» Same-Sex Weddings & LGBTQ Planning Trends: The Real Story

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.

We often have a tendency to frame what we are looking for based on what we have known. And in these cases, our questions can be limited based on those presumptions.

In the case of understanding LGBTQ planning trends and the choices that go into coordinating same-sex weddings, applying what we have known (eg, the traditions and trends of straight couples) results in a miss on some of the most interesting aspects of how the behaviors of LGBTQ couples are changing.

Assumptions driven by a heteronormative filter – and one that hasn’t needed to question the legal accessibility of marriage or the limitations gender roles – means that key themes are missed. An assumption of the primary client as a bride means that the behavior of grooms is overlooked. An assumption that behaviors of white brides and grooms can be generalized to non-white brides and grooms may not always apply. And so on.

Same-Sex Weddings & LGBTQ Planning Trends:  2016 Survey of Contemporary CouplesSo we asked: What happens if you “flip the script” and ask the same questions of straight couples as you would ask of same-sex couples?

What happens if you compare the choices and reactions of same-sex couples whose marriages and engagements have occurred since the major legal milestones (namely, the 2013 DOMA decision and the 2016 federal marriage equality rulings by the Supreme Court)?

What happens if you compare same-sex to opposite-sex couples, and what if you look at what trends are changing for straight couples while asking the question if there is resonance in those changes with the wedding trends that same-sex couples have pioneered (i.e., blended wedding parties, avoiding certain wedding traditions, discarding a ‘bride’s side’ and a ‘groom’s side’, etc)?

Simple: By challenging the assumptions of the “traditional” one bride/one groom script and utilizing our peripheral vision to shift the context to be more inclusive of all couples, my team – which consisted of me and the GayWeddings team, the WedInsights team at WeddingWire, the experts at Community Marketing & Insights (CMI), and Bernadette Smith of the Gay Wedding Institute – asked better questions of all couples.

The result is the 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples and Current Wedding Planning Trends report, which surveyed more than 1,400 same-sex and opposite-sex couples who were married or engaged since 2013. Our inclusive and comprehensive nationwide survey revealed the clear impact that marriage equality has had on current wedding planning trends for same-sex, opposite sex and queer-identified couples. With the quickly evolving landscape of same-sex wedding planning underway, this is key; relying on outdated data to inform your business choices will put you at a distinct disadvantage.

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» #BridalRebrand: Being More Inclusive While Maintaining SEO

#BridalRebrand: Being More Inclusive While Maintaining SEOWith marriage equality finally legal across the United States, the time has come to take a harder look at the language of the wedding industry. But as WeddingWire Education Expert and Publisher of GayWeddings.com points out, inclusive language is important because it’s part of a larger trend that recognizes the role that both parts of the engaged couple – gay or straight – plays in planning a wedding, not just one partner. No matter what your feelings are on marriage equality, each time you use “bride” instead of “couple,” you’re potentially shutting out key clients who may be the decision-makers. And because most couples are primarily researching online, your website, online listings, or social networks could be the first (and only) impression that prospective clients have of your business.

It may seem daunting, but updating your language in your marketing materials and on your website to be inclusive can be done. In 2014, WeddingWire underwent a major rebrand for our annual awards program, previously known as the Bride’s Choice Awards. We updated the program name to WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®, which is representative and inclusive of all types of couples who submit the reviews that qualify each business. Our hope was to make gay couples feel more included in our brand, but also to make sure that any groom wouldn’t feel neglected or brushed aside by word choice.

From an SEO perspective, the biggest challenge lies in updating your online presence (organic and paid), which is no small feat in today’s world. If you’re an experienced wedding professional, you’ve likely spent years building up your search presence – so it’s important to keep your authority and rankings intact. For those considering a #BridalRebrand, follow these steps to adequately address all the SEO concerns that come with changing your company name, products, or website content.

Conducting keyword research

Your search rankings are likely built upon certain wedding industry keywords that you hold dear. However, most ‘bridal’ keywords have inclusive counterparts that make updating simple. Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to suggest alternative keywords for each word or phrase you want to replace. Here’s a cheat sheet with some of the terms that have the biggest impact in making all couples feel included. If you want to transition your language more slowly or offer a variety of terms, you can also add inclusive terms to your website, listings, and other materials and phase out the old keywords more slowly.  Learn more about where to start and how to update in our infographic with inclusivity do’s and don’ts from Kathryn Hamm.

Updating your content

Once you’ve decided which keywords you’d like to update within your site content, it’s time to make the updates. Some may be obvious, like your page titles and paragraph text. But don’t forget to update the keywords in your page URLs, the alt text of your images, and the meta titles and descriptions for those pages you’ve been updated. All of these are vital for search ranking, plus they’ll be consistent for any visitors to your site. You should also consider the diversity of your website images as well – if all your images are of straight couples or only brides, it can be off-putting for same-sex couples who visit your website. If you haven’t served any same-sex couples yet so you lack the imagery, consider buying stock photos or simply updating the photos to be general wedding images of your area of expertise: a close up of a bouquet, photos of guests dancing, venue photos, etc.

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» Marketing To Today’s Couples, Not Yesterday’s Brides

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.

Here’s a question I’m often asking myself: I’m a married lesbian who is a same-sex wedding expert and educator; so why am I spending so much of time talking about straight grooms?

Marketing To Today’s Couples, Not Yesterday’s BridesI knew that the wedding industry was not inclusive of same-sex couples when my straight mom founded our business in 1999 to support same-sex couples, but I had no idea that most of the industry language and habits chugged along so relentlessly exclusive of grooms.

Say yes to the dress. Sell the bride. Bridal shows. Bridal showers. High-end brides. Book more brides. The list goes on. But, thankfully, it’s improving.

A quick scan of the top conferences offered in 2015 revealed that the majority of wedding industry conference offerings referenced ‘clients’ and ‘couples.’ A welcome change, in large part brought about by the push for the industry to be more inclusive of lesbian brides and gay grooms who can now legally marry legally nationwide. And, of course, the introduction of resources like TheManRegistry.com in 2007 and the book, In His Moment, by Ross Oscar Knight, which focuses the groom’s oft-overlooked narrative of his wedding day, help professionals and couples remember that there is at least one groom in the mix at the majority of weddings that take place.

Further, Andy Whittaker, the Director of Market Insights at WeddingWire, ran a quick meta analysis for me and found that there have been notable shifts in the inclusion of “grooms” in the media. In six of the largest national and urban papers (both online and in print), there has been a general increase of usage of the term “groom” in articles since 2007, and a decline in the ratio of usage of “brides” to “grooms” in articles since 2011.

Old “bridal bias” habits die hard, however, and the home stretch will require that wedding professionals, writers, editors and publishers update their language – spoken and printed – to be inclusive of “brides and grooms” rather than just “brides.”

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» Wedding PR: Communicating Change

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

If January is the time to shake things up with your PR and marketing, then February is the time to focus on execution.

	Wedding PR: Communicating ChangeLast month, my friend and fellow WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm challenged the bridal bias in the wedding industry and it made me really think about change and how overwhelming it can be for the wedding pro juggling a million tasks at once.

Fresh off of my own re-brand, I can’t help but feel pangs of empathy when discussing the challenge with clients and colleagues eager to make a change in their own business – whether it be their name, brand or a combination of the two.

The good news? If you take it step-by-step and bring in the right team, the return on your efforts can be considerable. Sow how does one get started?

First, do your due diligence. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with all the to do’s that come with making a change, especially if you’ve decided on a new company name. The US Small Business Administration does a great job outlining the steps here.

Next, assemble your team. If making a name change, then you’ll want to connect with legal and financial counsel quickly. The right branding company can help guide you on your overall look – from your logo and marketing materials to your online presence.

In the midst of the above, you’ll also want to really start thinking about the message you’d like to craft and disseminate about your company’s changes. Ask yourself – why are you making this move and what would you like others to know about you as a result?

When communicating the change, you’ll want to think carefully about your target audience and the best channels for reaching them.  In addition to your prospective clients, you’ll need to consider your current and past clients (remember – the latter are still in a position to refer you!), colleagues you work with regularly and the media.

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» Challenging Bridal Brand Bias in 2016

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.

Having celebrated two major milestones in 2015 – full marriage equality recognition and the acquisition of GayWeddings.com by WeddingWire – I found myself in the position of asking if my work toward LBGT inclusion in the wedding market was complete.

Photo by Rhinehart Photography

Photo by Rhinehart Photography

One might make that argument. It’s easy to say that there have been many advances. We have:

  • Full marriage equality for same-sex couples in all 50 states and at the federal level, thanks to the June 26, 2015 US Supreme Court decision.
  • Representation of some level of training and education embracing LGBT couples at all of the major conferences for wedding professionals.
  • Attained a participation milestone of more than 120,000 wedding professionals in the GayWeddings.com LGBTQ-friendly directory of wedding professionals.
  • Realized an absolutely breathtaking, near-perfect count of 90% of wedding pros stating that they are ready, willing, and able to serve same-sex couples.
  • Enjoyed recognition by all mainstream wedding sites and a majority of vendor websites that prominent inclusive language and images matter.
  • Seen notable shifts in the inclusion of “grooms” in the media. According to Andy Whittaker, Director of Market Insights at WeddingWire, in six of the largest national and urban papers (both online and in print), there has been a general increase of usage of the term “groom” in articles since 2007, and a decline in the ratio of usage of “brides” to “grooms” in articles since 2011.

For as much ground as we’ve gained since 1999 when my straight mom opened the doors to her online boutiques and began our work, however, there remain some important blind spots in the wedding industry. Thus, there is some remaining work around ‘bridal bias’ to be done.

For some, there is a feeling that the LGBT market is one to be avoided due to its smaller size (4-7% of the U.S. population is estimated to identify as LGBT) or a conflict of belief systems. For others, especially where legal marriage equality is only months old, it’s a matter of ongoing education and exposure. There are also those who merely wish to stand on tradition and habit, and, of course, those who face a very real dilemma about updating a company brand identity that is recognized, has a strong URL and SEO presence, and seems to be working for the many brides seeking resources.

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