising in New York City at the Stonewall Inn (which was designated as a national monument in 2016). Many, including the Library of Congress, refer to Stonewall as a “tipping point” for the Gay Liberation Movement. Though some cities celebrate Pride in months other than June, most — including Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC and San Francisco — celebrate this month with festivals, workshops, events and marches.

In the spirit of “Gay Pride” and a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, I invite you to consider choosing at least one of these five suggestions to show your Pride as a wedding pro who is ready, willing and able to serve (and serve well!) same-sex couples.

Attend A Pride Event

Every city does Pride differently, but all generally offer a festive, creative and colorful atmosphere. Though many Pride events are rooted in marches and platforms raising awareness for and requesting equal rights for LGBTQ persons, they also offer social opportunities (which served an important role in the days when most of our community was closeted and isolated) and celebration.

If you’ve never been to Pride before, it’s a great way to see the community in all its glory. From drag queens and floats to marching bands, families and religious organizations, the annual parades have it all. Many of the festivals feature advertisers and sponsors at booths, along with local resource organizations hoping to connect with the community. Some Pride celebrations have featured entertainers and speakers (both national and local) on stage and others have workshops and parties in the week leading up to the march, parade and/or festival.

Attending doesn’t mean you have to join in the parade or march yourself, but you are welcome to join informally (I’ve just jumped in to walk in years past) or formally (by organizing your own group or walking with one with whom you are affiliated). You can also mingle with folks at the festival, watch the parade or look for digital coverage of the events to enjoy Pride virtually.

Find a Pride near you with HRC’s Pride search tool.

Share Your Pride

The LGBTQ community loves to encounter its allies as we are always on the lookout for safe spaces. Even today.

Did you attend Pride? Blog about it! Share your photos and moments of celebration via your social media channels. Interview couples you met at Pride to learn more about their wedding planning needs (past, present or future) and post the Q & A.

Were you unable to attend a Pride event? Add a pridemoji or GayWeddings logo to your site or social media feeds. Create a rainbow-themed version of your logo for the month of June or find a filter from an organization that supports the LGBTQ community and use it. Whether you are LGBTQ-identified or an ally, June offers a great excuse to show more visibility than you already do or to start doing so now.

lgbtq wedding pride

Photo by Derek Chad Photography

Learn More

Still feeling a little overwhelmed and nervous about attending a Pride event in person? I certainly know the feeling! It reminds me of how I felt before I attended my first Pride in Philadelphia in 1991. If you identify as straight and/or cisgender and are feeling nervous about being seen at Pride, this is a valuable insight. It will help you to understand how LGBTQ persons and couples may feel about approaching uncertain “mainstream” situations or weddings professionals. This is a great time to learn more via books, blogs and other digital resources.

Even if you are yourself LGBTQ-identified and/or a Pride veteran, it’s always important to keep learning. Especially since the needs of today’s younger engaged couples are evolving from what couples from the past 20 years needed. Read about the history of Stonewall. Browse GayWeddings’ LGBTQ Wedding Planning Guide. Explore GayWeddings. Read up on LGBTQ Heritage. Learn more about what the Q means and why we’ve added it to LGBT.

Review Your Business Description and Mission

Take this opportunity to show your pride by reviewing the language you use to describe your business. Are you still using the word ‘bridal’ or ‘brides’ to reference your clients? Unless you only work with women, please update your language to be inclusive of all couples by using “brides and grooms” or “engaged couples.” Make sure you are speaking to a wide audience everywhere you advertise. Do you include same-sex couples in your portfolio, advertisements, social media posts or website images? Do you follow social media sources, LGBTQ publications and blogs that specialize in the LGBTQ niche? Add them to your list and RT or share LGBTQ news or inspirational content with your followers and prospective clients.

Sharpen Your Business Practices

Register for the WeddingWireEDU webinar I’ll be hosting on June 20 for Premium members. Not a premium subscriber? Contact your CSM today to learn more about how an upgraded listing can help you generate more leads and access the professional development you need to sharpen your business practices to be more inclusive of all couples.

» Wedding PR: How to Shine a Spotlight on Your Business

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. She recently launched the OFD Collective, a wedding PR membership site that offers continuing education, press opportunities and real wedding submissions.

So, you’re doing amazing work and want people to know about it, right? Whole new audiences deserve to know your brand is ready to take over the world, but you need a way to reach them. Perhaps you want to establish yourself as an industry leader, and well, frankly, increasing your sales wouldn’t hurt either. A strategic and well-implemented public relations (PR) campaign is exactly what you need!

 

What Is Wedding PR?

Smart pros turn to wedding PR when they have a message they want to get out to a target audience and media is the main channel for communicating that message. It is distinct from two other popular forms of promotion: advertising and marketing, both of which have their merits, too. 

The big difference between PR and advertising is that the latter takes place in a controlled setting. Typically, you pay to control the content, placement and space used. With PR, you are at the mercy of the editor, so what you promote must be positioned to grab attention in a noisy world.

Marketing focuses on specific details such as product, prices and packaging. PR, in contrast, is all about the newsworthy story.

 

 

What You Must Consider in Advanceblog PR wedding

  • When pursuing a PR campaign, there are some important advance considerations. You’ll need to ensure that:
  • Your brand is exactly what you want it to be. When your PR campaign sends people to your site, you want them to find the right messaging and are far more likely to convert to sales.
  • You have evaluated your goals and are campaigning for the right reasons.
  • You know how to assess your analytics. Make sure you’re able to track how prospects find you through web analytics and contact forms that ask how they heard about you and your business.

Great PR takes effort and planning, so don’t neglect these considerations. Give them due consideration, check them off your list then follow up by choosing the right outlet for your message.

 

Pitch Wisely

To determine the right fit, you have to make sure that the media you pursue will actually connect you with your target audience, otherwise your efforts may gain you attention, but not the attention you need to achieve your goals.

 

Where to Begin: Real Weddings

A good place to start is with real wedding submissions, considered the low-hanging fruit of PR as they are heavily and regularly in demand. Real weddings promote your product and services to couples, but are also great for helping develop professional relationships and sources of referrals. Be prepared with permission to publish, complete background stories from the couple and vendor lists, and a list of important deadlines and publisher specifications. And always choose real weddings that promote the kind of work you want to attract. RealWeds.com, WeddingWire’s submission website, is a great place to start.

If you’re a great writer (or have one on staff), you might consider pursuing guest blogging opportunities as well. Editors love an outside perspective and access to great content that their readers will love. Don’t hesitate to reach out when you have something to offer to an audience you want to meet.

 

HARO

When you are ready to expand beyond real weddings, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with Help A Reporter Out (better known as HARO, or the PR guru’s Secret Sauce!). Every day, multiple times each day, HARO sends out a completely free digest of requests from legitimate reporters seeking sources for digital, print and television news features. Topics are high interest and enormously varied, and wedding-related pieces come up frequently. Monitor HARO regularly, and when you see an opportunity that you know is a great fit that will further your goals, follow the directions for contacting the reporter and share your expert commentary or advice as requested. Some truly amazing opportunities originate on HARO, and you’re certainly a perfect fit for one (or more) of them.

 

Ready to Begin?

Once you’ve honed your goals and message, chosen your target media, and prepared your pitches, the only to-do left is to put yourself out there! Don’t wait to take your business to the next level. Start today!

» Do You Hate (The Boring Parts of) Your Wedding Pro Job?

alan bergThis article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

I once heard a very famous speaker friend say on-stage: “I hate my job!” We, in the audience, were very surprised, until he continued that he loves speaking, he just hates all of the other things related to his work: prospecting, administration, sales, etc. Sound familiar? Do you love the creative parts of your work, but hate the business parts? Many wedding pros I meet feel that way.

Love it or hate it, those business tasks are what separate a hobby from a business. When I started selling wedding advertising many years ago, I remember visiting with a wedding photographer in his studio. His bookshelf had lots of photography books, but it also had business books. While his work was very good, there were other, more artistic photographers in his market. That said, he had a better, more viable business than many of the more artistic photographers, because he understood that he also needed business skills.

What are you good at?

Which parts of your business are you best at doing? Chances are, you didn’t say sales and marketing. If you did, good for you! If not, then what are you doing to enhance your business skills? Are you attending conferences like WeddingWire World? When I started giving presentations at conferences many years ago, the business sessions were lightly attended, compared to the sessions on improving your craft (floral arranging, video editing, etc.).

Over the years, I’m pleased to see more business content become available and more people choosing to attend. After all, you can have the best creative skills and not have a viable business. If you have great business skills, you can always hire the creative talent. When it comes to the business tasks, you can either learn to do them better or outsource them. I know how to do my accounting, but I use a CPA to do my taxes. They’re up on the latest laws and deductions, and have proven their worth to me, over and over, through their actions. I understand graphic design, but I hire a professional graphic designer, because they’re more creative than me. I understand website design, and I’ve written a book on websites, but I use a professional website designer for the more technical aspects, which are not my strength.

 

TGIF or TGIM?

In the 9-5 world, you hear TGIF from people who are looking forward to Friday, because it’s the end of their work week. In the wedding industry, Friday is the beginning of your work. Sure, you’ve been preparing for these weddings for weeks, or months, but you get to see the culmination of your work on the weekend. Yes, weddings can happen on other days, but the recent WeddingWire Newlywed Report said that, in 2016, 22 days accounted for half of all weddings. They were all Saturdays, and the 3 most popular dates were all in October. So, I can say, with confidence, that the weekend is likely when you’re performing your services.

Do you look forward to Friday, TGIF, because you’re excited about being able to bring to fruition your hard work, and to show your couples, and their guests, an amazing experience? Or, do you say TGIM, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, because your work is done? Yes, there’s a sense of relief in knowing that the wedding went off, hopefully without a hitch. Yes, there’s a sense of satisfaction in delivering your products and services, at a high-level, and having your customers pleased with the results. That said, some of you don’t get to see the faces of the guests, as they arrive at the wedding, or as they dance the night away. You deliver the tent, tables, flowers and décor, before the first guest arrives. You see brides in their dresses, in your shop, but not at the wedding (until they post or send you photos). You see grooms in their tuxes and suits, but not at the wedding. You see the invitations, but not the look on their guest’s faces when they go to their mailboxes and then open, with anticipation, the first impression of their wedding. So, do you look forward to delivering your service, or for the relief of it being over?

 

Inner pride

The most intense sense of pride comes from within. Yes, it’s nice to have others say your work is great. Yes, it’s gratifying to see their wonderful reviews. But, as I said on my recent WeddingWire EDU webinar, “Your ROI (Return on Investment) is in the WHY,” you should work the same, whether anyone sees you or not. Satisfaction of a job well done should be internal first. Know that you’ve done the absolute best you could for that customer. Take pride in that, and then look for validation from the couple and their guests.

Like it, or not, not everyone posts a photo or review. You often get little or no feedback from your customer, and rarely from the guests (unless you’re physically at the wedding). While there’s no shortage of egos in the wedding industry, your first goal is to feed your family, then feed your ego. Do what’s right, because it’s the right thing to do, not because anyone will notice. Then, get validation that you did, through their photos, social posts and reviews. So, love your job, or hate it (and outsource more of it), feel very blessed we’re in an industry that allows us to share our creativity on one of the most special days of their lives. TGIF!

» From Margins to Mainstream: A Decade of Change For Same-Sex Weddings

Education WeddingKathryn HammThis post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

On May 1, 2007, Tim Chi and the founding members of the WeddingWire team sat down in his pink living room in Maryland to change the wedding industry by introducing technology built to connect wedding pros and “brides” in the wedding planning process.

Meanwhile, just across the Potomac River in neighboring Virginia, I was taking a look at
the explosive growth of our site traffic (a YOY increase of almost 700%) at GayWeddings.com, which we had updated the previous year from our original sites (TwoBrides.com & TwoGrooms.com). The
Dallas Morning News had recently referred to me and my straight mom, who founded our business, as “some of the most knowledgeable experts on commitment ceremonies in the country;” and the only state that recognized “gay marriage” (the term commonly used at the time) was Massachusetts. Most weddings were ceremonies that had no legal component, and the couples who were seeking legal recognition lived in or traveled to Massachusetts or to Canada, where marriage had been legalized in 2005.

It’s hard to believe that 10 short years ago, the landscape for online wedding planning and same-sex marriage was so vastly different. The market still had a traditional feel to it: most couples planned using binders and “bridal shows,” we used different language to describe our ceremonies and customers, and pursuing a marriage license or experiencing federally-recognized marriage equality seemed like an unattainable milestone for the majority of same-sex couples. Even LGBT advocacy groups at the time, with the exception of Freedom to Marry, were hesitant to push for marriage equality over workplace protections and other initiatives.

FlowersWhen did marriage equality and same-sex weddings come to your awareness? When did you begin to advertise your services to lesbian brides and gay grooms? Here are a few special LGBTQ wedding memories from GayWeddings, framed against a backdrop of WeddingWire’s 10th anniversary. We hope you’ll share a few of your stories and milestones with us as well!

Same-Sex Marriage Map, State by State (Pew Research Center)

Detailed Map of Gay Marriage in America (2014) (New York Times)

2008 ::  Connecticut became the second state to legalize same-sex marriage and California’s Supreme Court legalized marriage until a ballot measure known as Prop 8 overturned the decision. In the short span of months where marriage was recognized in California, 18,000 couples rushed to City Hall and GayWeddings’ business was booming. As one of the few resources available to couples and professionals, we were a stop along the planning journey for most same-sex couples, and we received dozens of inquiries from national and local press outlets. Meanwhile, legislators reacted defensively in Arizona and Florida and passed Constitutional Amendments banning same-sex marriage. The New York times ran a piece featuring yours truly and my industry peer, Bernadette Smith of the Gay Wedding Institute.

2009 ::  Along came Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont, with Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty signing a bill of his own for the District. With more options for legal marriage, couples were weighing options about how, when and if to have a ceremony and this was especially relevant for couples in the Metro DC area who might live in a state where marriage wasn’t recognized (VA or MD), but could easily travel a few miles to get legally married. The Washington Post took a look at some of the conversations that local couples were having as they weighed their legal choices on the weeks leading up to marriage equality.

2010 :: Momentum was building quickly. Washington, D.C. marriages began, with the US Capitol as backdrop, and the stage was set for New York to follow on its heels. Meanwhile, we, at GayWeddings, realized that, much as we enjoyed being a small family-run business, that the bigger wedding planning sites in the market were catching on to the need to serve same-sex couples. The tide was truly beginning to turn as the industry grew to be more open to the conversation. At GayWeddings, we understood that we were headed toward full inclusivity, and wanted to find a business partner with whom we could work toward that end.

Enter Sonny Ganguly, CMO of WeddingWire, with whom I had a lunch that led to a milestone conversation. He introduced me to Tim Chi and the executive team and WeddingWire, and I prepared myself to pitch them on why marriage equality matters and the ways in which same-sex couples continued to be underserved. Their response? Complete acceptance and engagement. For the first time since my mom and I had begun our work in 1999, we encountered a “mainstream” influencer who had no qualms, self-consciousness or worries about open including and celebrating same-sex weddings.

Gay Wedding Trends: A 2015 Year-in-Review Snapshot2011 :: Following our preliminary planning work in 2010, GayWeddings launched its partnership with WeddingWire in January of 2011. With a flip of the switch, our “gay-friendly” vendor directory became the largest catalog of more than 20,000 wedding pros who were “ready, willing & able” to serve same-sex couples. That same year, Hawaii approved civil unions and New York legalized marriage equality, which (the New York City media market being what it is) created a tidal wave that was felt nationwide. The storyline about “gay weddings” being “big business” (like this CNN Money article) was the primary headline and wedding pros who hadn’t yet been paying attention began to be more open about considering the needs of and the opportunity in working with same-sex couples.

2012 :: The legal tide changed with a new twist in that voters (not judges and not legislators) in Maryland, Maine and Washington state approved same-sex marriage laws through popular vote. Our vendor directory grew to more than 35,000 wedding pros and we updated our language to be more inclusive, referring to it as “LGBT-friendly” rather than “gay-friendly.” I also found myself as an inaugural speaker of the first ever WeddingWire World at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Conferences had begun to be more inclusive of same-sex weddings in breakout groups, but WeddingWire was the first national conference (to my knowledge) to offer the topic from the main stage.

2013 :: Count this year as one of the most important years in the progress toward marriage equality. Two big rulings were issued from the Supreme Court. Thanks to the case of Edie Windsor, who sued as a result of the federal tax she paid upon the death of her spouse, the court struck down part of the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), which allowed couples who were legally married in their home states to also receive federal marriage recognition. Additionally, the Supreme Court refused to hear the challenge to marriage recognition in California thus reversing Prop 8 and opening the door to the return of marriage equality in California. Many couples (like my wife and I) used this opportunity to get legally married for the federal recognition, even if in-state recognition remained out of reach.

2014 :: By this point, as a regular speaker on the wedding industry circuit, I often found that, when I would say “marriage equality” from the stage, wedding pros would cheer. The joy and excitement was palpable. In fact, we found that the vast majority of pros we surveyed at the time said they were ready, willing and able to serve same-sex couples and our newly named “LGBTQ-friendly” directory surpassed 100,000 wedding pros. Meanwhile, there was still work to be done to provide a safe and open space for those wedding pros who had questions about same-sex weddings, had some religious reservations about participating, or otherwise were new to the conversation. At conferences, my favorite conversations were the ones with deeply thoughtful pros who were struggling with the new reality of marriage equality, but trusted me enough to talk through their concerns.

Legally speaking, appeals courts rulings struck down same-sex marriage bans in multiple states, but one appeals court upheld a constitutional ban making it clear that the next stop was the Supreme Court for all the proverbial marbles. Oh, and photographer Thea Dodds and I re-released our self-published book, Capturing Love, as The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography, under the imprint of Amphoto Books.

What does the post-marriage equality market look like for gay and lesbian couples?2015 :: A year I’ll never forget. In the early months of 2015, we completed the paperwork for WeddingWire to acquire GayWeddings, and shortly thereafter, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. One of the proudest moments of my life was standing with my mom and many members of the WeddingWire team on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. as the decision was handed down. WiFi coverage was sparse and digital channels were congested because of the crowd, but word spread quickly and the cheers were contagious as we learned that same-sex couples could now marry in any state in the US. As the year closed, I launched a new initiative — #BridalRebrand — and invited professionals to take their efforts toward inclusivity to a whole new level.

2016 :: In order to help others better understand the needs of same-sex couples (particularly wedding professionals and reporters who cover wedding trends), we worked with Bernadette Smith, Community Marketing & Insights and the WedInsights team at WeddingWire to develop the most comprehensive and disciplined study of current wedding trends for all couples: the 2016 Study of Contemporary Couples & Wedding Trends. This national survey featured the largest sample of respondents and, unlike any other survey to date, asked the same questions of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples — from identity to wedding ritual preferences to fears of rejections. The results were eye-opening.

2017 :: Ten years after the founding of WeddingWire and 18 years after the founding of GayWeddings, I hardly remember a time I wasn’t working with the WeddingWire team to improve inclusivity in the wedding market. I’m proud to be supporting not only the inclusion of same-sex couples, but also love lobbying the industry for more openness to serving men (straight or gay!) and other underserved couples who don’t feel that the market reflects them.


When it comes to love, there’s plenty of room for all of us. So, keep leading with love, listening with love and serving with love. In so doing, you can’t go wrong!

» A Decade of Change: How the Industry Has Evolved

 

 

 

alan bergThis article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

As WeddingWire celebrates its 10th anniversary, I wanted to reflect on the last 10 years in our industry. We’ve been through some interesting times. The economy has gone through some wild swings, and we’ve experienced major ups and downs in politics. However, as I reflect on what’s happened, I’m reminded of the old saying: The more things change, the more they remain the same.

I’ve lived through many more than 10 years in our industry, and some things are constant. We should all be grateful that we’re in a recession-resistant industry. Regardless of the economic climate, people are still getting married. Yes, how much they spend, and how they spend it changes, but that’s not just a factor of the economy. Styles change. Trends change. Attitudes and priorities change. Yet, through all of that, people still get married.

We’re really lucky


I often remind wedding pros, like you, that we chose an industry that has couples spending billions of dollars on their weddings, and they are not required to do so. There’s no law that says you have to have a party to celebrate your marriage. There are laws about getting legally married. But, there are no laws about having food, pictures, music, flowers, fashion, etc. Those are discretionary purchases. Most discretionary purchases are highly affected by the economy, swinging with it up and down. Not weddings. Weddings happen, no matter what.

My theory on this (not scientific, just one man’s opinion) is that no one goes into their wedding thinking it’s practice for the next time. We all hope, and many of us are right, that it’s one and done. My parents just celebrated their 63rd anniversary, a benchmark we’d all like to achieve. So, we spend boatloads of money, celebrating the occasion. We should be thankful, every day.

Here are a few of my observations about the last decade:

Technology – If there’s one thing that’s constant, it’s changing technology. Sure, we all had websites 10 years ago, or knew we needed them, but the underlying technology of them is always changing. Much of what we used to do only on desktop computers, we now do on our mobile devices. It’s not better, or worse; it’s just different. For many of you, the technology of your service has changed. Think DJs going from LPs to CDs to all-digital music. Does that make you a better DJ? No. But, it helps you help your couples.

Communication – Whether it’s Facebook Messenger, LiveChat, Texting or WhatsApp, lots of new communication platforms have come along in the last 10 years. I hated Facebook Messenger when it first arrived. I didn’t think I needed it, as I already had phone, email and text. I quickly learned to love it, as clients, and potential clients, started to reach out to me through it. I can attribute real dollars to conversations that were started through Facebook Messenger, texting and WhatsApp. Today, I’ll embrace almost any technology that my clients want to use to connect with me.

Social Media – Here’s a statement of the obvious: social media has fundamentally changed our lives. Whether it’s for the better, or worse, is up to you to decide. All I know is that 10 years ago I wasn’t investing the time I do today in social media. Where did we get that time? What are we not doing now, that we were doing with that time 10 years ago? We didn’t get any more time, so it had to get shifted from other activities. That said, I use particular social media platforms because I get positive return on my investment in time and effort, and yes, money (if I buy an ad, or boost a post). Many of the wedding pros I meet, and consult with, have no idea if they’re getting any return on their investments. They do it because they feel they have to. Did you jump into the deep end of the social media pool, because everyone else was in the pool? Or, did you first learn how to be a great swimmer, and then jump in?

Social Proof – Here’s a phrase we weren’t using 10 years ago. According to a WeddingWire study, nearly 90% of consumers trust online reviews, as much as personal recommendations. So, while 10 years ago couples were asking their friends, family and coworkers for recommendations, now, with over 3 million reviews on WeddingWire alone, they can go online and find out who you really are. I’ve said this many times: your brand is defined by what your customers say about you, after they’ve worked with you. You need to be highlighting your reviews everywhere: on your website (not just on a testimonials page, as no one goes there) and in your marketing. You need to be actively involved in the process, responding to your good reviews, requesting reviews and yes, addressing anything negative, quickly and professionally. Your brand and your reputation is out there, for everyone to see… whether you choose to see it or not. Be involved.

Sales – Here’s something that hasn’t fundamentally changed. Sales is, and will always be, about people. Yes, you’ll use different technologies in your process, but ultimately, it’s people, buying from people. If you learn how to effectively help people buy, the technology is inconsequential. Artificial intelligence is a long way from being able to take the job of a salesperson in your business. You need to make a connection. You need to ask better questions. You need to really listen to the answers, and then show the customer how you, and only you, can deliver the results they want. That hasn’t changed in the last 10 years, and it’s not going to change in the next decade, if ever. If there’s one skill you need to hone, whether you’ve been selling for 20 minutes, or 20 years, it’s your sales skills. If you don’t make the sale, you don’t get to ply your craft and show your skills. It’s that simple.

So, what’s happened in the last 10 years? I remember first meeting Tim and Sonny at the Wedding MBA conference, 10 years ago. I was impressed with them, even though I was a competitor at the time. I’ve watched, from the sidelines, as WeddingWire has grown, and matured, yet still manages to remain nimble, something that’s not easy to do. I’m proud to be connected with WeddingWire for over 5 years now, and I’m looking forward to the next 10. I wish you all a decade of success!

» Easy Peasy PR Tips for Small Business Pros

 

 

Being a small business owner comes with a lot of ups, downs and everything in between. It can sometimes feel like you are forever performing a balancing act of appointments, events, and paperwork- the list of responsibilities goes on and on.

Carving out time for things like public relations is important, but can sometimes end up towards the bottom of a never-ending to-do list. The good news is that there are tons of easy tips and tricks to help you grow your company’s PR profile that won’t compete with your busy schedule. Here are some great ways to get your name out there, regardless of how busy you are.

Embrace Real Wedding Submissions

Investing time into real wedding submissions is one of the best first steps you can take as a wedding pro. Getting your work in front of engaged couples on wedding blogs and magazines can have a huge impact on your business. However, in the last several years, it has become an increasingly competitive PR method and the submission pool is overflowing with weddings.

To catch the editor’s attention, follow these guidelines:

  • Do your research: Take some time to create a ‘wish list’ of where you want to be featured and take a look at the kinds of weddings they are showcasing. You want to match your work with the media outlets that feature complementary content so that your entry is competitive.
  • Follow the rules: Surprisingly, a lot of people who submit to wedding blogs don’t look at the guidelines on the website before sending in their submission. To stand out, be sure you are following the rules to the letter.
  • It’s all about the details: Nearly every wedding blog is looking for fresh details to highlight (think unique cakes, centerpieces, flowers, stationery and the like), so be sure to include them with each submission.
  • Tell a story: Images are the focal point of any wedding submission, but if the editor has the couple’s story to go along with those photos, you are more likely to grab their attention. Ask couples what inspired them, their engagement story, favorite wedding day moments, and anything else that makes their big day stand out.  

Use Free/Low Cost Tools

As business owners, the word ‘streamlining’ has a very important place in our vocabulary. Having easy-to-use tools in your back pocket can make a world of difference when it comes to managing your time.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Talkwalker Alerts: If you’ve got a feature coming out but don’t have time to keep checking the site to see if it’s live, Talkwalker Alerts is a must-have. It will notify you via email when your feature has been posted so you can get to promoting.
  • Wufoo: If you like to get insight from clients, Wufoo is the perfect tool for you. It is an easy-to-use questionnaire builder that provides you with a link to send out once finalized. Once the form has been completed by the recipient, you will receive an email with their answers to know it has been submitted.
  • HARO: Short for Help a Reporter Out, HARO has been an integral part of my own business for years. Scouring the internet looking for press opportunities can be a full-time job, and this tool brings writers and editors on the hunt for expert commentary directly to your inbox.   

Offer Yourself as a Resource

Introduce yourself to your local mainstream outlets as a resource. Find out who writes about wedding content in local mainstream magazines and outlets, and make sure to find the best person to reach out to (hint: run a search on the word ‘wedding’ and see what comes up). Send an email to introduce yourself and let them know your area of expertise, as well as the best way to reach you for future articles. 
With these tips in your arsenal, it’s time to take out that to-do list and move your public relations efforts up a few pegs- trust me, you won’t regret it!   

Exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR agency OFD Consulting. She also leads the newly launched OFD Collective, a membership based community of wedding professionals seeking PR education and publicity opportunities for their business.

» A Roadmap to Inclusive Language For Wedding Show Producers

 

 

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

A year and a half ago, I spoke with a number of wedding professionals, including Meghan Ely of OFD Consulting and Marc McIntosh of the Wedding Experience, about the importance of challenging bridal bias in 2016. That is, the importance of taking an in-depth look at one’s marketing language and, as needed, looking for ways to update and reinvent one’s marketing language to be more inclusive of both brides and grooms. For some (and you know who you are), this might also include completely rebuilding your brand or business name to be more relevant in today’s marketplace.

It’s a little campaign I like to call #BridalRebrand.

After more than a year’s worth of conversations with Marc about this topic, I reached out to him for an update on the work he’s done to challenge bridal bias, refresh his brand, and continue to evolve his product. As you’ll see in our conversation below, he has taken the concept of undertaking a #BridalRebrand to a whole new level.

As you consider this update in the Wedding Experience rebranding journey (the backstory of which you can read here), I hope you’ll also consider the scale and impact with which his work impacts our industry — couples and professionals alike.

Further, I hope you’ll take note: if you are a wedding professional who markets your services through expos like the Wedding Experience, it’s incredibly important for you to recognize how any bridal bias you have in your marketing language might be interpreted and potentially draw the wrong kind of attention to your brand.

Remember: unless your services are intended exclusively for women (eg, wedding gowns), wedding marketing needs to be about “brides and grooms” and/or “engaged couples.” Undertaking a #BridalRebrand may feel daunting but it’s doable. Case in point: the evolution of the Wedding Experience.

KATHRYN: Beyond updating your general language to be more inclusive (for example, using  “engaged couples” and “brides and grooms” instead of “brides”), what other changes did you make in your marketing materials?

MARC: In the past, when we relied primarily on mass-appeal advertising, our message tended to focus on the white female that made up the majority of our audience. Today, there are advertising opportunities that can be narrowly targeted, including social media, online music services and retargeting ads. We can now run ads that reach, for example, only Hispanic engaged couples within a 25 mile radius of our event. This has allowed us to target specific audience segments with a message that speaks directly to them.

While our events have always been designed to be open and inviting to everyone, we didn’t do a great job of communicating that in our advertising. Through targeting, we are now able to appeal to attendees regardless of their ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation. We have advertising that includes images of same-sex couples, and we were the first major wedding show producer to do so.  We have also integrated images that include multi-cultural couples, and we now include models of various shapes and sizes in our fashion shows.

 

“I see our changes as more evolutionary than revolutionary.”

– Marc McIntosh, The Wedding Experience

 

K: Did you run into any roadblocks or special challenges in implementing inclusive language in your print materials vs. your digital materials?

M: We have two audiences, the couples who attend our shows and the wedding professionals who exhibit. Our changes on the attendance side were relatively easy and involved tweaks to our advertising, registration forms and show branding. The changes on the wedding professional side proved to be a bit more challenging. Our exhibitor marketing materials screamed ‘bride’ (‘hundreds of brides attend’, ‘sell to a huge audience of brides’, etc.). The word ‘bride’ was so easy to use (and overuse), and we found that simply replacing it with ‘engaged couple’, or something similar, was a bit awkward at times. Making this change required a major rewrite of our marketing materials, but I am happy with the end result.

K: As you look back, what was the single most difficult hurdle to navigate during your #BridalRebrand overhaul?

M: The biggest hurdle was deciding how we were going to change our advertising to appeal to same-sex couples. Although same-sex marriage is legal, unfortunately, it is still a controversial subject and not yet universally accepted. This is a particular concern in the more conservative markets in which we produce our events. We realized that our changes might offend some prospective attendees and exhibitors, so the challenge was to find the right balance. Once we decided to make the changes, we proceeded without hesitation.  

 

“The best piece of advice that I can offer…is that being more inclusive in your marketing message can result in increased business.”

– Marc McIntosh, The Wedding Experience

 

K: What was easier to implement than you expected?

M: I see our changes as more evolutionary than revolutionary.  We have always strived to be fresh and relevant, and our ‘Bridal Rebrand’ was a continuation of that process. Many of our changes were very easy, such as changing the wording on the buttons we give out at our shows. These now read ‘I’m Getting Married’ instead of ‘Bride To Be’.

K: What sort of feedback have you gotten from the wedding professionals and engaged couples with whom you work?

M: We haven’t received a lot of feedback, either positive or negative, and that is exactly what we wanted. Our attendee audience turns over every year, as people enter the market when they are engaged and leave when they are married. The result is that most are seeing our advertising for the first time and don’t notice that we’ve made changes.

That said, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of couples attending our shows, whereas in the past our attendance was overwhelmingly female.  We have seen a small increase in same-sex couples, but not as many as we would like to see, so we continue to tweak our advertising to that market segment.

K: Anything else you’d like to add or additional advice you’d offer to your colleagues in the industry?

The best piece of advice that I can offer, which was my largest takeaway from all of the work we have done together, is that being more inclusive in your marketing message can result in increased business.  The millennial audience, regardless of their demographic, like and appreciate businesses that are inclusive.

Editor’s Note: if you are looking for a market research resource, check out WeddingWire’s WedInsights.