» A Fresh Look at the Legal Landscape for LGBTQ Couples

Photo by Hitched Photo

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

With the advent of marriage equality in June of 2015, the need for my “legal landscape” updates came to an almost complete stop. Gone was the need to help wedding professionals understand the nuances around the kinds of choices that same-sex couples were making when planning the weddings based on where they lived and where their unions would be legally recognized.

As 2017 comes to a close, however, there are a few important legal landscape updates to keep in mind. Highlights include: the recent same-sex marriage postal poll in Australia; the addition of legal marriage in non-U.S. locations like Finland, Malta and Germany; and the forthcoming Supreme Court hearing on December 5, 2017, Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Is Marriage Legal in Australia Or Not?

Australia has been engaged in a debate about same-sex marriage that has captured the attention of interested parties far beyond its shores. Its neighbor, New Zealand, recognized the opportunity for destination weddings and legal elopements when it recognized marriage in 2013. At last, the Aussies have begun to catch up and, in keeping with its political process, conducted a postal survey to gauge the interest of the general population. The results of that survey, after a high-profile and contentious months-long round of campaigning by those in favor of and against same-sex marriage, revealed that a majority (61%) of Australians favor same-sex marriage.

The vote-by-poll, however, is non-binding, and it is now up to the Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, and the Parliament to convert the majority opinion into law. He says he intends “to make their wish the law of the land by Christmas.” Presuming that this does occur as promised, wedding professionals and the hospitality industry expect to see business expand as same-sex couples, including this couple of 50 years, look to get hitched in their home country in 2018.

Germany, Finland and Malta Celebrate Marriage Equality

In 2001, the Netherlands was the first to recognize same-sex marriage, and, since then, 19 additional countries have followed suit, including Germany, Finland and Malta in 2017. Our global WeddingWire family offers inclusive resources for same-sex couples regardless of legal recognition, but proudly celebrates marriage equality with same-sex couples in most of the countries WeddingWire currently serves, including Spain (2005), Canada (2005), Argentina (2010), Colombia (2016), Brazil (2013), France (2013), and Uruguay (2013); and those jurisdictions in the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Italy where same-sex marriage is recognized.

Masterpiece Cakeshop & The Question of Service Refusal

Though the Supreme Court may have settled the question of marriage equality on June 26, 2015, it did not create a right for LGBTQ individuals and couples to be free from discrimination in other areas of their lives.  While many states have statutes that prohibit discrimination in housing, education, employment or public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, etc.) on the basis of sexual orientation, many others don’t.  An attack on one of these state statutes is being carried out in the context of the simmering debate about whether or not wedding professionals should be compelled to serve same-sex couples if they oppose same-sex marriage.

Enter the case of Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which will be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States on December 5. Richard Wolf of USA Today wrote of the long odds of the “tight-knit fraternity” of “same-sex marriage foes” in this hearing as they attempt to argue successfully that they have the right to refuse to serve same-sex couples seeking products and services for their weddings. Experts point out that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act  is very clear that businesses cannot discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation.   And, “at issue,” says the Center for American Progress, “is whether the First Amendment’s free speech and free exercise (of religion) clauses permit a business that is open to the public to refuse service to groups of people, in violation of laws prohibiting discrimination.”  It’s worth noting that arguments regarding free exercise of religion are not new, but the free speech argument represents a new approach.  Taken to its extreme, it means many businesses who claim that their work is “expressive,” including many in the wedding industry like photographers, would not be subject to anti-discrimination laws.

Beyond the consideration of this question in a court of law (the highest court in the land, no less) is its consideration in the court of public and industry opinion. Here, there is clear evidence that a majority of Americans (60%) do not think that wedding businesses should be allowed to refuse to serve same-sex couples, including an even higher majority in the segment of wedding professionals (64%). The question, asked differently in 2016 by WeddingWire, found that the vast majority (89%) of wedding professionals said that they are ready, willing and able to serve same-sex couples.

It is not surprising, then, that WeddingWire would decide to sign on to the HRC-led amicus brief, which argues that wedding businesses must be open to all. Said Timothy Chi, CEO of WeddingWire, “I wanted to clearly communicate WeddingWire’s position and underscore, in no uncertain terms, what we stand for as a company. WeddingWire opposes discrimination of any type. Love is love, and we support the right that all couples have to marry. Our company has a long history of supporting equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal treatment, with dignity and respect that is uncompromised. As such, WeddingWire supports the arguments of the respondents, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Charlie Davis and David Mullins.”  WeddingWire has also expressed its support for the Equality Act, a national law that would extend the protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides to offer as legal guidance to address the unfinished business of the 2015 Obergefell decision, engaged couples and wedding professionals will still have to lead the way in resolving this conversation.

And I believe it’s possible for love, compassion, and market forces to shape the resolution beyond the guidance the law offers us, and to pave the way for same-sex couples to enjoy both the freedom to marry and the freedom to be served.

 

» Engagement Photography for Same-Sex Couples

photography considerations

 

 

Photo by Kat Ma Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

Ten years ago, few same-sex couples were considering public ceremonies, and even fewer had access to legal partnership recognition. When couples did forge ahead into uncharted territory, most of their energy was spent finding gay-friendly vendors and worrying about whether or not family would show up. Engagement photography sessions were not yet a gleam in the collective LGBTQ eye, let alone the reality that they now are in the blogosphere.

Preparation Is Key

As same-sex weddings have become more widely accepted, more couples have begun following the traditional marriage prescriptions: engagement on a bent knee (or Jumbotron), engagement parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, wedding showers, weddings, and big receptions. You know, the works. These changes require that photographers take a deeper look at their skillsets, and the services they offer same-sex couples.

Couples, too, should become more knowledgeable about the kinds of skills, style sense, and creative talents available to them when hiring an engagement and wedding photographer.

A Dry Run

If used well, an engagement session can provide fruitful inspiration for wedding day planning. The initial meetings and conversations offer a chance to get better acquainted with the couple, establish a connection, and build rapport, so that you and your clients can become a team working toward a shared set of goals and clear expectations.

In-person meetings with both partners offer the best opportunity to get acquainted and consider any observable differences that will impact the session, such as height, body type, or other physical differences. Equally important is the chance to learn more about how each individual expresses him/herself most comfortably (especially with regard to gender expression), how each partner relates to his or her beloved, and how their “coming out” experiences have impacted them and their family relationships.

The engagement session also offers a low-risk time to take chances, unlike the wedding day, which generally has a tight time-schedule and compulsory shot list. It’s a good time to try out new concepts, poses, or lighting scenarios, and figure out what works (and what doesn’t) with your clients.

Five open-ended questions to ask LGBTQ couples as you plan their big day:

  1. Was there a proposal? If so, who proposed to whom?
  2. What are you going to wear?
  3. Will there be a wedding party? What are they going to wear? What are you calling your attendants?
  4. Will you be getting ready together or separately?
  5. Tell me about your ceremony. What are you most excited about? Is there anything that concerns you?

This post is an excerpt from The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (by Kathryn Hamm & Thea Dodds; Amphoto Books, 2014), where you can find even more photography tips and examples for those who wish to work with LGBTQ couples.

kathryn hammThis 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 PhotographyFollow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» The Value of Showcasing Inclusivity For All Couples

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.

Over the course of the last 12 months, I have been surprised by the number of conversations I’ve had with wedding professionals who share stories of same-sex couples being refused service and of some who fear losing business if they openly serve the LGBTQ community. These conversations remind me a bit of those I had with pros in 2005, and I want to make sure I take the time to support every professional who has questions about serving same-sex couples, no matter where they are in their journey.

But these conversations aren’t always easy for the wedding professionals who work in areas where marriage equality came as a result of the Supreme Court decision in 2015 rather than through a majority vote on election day. It may be the case that 90% of wedding professionals we surveyed in 2015 said they plan to serve same-sex couples, but a change in law doesn’t always result in a change of heart for everyone.

At our recent WeddingWire World 2017 in Washington D.C., several wedding professionals from the Southeast explained to me that they very much want to market to same-sex couples, but they are concerned about appearing as something other than “neutral” for fear that they will lose new business from those who oppose same-sex marriage. They are seeking ways to be open but understated in their efforts. These pros understand that it’s important to let same-sex couples know that they are ready, willing and able to work with them, and they recognize that there is still work to do.

Tips for showcasing inclusivity

In the course of these conversations, we talk about the different ways wedding professionals can showcase inclusivity for all couples, such as:

  • Updating your language to be inclusive of ‘brides and grooms’
  • Adding images to your Storefront or website that offer a more diverse, multicultural representation of couples
  • Developing a local network of like-minded professionals to reduce the feeling of market isolation
  • Identifying and establishing relationships with larger corporate brands with a local presence (great examples include Marriott and Hilton) who are open advocates of the LGBTQ community

Remember: Professional allies are everywhere around you; they often just need to be identified.

» 5 Things We Learned About the Diverse Needs of Today’s Couples

5 Things We Learned about the Diverse Needs of Today’s Couples’ Photo by Cynthia Rose Photography

Here at WeddingWire, we continually promote the importance of understanding today’s couples, largely millennials who want a personalized experience that might not closely mirror the weddings of yesterday. At WeddingWire World DC on August 14-15, we assembled a panel of trend experts for a discussion about “Understanding the Diverse Needs of Today’s Couples”, including Chezelle Rodriguez, Destination Wedding & Event Specialist at CD Weddings; Jacqueline Nwobu, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Munaluchi Bride Magazine and Anne Chertoff, WeddingWire Trend Expert.

Attendees were treated to insider secrets on how to appeal to and best serve today’s couples, whether they be straight or LGBTQ, of a different ethnicity or religion. Here are the top five takeaways:

There’s no “I” in team.

Although all couples are looking for different skills and qualities in their wedding vendors, modern couples really want a “wedding team”. That means they’re not just looking for a caterer to come in, set up food and leave. They want to know who you are, what your values are and how you’ll fit into their overall vision. So, don’t be afraid to show your personality to couples on social media!

Little details help when you’re in uncharted territory.

There’s a first time for everything. Maybe you’ve never served a same-sex couple before, but you’ve just signed a contract with a gay couple. Or, perhaps, you’ve mainly done non-denominational ceremonies, but your newest client wants a traditional Hindu wedding. Whatever the case, be sure to approach potential clients with the respect and industry knowledge that made them want to inquire with you in the first place. Of course, it helps to do your research before your first meeting, but, otherwise, be sure to listen actively, remember little things (like their names!) and be courteous — just as you would with all potential clients. Pretty soon, you’ll be confident and familiar with the couple and happy to add a new area of expertise to your portfolio.

Authenticity matters.

Weddings are highly personalized and it’s OK, if not preferred, to specialize in a certain aesthetic or style of wedding. This might mean that you turn down clients, or some clients won’t approach you, but it will also mean that you’ll spend your time working with couples who really enjoy the same style that you do. Millennials in particular are looking for wedding vendors with an authentic approach to their work, rather than a one-size-fits-all chameleon. This might come into play with a more curated Instagram feed or even working with other wedding vendors who have a similar style to create a styled shoot that represents your aesthetic.

Speaking of styled shoots...

They’re a great way to enter a new wedding market. For example, if you’re dying to book your first LGBTQ couple, but don’t have examples to show you know how to shoot or style a wedding for a same-sex couple, consider getting some of your favorite wedding pros together for a styled shoot. However, be strategic. Create a short list of wedding publications or websites where you can submit the styled shoot for maximum exposure before you spend the time and money to produce it. Also, when you’re sharing the shoot, be extra-careful to credit everyone who was involved!

Avoid the cookie-cutter approach. 

This is a phrase you’ve likely heard from a lot of clients — “I don’t want a cookie cutter wedding.” While it’s true that most weddings follow a very similar time schedule (ceremony, cocktail hour, reception, possibly an after party), couples want you to infuse their wedding with their personality and love story. This means listening carefully and asking the right questions, like how did you meet; when did you fall in love; what are some of your favorite things to do as a couple? From here, you’re able to present your client with your vision for wedding details that are meaningful to them.

» 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

» Our Favorite Same-Sex Real Weddings for LGBTQ Pride Month

Our celebration of LGBTQ Pride month continues with a roundup of some of our favorite Real Weddings featuring same-sex couples! (If you missed some of our other LGBTQ coverage, check out the LGTBQ Wedding Planning Guide, How to show your pride this month and a 10-year timeline of marriage equality wins for the wedding industry.)

Natasha and Bri had lots of fun at their North Carolina mansion wedding. See more of their wedding.

Photos by Johanna Dye Photography

Michael and Joey’s wedding at the South Carolina Aquarium was full of tradition and love! See more photos here.

Photos by Stephanie W Photography

Valerie and Nicole made gorgeous brides at their Riviera Palm Springs wedding! Check out their Real Wedding.

Photos by Randy + Ashley Studios


Terry and Julia brought the elegance and fun in equal measure at their Bay Area wedding. See more of their wedding photos.

Photos by Kat Ma Photography

Tony and Mike wanted a modern hipster wedding inspired by the Coldplay song “Yellow” — vision achieved! Check out their Real Wedding.

Photos by Rising Lotus Photography


Chealyn and Ashley hosted an elaborate elopement in Asheville, North Carolina on a picturesque mountaintop. See more of their wedding photos.

Photos by Meghan Rolfe Photography

Edgar and Macio were inspired by cherryblossoms, vibrant, pink flowers that symbolize love and friendship. Check out their Real Wedding.

Photos by Clane Gessel Photography

» 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.

» Just in Time for Pride! The LGBTQ Planning Guide

lgbtq planning guide

June is when we celebrate everything lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ), so we’re excited to share our first LGBTQ Planning Guide with you. It’s a great resource for clients (and potential clients) planning same-sex weddings with lots of wedding inspiration and practical advice to get started.

Here’s a bit of what you can expect from the guide:

» How to create your perfect wedding vendor team: It takes a village to bring any wedding vision to life, so we break down a few of the important players in the wedding planning journey.

»Fun facts about LGBTQ couples: A lot has changed since the Supreme Court of the United States recognized marriage equality on June 26, 2015, so we added some data from our 2016 Contemporary Couples Survey.

»A quick start checklist: Inspiration is great, but you also have start wedding planning. Our quick guide helps same-sex couples prioritize so they’re not overwhelmed.

Check out the guide for more!

» 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 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.

» How Photography and the Wedding Industry have Evolved Since Full Marriage Equality

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.

The aspect I enjoy most about my work is having the chance to talk with wedding professionals about the work they do. Though we often talk about same-sex couples, trends and marketing practices, I absolutely love learning more about the specific talents and “tricks of the trade” of those who work with couples every day.

wedding-photography-marriage-equalityIn this spirit, four years ago, I fielded a phone call from New Hampshire-based photographer Thea Dodds. And that phone call turned into a coffee and a two-day exchange of ideas and professional experience. The end result was our self-published title, Capturing Love, which went on to be published as The New Art of Capturing Love by Amphoto Books in 2014.

The collaboration was meaningful for both of us and I came to understand more about wedding photography — and the challenge of producing beautiful, meaningful and personal images — than I had ever imagined I might.

I decided it was time for us to catch up — and this time on the record. I wanted to know how writing the book and being on tour teaching same-sex wedding photography in the industry has impacted her perspective.

Here’s what she had to say:

It’s been 4 years since we first sat down to produce and publish Capturing Love. How has the experience impacted your approach to wedding photography and couples portraiture?

Four years! That is hard to believe! When we first starting writing this book we could count the number of marriage equality states on one hand. So much has changed in four years.  Co-authoring Capturing Love has changed me, too, both in my business and my personal life.  I’ve learned so much from working with you, my clients, and our contributing photographers, that it’s hard to know where to start.

Overall, I’d say that Capturing Love has helped me connect with my clients more authentically. In a large part, I’m able to do this because I’m more conscious of the assumptions I bring to the table. I also have inclusive language that invites people to share who they are. And all of this blends right into my personal life because this work is really about being a better person.  

How has it impacted your thinking as a small business owner?

Capturing Love was a wake-up call to me about how important our work is. Our photographs influence opinions so we better make sure we know what the work is saying. One of the things that drove me to this project originally was that I felt my photographs of same-sex couples looked more like pictures of siblings. Once I listened to what my work was saying, I was able to change it. Now I am concerned with underlying meanings, power relationships and diversity in my portfolio. For instance, now that I know the LGBTQ population is about 5% of the US population, I want to make sure that my portfolio reflects that. Now that I know a ‘dip photo’ communicates strength and power, I’m a little more cautious about imposing that message on a couple.  It’s not that I never do it because some couples want that iconic image, but I’m just careful that they’re not doing it just because I told them to.

What changes, if any, have you seen in the photography industry?

Change is the one thing you can count on in the world, and the photo industry is no different.  I’ve been photographing weddings for 11 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes in my clientele, in industry standards and in wedding traditions, too. In the last two years, I have seen a sharp increase of interest in serving the LGBTQ community. This is truly fantastic change. It’s not every day that you get an entirely new segment of the population entering the wedding industry, so this has been a very exciting time to be a wedding photographer; but, there is still a lot of work to do.

Some photographers may have rushed into being LGBTQ-friendly while not learning how to be LGBTQ-competent. Just like we say in the book, the only way to get better at something is practice, and the one thing you never want to do at a wedding is practice. A wedding is a wedding, but there are some physical and cultural differences that impact our approach to best-serving the LGBTQ community.

Continue reading

» Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth?

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.

What you are probably missing in your LGBTQ marketing strategy…and what it costs you

Those of you who have been in the wedding business for a while have come to expect the steady onslaught of email invitations and phone calls inviting you to advertise on blogs, in directories or with other business tool-related services. And, as I’m sure you know by now, all offers are not created equal. That’s especially true when it comes to trying to understand where to invest your advertising dollars to let same-sex couples know that you see them and are prepared to serve them.

What you are probably missing in your LGBTQ marketing strategy…and what it costs youIs it worth it?

As you consider your ad buys at the end of each term, it’s important that you ask yourself: Was the return on investment (ROI) worth it? And, if the ROI does seem to be measuring up, it’s then important to ask a deeper question: What is the cause of the poor performance of the ad buy?

When it comes to thinking about an ad buy targeting same-sex couples as prospective clients, possible answers to the second question why is my ROI so poor? could be the fault of the media/source you chose. Or it could be a fault of your own making. So before you cast blame, take a deeper look at the cause of the breakdown.

Common failures include:

  • Making an impulsive buy when contacted by a salesperson because the pitch sounds like it fits a need, even though you haven’t reviewed your business plan and the goodness of fit of the investment;
  • Making an impulsive buy when contacted by a salesperson because the pitch sounds like it fits a need, even though you haven’t asked the salesperson the right questions to determine how that return on investment will really work for your business;
  • Signing up to advertise in a new directory or publication that purports to specialize in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) market, but doesn’t actually have the reach, relevance or readership for your services or doesn’t offer any clear reports on the effectiveness of the buy;
  • Purchasing and setting up a listing with images and text that you’ve used in the past without taking the time to learn more about what will ring as authentic and meaningful to the couples you wish to reach.

Is it worth it? How can you work it?

Here are a few key things I encourage you to consider before spending another dime on a new buy or renewing another LGBT-niche-based contract to make sure that you are making a smart decision that will produce the results you seek. Continue reading