» Wedding MBA 2017: Special Savings for WeddingWire Members

Don’t miss three exciting days of education for wedding professionals at Wedding MBA this October 2-4th in Las Vegas!

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Did you know you can save extra on your ticket just by being a WeddingWire member? Register on the Wedding MBA website with the code WW3624 to save an extra $20 on the current price (your discount will be applied at checkout).

What will you experience at Wedding MBA?

  • Engaging education to promote your business success. Attend the event for more than 150 seminars geared toward business, technology and trends in the wedding industry. This year, there are category-specific seminars on the first day to supplement the industry relevant main presentations to attend.
  • Presentations from industry leaders and experts. Attend inspirational and informative presentations from top industry influencers including WeddingWire CEO Timothy Chi, CMO Sonny Ganguly, Education Experts Alan Berg, Kathryn Hamm, Meghan Ely, and many more. View the full list of WeddingMBA speakers and sessions here.
  • Networking and celebrating with industry peers. Make new friends while attending the daily sessions, the annual much-anticipated WeddingWire Party, the WeddingWire Happy Hour and more. Plus, meet with members of the WeddingWire team to discuss your account and see what fun surprises we have in store at our Lounge!

Check out the highlights from last year’s event for an inside look at the conference, and get your ticket before the next price increase. See you in Vegas this fall!

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» Bridging Differences for Business Growth

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kathryn-hamm-2016This 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.

It’s the time of year that your phones are buzzing and your inbox is filling with new leads from happy couples, ready to finalize a wedding date and and all of the services they’ll need to design a celebration they’ll remember forever.  So, before engagement season comes to an end, be sure you’re ready to serve all potential clients—even the ones who may differ from you.

 

Start With A Self-Audit

Since we’re early in the season, let’s think about setting the stage for growth and begin with a quick self-audit. As your leads roll in, what patterns are you noticing? Collectively speaking, are the inquiries following patterns of years’ past? Are you having conversations with couples that follow the same trajectory of questions? Are the couples with whom you are meeting booking you for their weddings at a higher or lower rate than in previous years?

These are all important questions, which have been addressed in various ways by my EDU peers, to help you consider the efficiency of your business. And, now, more than ever, the WeddingWire Storefront for wedding professionals offers many robust tools to get answers to some of these reflective, data-based questions.

 

Consider Your Inclusivity, Part One

On the question of becoming more inclusive of same-sex couples, how’s that going for you? Are you looking at the leads you’re generating from same-sex couples and evaluating your success? Are you booking those couples? Where are those leads coming from? Are they satisfied with your service? Or are you not getting any inquiries from same-sex couples?

Before you get overly critical about the results of your efforts to be more inclusive of same-sex couples, please allow me to suggest a rough measure by which to judge your efficacy: recent research suggests that roughly 4-7% of the population identifies as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). Thus, it’s reasonable to set a goal for yourself to have 5-10% of your overall inquiries be represented by same-sex couples and 5-10% of your overall contracts to be represented by same-sex couples. When you think about your current track record and projections for 2017, how do your efforts measure up to that rough indicator?

wedding professionals differences diversity business practices

Consider Your Inclusivity, Part Two

My advice to you as you begin to challenge your old assumptions for growth in 2017 and not to, don’t just stop at being inclusive of same-sex couples. Have you considered what religious faiths seem most likely to book your services? What about couples of a different racial or ethnic group than the majority of you and/or your staff? For those of you who’ve been in the market since the days that we used phone calls and paper instead of text messages and electronic contracts, what sort of communications and success are you having with Millennial couples?

Challenging your assumptions, asking questions about what your first impulse is when marketing to and interacting with prospective clients, and taking steps to expand your comfort zone might result in broadening your business and solving a problem (that is a limitation to your ROI) you didn’t realize you had.

 

Bridging Beyond Discomfort

Ready for a deeper dive into converting a self-audit and openness to inclusivity to the next level? Begin by asking yourself these questions: When you open your inbox and see an inquiry from someone with a name you can’t easily pronounce or if you realize you can’t determine the gender of the person, what do you do next? When you meet a prospective client with a visible disability or encounter a language barrier, what do you? When a client identifies themselves to you as queer, how do you react?

Ultimately, it’s important to ask yourself if your well-intentioned concern about a lack of information or discomfort with someone unfamiliar to you negatively informs how you respond. You might find that you feel uncomfortable and less sure of yourself in a conversation, creating an awkwardness that interferes with the relationship. You might take longer to reply as you worry about what to do, thus reducing the chance that the inquiry advances. You might avoid asking the questions you normally would or give advice as you would because you are afraid you will say the wrong thing.

Many of you have shared stories like this with me. Sometimes, it’s clear that you have work to do. You need to have more conversations, continue to educate yourself and potentially even practice with some situation-specific role playing with colleagues you trust. But, sometimes, I find that many of you are open, are working hard to be inclusive but are so afraid of making a mistake that you silence yourself.

In either case, the best advice I can offer you is to listen with love, lead with love and serve with love. Approaching that which is unfamiliar to you with kindness and respect and without placing the burden on the people with whom you are unfamiliar to teach you is always the best way to go.

 

In Sum

It is critical that you prioritize what you know how to do and do well. That you are an expert in your set of services. That you are clear in how you define who you are and what you do. That you are clear on what the value is of those services you offer. That you know the rhythms of your local market. That you nurture and recruit new clients who are a good match for what your business offers. In these cases, working with strength within your comfort zone is key to a successful business.

But, I’m never one to rest on yesterday’s success. And I hope you aren’t either. I think it’s worth breaking out of your comfort zone and bridging into the unfamiliar to grow your business.

A true self-audit of your opinions, attitudes and comfort, along with an audit of the ROI on your business efforts these past few years, may tell the best story on the kind of growth you need to expand your business efforts and where best to get started. 

I wish you luck and I welcome your stories of success and setback!

» 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.

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» 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

» Gay Weddings By The Numbers: The Year Since 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.

From a market perspective, one of the most interesting results of our post-marriage equality existence is that the economic impact story will finally be revealed rather than projected. As we cross the threshold of June 26, 2016 – one year since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v Hodges decision – we can now offer our first concrete snapshot of what did happen nationally for same-sex couples and the wedding market.

Gay Weddings By The Numbers: The Year Since Marriage EqualityIn addition to our 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples and Wedding Trends – a highly disciplined national study of more than 1,400 LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ recently married couples, conducted by the research teams at WeddingWire and Community Marketing & Insights, along with the unmatched same-sex wedding market experience of yours truly (17 years) and Bernadette Smith of the Gay Wedding Institute (12 years) – Gallup and a scholar from the Williams Institute have offered some analysis of what has happened in the past year.

The headliner, of course, is that Gary Gates, a recently retired distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute of UCLA, analyzed our Contemporary Couples report and the Gallup report, concluding that same-sex couples spent more than $1.3 billion on their weddings in the past year. I think it’s safe to say that the economic impact in this past year was clear.

But what can we expect moving forward?

To answer that question, here are some economic and demographic highlights that may impact your decision-making as you consider your approach to expanding your services to be inclusive of all couples:

  • Gallup estimates that approximately 123,00 same-sex couples married in the U.S. in the past year.
  • The Gallup poll showed an increase in couples living together who reported being married as having grown from 38% pre-Obergefell to almost half of all same-sex couples (49%) post-Obergefell.
  • Gallup estimates that 3.9% percent of adults in the U.S. identify as LGBT.

Given the above, it’s important to note that Gallup, in looking at its poll results between June-Nov of 2015 and Nov 2015-June 2016, sees the spike in same-sex marriages may be leveling off. This is certainly a trend that I expected to see that is, once federal marriage equality occurred, any couples who had been waiting for this milestone would be prepared to get married in relatively short order and more ‘typical’ market rhythms would be upon us.

So, while we saw 123,000 couples spend $1.3 billion in the past year, can we count on this as a stable predictor?

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» 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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» Infographic: Serving Today’s Same-Sex Couples

We’re excited to share our latest infographic which provides important highlights from our recent webinar all about serving same-sex couples and the modern market today!

After all, over the past 20 years, much of the general understanding of same-sex wedding trends has stemmed from anecdote, intuition and misinformation. With a lack of widely accessible or reliable research, it’s been challenging for many wedding professionals to recognize accurate information and advice. But understanding the real story around what goes into planning a gay or lesbian wedding is key for pros who want to be prepared to proudly serve all couples in the increasingly competitive modern market.

Serving Same-Sex Couples

To learn more and to get in the spirit of Pride month, watch the full webinar available any time to all Premium members. And check out the latest industry data and reports available at WedInsights.com!

Plus, opt-in to the directory or further promote your listing on GayWeddings with these helpful resources:

Stay tuned for more trends, stats, education all month as we celebrate Pride – and the one year anniversary of full marriage equality in the United States this June!

» Serving Same-Sex Couples: The Real Story

Serving-Same-Sex-CouplesWebinar recap!

Being accurately informed and understanding the real story around what goes into planning a same-sex wedding is key for pros who want to be prepared to proudly serve all couples in the increasingly competitive modern market.

As we approach the one year anniversary of marriage equality in June, this month’s educational webinar hosted by Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.com, and Andy Whittaker, Director of Market Insights at WeddingWire, discussed the latest LGBTQ wedding trends, how LGBTQ weddings differ and are the same as opposite-sex weddings, and how the landscape for same-sex weddings has evolved.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the interesting insights shared during the webinar:

  • Gay-friendliness and customer service often outranks industry experience in importance to same-sex couples when it comes time to select their wedding team
  • Self-identified same-sex couples who married in 2014 & 2015 remain much more comfortable breaking with traditionally-defined gender roles than previously-wed couples
  • Same-sex couples are more likely to have blended wedding parties than opposite-sex couples 
  • As marriage equality has become the law of the land, legal elopements and out-of-state ceremonies are on the decline for same-sex couples
  • Non-LGBTQ couples who value inclusion continue to rise as more couples look to work with wedding professionals who serve all loving couples

For more information, watch the full webinar, available within all Premium member accounts. And stay tuned for more in depth information on the latest wedding trends for today’s same-sex couples, coming soon!

Plus, don’t forget to opt-in to the GayWeddings vendor directory and update your main image just for GayWeddings.com to attract more engaged same-sex couples – learn how with our step by step guide.

Already listed on GayWeddings.com? Grab your GayWeddings listing badge to add to your website or blog and get added traffic to your listing!

» Breakthroughs & Backlash in Marriage Equality: The 2016 Legal Landscape

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.

One of the hardest aspects of our long walk to marriage equality was, for me, hearing nationally broadcast comments from those who have never met me declaring my life and relationship to be “immoral” or “wrong” or “not right with God.”

How would they know me, my spirituality, and my life? Those who do know me would say the exact opposite.

My values have, after all, been crafted in the careful curation of a family and community that embraces compassion, commitment, service, and integrity. And these values are the hallmark of my 23+ year relationship with my spouse.

I had hoped that the marriage equality breakthrough granted to us by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015 would mean that my marriage (spiritually-bound for so many years, until we received this long-overdue, important civil right) would no longer be subject to the abject pronouncements by a small vocal group, and fueled by the members of their community who remained silent in fear of the repercussions for speaking up or revealing a change of heart.

But, here we are, even with marriage equality settled in all 50 states and over 85% of wedding professionals nationwide saying that they are ready, willing and able to serve same-sex couples, and the backlash is well underway. The conversation, though, is now being tried actively as one of religious freedom in both the court of public opinion and the court of law.

From The Headlines

Breakthroughs & Backlash in Marriage Equality: The 2016 Legal LandscapeKim Davis, a clerk in Kentucky, was the first high profile example of protest when she refused to sign the marriage license of a gay male couple that appeared in her office to apply. After a few short days in jail for refusing to do her civic duty and her ongoing resistance to fulfill the duties of her elected office, Gov. Matt Bevin altered the licenses allowing Davis and other dissenters not to sign. Kentucky then went on to attempt to pass a “separate-but-not-equal bill” that was ultimately rejected (and notably, not even supported by Davis).

More recently, after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill to shield marriage equality opponents, the governors of North Carolina and Mississippi waded into these controversial waters. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill into a law that banned “anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and requiring transgender people in government buildings and public schools to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.” And, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a broadly-worded bill into law allowing individuals and institutions to deny services to the LGBT community based on their religious beliefs.

The result in North Carolina? Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in protest. PayPal withdrew its plan for a $3.6M expansion in Charlotte, NC, an economic repercussion not unlike that faced by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence after his push for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would have allowed for denial of services to LGBTQ couples. An additional 120 companies also signed an open letter for repeal of that law. In Mississippi, singer Bryan Adams cancelled a concert and eight companies, including Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Choice Hotels Corp, Inc., have signed an open letter to Gov. Bryant to repeal the bill, HB 1523. With such vocal and consistent support for the past few years, it remains clear that Fortune 500 companies recognize that supporting LGBTQ couples and families is good for business.

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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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» Gay Wedding Trends: A 2015 Year-in-Review Snapshot

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.

Though the spiritual implementation of wedding rituals for same-sex couples has remained steady since GayWeddings.com was founded in 1999, the practical implementation and legal opportunities have changed dramatically.

Gay Wedding Trends: A 2015 Year-in-Review Snapshot

Besides the most dramatic change–same-sex couples having legal access to marriage rights in all 50 states–gay and lesbian wedding trends now look overwhelmingly different than they did 20, or even 10, years ago.

Where once we were having small, private ceremonies that might or might not have included our family members, we are now celebrating our unions with many more guests in attendance (100 on average according to a recent WeddingWire survey), with more family members than ever celebrating with us and, it’s worth noting, often pressuring us to hurry up and get engaged already.

I’ll be speaking at WeddingWire World in greater depth on the latest LGBTQ wedding trends, data insights, and how same-sex couples continue to impact the larger modern market, but I hope you’ll enjoy this brief sneak preview of the themes ahead.

LGBTQ wedding trends look an awful lot like those for non-LGBTQ couples

Yes, wedding ritual assimilation is well underway. Thankfully, that street goes both ways, which means that straight couples are gaining a few fun twists just as LGBTQ couples are lining up behind wedding trends shared by all couples in the mainstream market.

If you are looking for a crystal ball into 2016, GayWeddings.com’s lead writer, Whitney Teal, offered couples a fabulous summary of the 2016 style trends that are important for couples to keep in mind. Her summary includes 7 trends from mixed-gender wedding parties to drones (the camera carrying kind, not the dull guests!) to hashtags and retro menswear. It’s a great read so check it out to learn more about what’s ahead.

Pro Tip: Share the GayWeddings.com 2016 Style Trends post with your LGBTQ couples or prospective couples as a conversation starter.

Structurally speaking, we’re more alike than different…

Many of you are now familiar with the tradition and trend statistics the WeddingWire team released summarizing the behavior of same-sex couples in 2014. You might not be surprised to know that we continue to find a similar pattern for all couples in 2015, including:

  • LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples who use WeddingWire report similar levels of use of planning apps, announcing an engagement on social media and using a wedding hashtag.
  • LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples who use WeddingWire report a similar number of months for their engagement period.
  • LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples who use WeddingWire report a similar number of dollars spent in wedding costs.

…But some differences are essential to remember and integrate into your toolbox

In 2014, we found that LGBTQ couples broke from “tradition” and expressed themselves a bit differently when it came to wedding rituals. For individual LGBTQ couples, this was largely determined by fit with or rejection of heteronormative gender roles (eg. what a bride “does” and what a groom “does”). But, that was yesterday.

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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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