» 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

» Wedding Trend Differences in Gay Men Versus Lesbians

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

In general, I think it’s dangerous to generalize and foolish to put people in boxes. That said, there are some striking differences in the wedding planning activities of gay men versus lesbians. I’ve seen this over time in my wedding planning career, and in your role as a wedding professional I think it’s important to be aware of some of these differences/trends in order to best serve your clients.

Lesbians are female, and most of them identify as brides, are therefore much more “bridal” – and they are also more traditional as a result. If you think about it, since a very young age, many girls have been indoctrinated into the idea of having a wedding; their fairytale princess fantasy. It’s just been something that’s been expected of young girls for decades – lesbian girls included!

Wedding Trend Differences in Gay Men Versus LesbiansGay men, on the other hand, were unlikely to have been raised dreaming about their wedding. It’s just not something that parents talk to sons much about during their childhood, the way those same parents might talk to their daughters about it. As a result of this, plus the wedding industry’s focus on “the bride”, and the gender roles that play a part in most wedding traditions, gay men are far less traditional on their wedding days.

The survey of contemporary couples that my company conducted with WeddingWire, GayWeddings.com and Community Marketing validates my experiences as a wedding planner. For example, we found that gay men are far less likely to want to follow wedding traditions such as something borrowed, something blue (35% of lesbians adhere to this tradition vs. 7% of gay men), doing a first dance (43% of lesbians vs. 18% of gay men), changing their name (42% vs. 7%), having a wedding shower (23% vs. 4%), and many other traditions. You can take a look at the full report here.

You may also find that gay men are less likely to even have a sit down dinner and instead choose a cocktail reception. You may find that gay men are interested in hiring a DJ with experience in clubs as opposed to a DJ whose experience is primarily limited to weddings. You may find that gay men are interested in a fashion photographer rather than a traditional wedding photographer. Gay men may even be interested in picking out the attire of their waitstaff, and may ask for model bartenders/servers! I once had a gay client ask for a cute young male wedding officiant! Is that discriminatory? No, because someone’s appearance is not a protected class… but there’s no doubt that it’s shallow.

Continue reading

» Infographic: What’s the Q? Best Practices for LGBTQ Wedding Language

We’re excited to share our latest infographic, which shares highlights from our recent webinar about the best practices for wedding language when working with LGBTQ couples!

It’s very important to understand modern LGBTQ terms and how they differ in definition, such as sexual orientation, sexual identity, and gender. By taking the time to understand the history of these terms and the best practices for LGBTQ wedding language, you will make your clients feel much more comfortable when working with your business. You’ll also be more likely to get more leads using inclusive language that welcomes all types of couples to your website.

Learn more by reviewing the infographic’s tips, provided by WeddingWire Education Contributor Bernadette Smith, President of the Gay Wedding Institute

What's the Q? Best Practices for Wedding Language

» Should You Specialize in the LGBTQ Niche?

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

Now that there is marriage equality across all 50 states, one of the questions I’ve been getting is: Should I open a business specializing in LGBTQ weddings?

Should You Specialize in the LGBTQ Niche?12 years ago, when marriage equality came to Massachusetts, the first state in the country, I opened a wedding planning business (14 Stories) doing just that, with an LGBTQ specialty. I opened the business to be an advocate for my clients and help them navigate a very traditional wedding industry where they might feel trapped in traditional roles, or worse – mistreated or rejected.

At that time, there were no other businesses in my market in Massachusetts with that specialty, so it was very easy for me to build a client base. Additionally, Massachusetts quickly became a destination for couples from other states and countries who could not legally marry in their home state. My wedding planning clientele was not just local couples, but also couples who sought Massachusetts (and later the rest of New England and New York) as their wedding destination. In that sense, it was almost easy money. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done with couples from almost every state and around the world.

Now that every state has marriage equality, specializing in same-sex weddings would be a risk for any business. Think about it: same-sex couples have a wide variety of purchasing criteria just like everybody else. They make their purchasing decisions based on creativity, personality fit, budget, style and a whole number of other factors that have nothing to do with whether or not you specialize in same-sex weddings.

Data tells us that the LGBTQ community is 5-7% of society. In order to make a successful living with an LGBTQ specialty, you have to attract the community, find ones who are engaged, have a wedding date which you have open, have the budget for your services, love your personality, respect your talent and a whole lot more. Having a niche is great, but with this specialty, you would be extremely niche-driven to the point where there just will not be enough demand to create a sustainable business. And at the end of the day, we have to make money. Continue reading

» 3 Ways to Reach More Same-Sex Couples

WedInsights

3 Ways to Reach More Same-Sex Couples2015 was a momentous year and a huge win for same-sex marriage equality. As inclusivity continues to increase in 2016, 85% of wedding professionals surveyed said they are ready, willing and able to serve same-sex couples. However, being willing to serve and prepared to serve are two different things!

These tips, backed by data found in Volume 12 of our WedInsights series, can help your wedding business reach more same-sex couples as part of the expanding wedding market.

Go beyond the first glance

Many in the industry (e.g., wedding pros, wedding expos, registry) assume a marrying couple is one male and one female, thus distributing forms/contracts with “bride” and “groom” language, and often using the term “bridal” when referencing their clientele. This bridal bias and heteronormative assumption is important to recognize as you may be alienating current and potential clients.

89% of LGBTQ couples feel positively about a company featuring same-sex imagery on their websites and marketing collateral, and 53% of opposite-sex couples feel the same! Make the change to show your inclusivity by using the word “couples” instead of “brides”, and updating your collateral and/or contracts to be suitable for all types of couples.

Aim to be gay wedding competent

In today’s market it’s not enough to be ‘gay-friendly’ – you must be gay wedding competent. Even those pros who appear or claim to be gay-friendly can still make same-sex couples uncomfortable or unwelcome through small actions. Our data shows that 12% of engaged same-sex couples say they’ve experienced discrimination, while 13% are uncertain (i.e. unreturned phone calls or emails can create suspicion despite the true reasons).

LGBTQ couples now have a greater choice when it comes to their vendor team and it’s no longer just about who responds back. Make it a seamless experience and show your competence by:

  • Understanding what LGBTQ couples need (ex. how to enter down the aisle, how to orchestrate child-parent dances, etc.)
  • Understanding how LGBTQ experiences and legal options shape their choices
  • Using the terms that couples use to identify themselves

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?

Continue reading

» What’s the Q? Best Practices for LGBTQ Wedding Language

LGBTQ Wedding Language WebinarWebinar recap!

Language is an important thing to remember when marketing to the LGBTQ community. You do not want to isolate any couples by using offensive wording, or failing to account for specific terms that welcome LBGTQ couples and make them feel comfortable to use your business.

One year ago this June the Supreme Court passed their decision on full marriage equality! To help celebrate, WeddingWire Education Contributor Bernadette Smith hosted an educational webinar this week to discuss the best practices for LGBTQ wedding language, so you can continue to effectively reach and serve all couples.

Here are some of the great tips for using inclusive language that were shared during the webinar:

  • Not all people identify as a single gender, or have a single gender expression or sexual orientation. It is important to recognize that there can be fluidity between each of these categories. Since there are various ways that individuals can express themselves, aim to use inclusive language for all.
  • It is okay to ask a client what pronoun they prefer, or by what title they would like to be called (“bride,” “groom,” etc.). It is better to ask your clients for their preferences so you can address them in a way that is respectful, rather than to make assumptions. And, be sure to honor their response!
  • There are several offensive terms that are outdated or too risky to use when marketing, especially if you are not apart of the LGBTQ community. For instance, Bernadette recommends avoiding terms like “gay agenda,” “that market,” and “sexual preference,” among various others.  
  • Millennials often have a different take on the proper language that should be used to refer to LGBTQ individuals. They frequently follow their own trends, and are more likely to have more traditional wedding experiences. Learn more about these trends and the latest statistics by reading the 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples Report.  
  • The best way you can show your support of LGBTQ couples is to be inclusive in your marketing, website and language. Show photos of all types of couples, express that you are excited to serve all types of loving couples explicitly, and update your contracts to use inclusive language not just “bride” and “groom.”

Interested in learning more? Watch the full webinar, or check out past blog posts on serving same-sex couples.

For more great education and resources from Bernadette, be sure to visit Gay Wedding Institute, and grab your free download 5 Social Media Tips to Increase Your LGBT Wedding Bookings.

Plus, don’t forget to opt-in to the GayWeddings vendor directory and update your main image to attract more engaged same-sex couples – learn how with our step by step guide. Once you are listed, add your GayWeddings badge to add to your website or blog and get added traffic to your listing!

» #WeDoLove for the Anniversary of Marriage Equality

This Sunday, June 26, 2016, marks the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality!

The court ruled that the right to marriage is a fundamental right for all – that there is no legal or moral justification for standing in the path of marriage equality. Members of the WeddingWire and GayWeddings teams were on-site to witness the historic decision, and spent the morning celebrating with the LGTBQ community and straight allies in attendance.

To celebrate this monumental anniversary, WeddingWire and our sister site, GayWeddings, collected video submissions from wedding pros and engaged couples alike telling us why they “do love” in support of marriage for all and they did not disappoint! Check out the inspiring video below to be reminded of why marriage equality is such an important victory for love that impacts all of us.

Together with GayWeddings, WeddingWire is proud to continue offering resources and education to all engaged couples and wedding professionals. We hope you enjoy celebrating this important moment in history this weekend with loved ones!

Spread the love and let the LGBTQ community know that you’re ready, willing, and able to help them plan the wedding of their dreams by adding our GayWeddings badges to your website or blog. Or, if you haven’t yet joined the GayWeddings directory to start reaching more same-sex couples, learn how to opt-in and customize your main image on GayWeddings today.

» What’s the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ?

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

When I’m working with teams training them on attracting LGBTQ customers and growing their client base, my first focus is always language and terminology. I believe that language is the foundation of our society and to effectively serve the LGBT wedding market, we must first truly understand the language of our community.

What’s the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ?Let’s start with the easy part: LGBT or sometimes seen as LGBTQ. L stands for lesbian, G for gay, and B for bisexual. All of those are examples of sexual orientation – who we fall in love with, who we are attracted to, and who we want to go to bed with.

The T in LGBT stands for transgender, or someone whose physical body doesn’t match the gender identity in their brain. Those folks are likely to change their bodies to match their minds. The most visible transgender person in the world is probably Caitlyn Jenner, a transwoman, or more accurately, a woman.

And Q stands for queer. Queer is a pretty controversial term, one that has historically been a derogatory term for members of our community. For example the older generation of LGBT folks are often still offended by that term “queer.” They may have been referred to as queer by bullies in high school, college, or even by members of their own family. For them queer is a really controversial and actually offensive term. That’s why I never recommend the use of queer (as a standalone term) in your marketing materials.

However, using LGBTQ as opposed to LGBT is actually a broader term and may be a successful way to market your wedding business. Simply put, queer has actually been reclaimed particularly by Millennials and used as an umbrella term that seeks an understanding of gender and sexual identity as complex and fluid. See, gender is a spectrum. There are lots of people who don’t identify with either male or female boxes, but rather fall somewhere in between. Simply put, they are gender fluid. Another word for gender fluid is genderqueer, commonly shortened as queer.

Similarly there are lots of people who don’t identify as straight, gay or even bisexual. Sexual identity is also a spectrum. If someone has a broad range of attraction to all different kinds of people there’s a very good chance they’re going to self-identify as pansexual or queer. Sometimes I referred to queer as “the anti-label label”: for people who are more fluid and don’t like labels or boxes, it’s the perfect label.

So, why does this matter in the wedding industry? First off, it’s a marketing consideration. Should you use the term LGBT or LGBTQ? If you live in a very liberal place, your client base is currently very progressive liberal couples, and if you often hear from the couple themselves first instead of having parents involved in the planning, then you may consider using LGBTQ instead of LGBT in your marketing materials. LGBTQ is also the perfect term if your target audience is millennial LGBTQ folks. However, if your target audience is older same-sex couples, then I would advise not using LGBTQ and instead just using LGBT. Remember, that older LGBT folks have some baggage around the term queer, particularly if it was used as a slur against them.

Continue reading

» 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!