This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.com, 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.
Last month, I led a WeddingWire webinar for premium members, designed to help LGBTQ friendly Wedding Professionals better serve same sex couples. Though we extended our webinar to answer as many questions as possible, we weren’t able to get to all of them. In my experience, if one person is asking the question, chances are several people have the same question. Find below one of the big questions asked, and my thoughts!
A vendor from Ohio asked us if I have any tips for Pros who want to promote their businesses to same-sex couples via social media, but are concerned about doing so because of a perceived potential for losing “conservative” clients as a result.
This question is one I have received in various forms over the years. When I first began this work more than 10 years ago, many vendors who were willing to serve same-sex couples would do so, but didn’t want to talk openly about it. Then, vendors became more willing to be neutral in language so as to be more inclusive without setting off alarms. And now, many more vendors are wrestling with the question of whether they should set up a separate section on their websites to showcase their specialty services for same-sex couples, or whether they should include same-sex unions and marriages into the larger mix.
But, even as most vendors are struggling with the question of “how” over the question of “if,” there are still Wedding Pros in some areas of the country who are concerned that they might lose the business of prospective clients who are opposed to same-sex marriage if they “come out” as a gay-friendly Wedding Pro.
Understand The Facts. Rather that make a decision that you think might be true or you worry might be true, do some research. Did you know that a striking majority (86%) of your peers responded in a recent WeddingWire survey that they do or would serve same-sex couples, largely because they believe in marriage equality? Do you know what partnership rights do or do not exist in your market? Just this week, same-sex unions were approved in Colorado! In Ohio, a recent poll by the Washington Post (Sept. 2012) revealed that 52% of Ohioans believe that same-sex marriage should be legal and only 32% opposed it. Make sure you know if marriage or civil unions are recognized in your state (I highly recommend Freedom to Marry as a resource). Regardless of what you decide, make sure you’ve tested your perceived fears against the facts.
Understand Your Market. As you think about your business and what your “voice” might be through any of your marketing materials—your business cards, website, brochures, galleries or tweets—make sure that you are in tune with your market. Do you know what specific demographic is looking for your services? Do you know who your actual followers are? Do you know where they stand on the issue? A majority of the Millennial generation (those born after 1981), for example, favor same-sex marriage by 62%. A majority of those who are religiously unaffiliated (73%) or are white Protestants (52%) and Catholics (53%) also favor same-sex marriage. If the majority of your clients identify as white evangelical or black Protestants, you may need to be more vigilant in how your frame your gay-friendliness, but recognize that support for same-sex marriage is growing and opposition is declining amongst most groups. And, finally, as you consider your market, consider the cost of losing a potential client or two relative to the cost of gaining a new client or two. Or more.
Understand The Stakes. There is no better example of this than Weddings Unveiled, which recently turned down an advertisement because it featured two legally married lesbians. A social media storm erupted and the editors backed down gracefully before sustaining too much damage to their brand. Another vendor in Maryland closed down his trolley business on principle because he felt that his stance against gay marriage (which was recently enacted in Maryland) was worth more than his entire book of wedding business. In both cases, the vendors were confronted with a question that had an impact on their reputations and their bottom line. The question for you is what, after researching the facts, you believe the cost to be for your vocal opposition or support, exclusion or inclusion or your silence.
Check back soon for another question and my advice on the blog, and if you are interested in serving same-sex couples, make sure you have selected to be listed on GayWeddings.com in your WeddingWire account.