» Ready The Rooms With Gender Inclusivity

Photography by Brandi Potter Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm

I attended a wedding out on a farm in Virginia several years ago. As I explored the grounds during a break in the action, I found a small building offering restrooms for guests. There were three doors with permanent signage: one marked as a restroom for men, one for women, and one as a special room for “the bridal party only.”

Knowing that folks sometimes use the term “bridal party” to refer to the couple and their attendants, I asked the groom if this was a room to which he, the bride and all of their attendants had access. No, he said. This was a room that was intended for the bride and her attendants only.

The message I received from this? A groom and his attendants are a secondary focus at this venue and are expected to use the facilities with the rest of the guests.

How wedding professionals have come to address this challenge of addressing the needs and expectations of a wide variety of couples, a desire for more inclusion, and the legal recognition of marriage varies.

Tommy Waters, Venue Owner/Event Coordinator of The Renaissance in Richmond, Virginia, says that, with the shift in legal recognition of marriage, The Renaissance updated the name of their “Bridal Suite” to “Couple’s Suite” to “cater to all groups including same-sex couples.” Interestingly, he says that the signage adjustment has “gone unnoticed” by their bride-groom couples, but has “been met with positive feedback from our same-sex couples.”

The decor of the Couple’s Suite is appreciated universally by all couple combinations, and Tommy and his team like to add “day of” touches like “His” and “His” towels and “Hers” and “Hers” champagne flutes to further personalize the space.

I also asked Leah Weinberg, Owner & Creative Director of New York-based Color Pop Events what sort of naming practices she encounters for the rooms where the wedding party gets ready for the wedding, and she says that the names for these types of spaces run the gamut.

“A lot of venues still refer to them as ‘bridal suites,’” she says, “but more ‘with it’ venues use words like getting ready suite or ‘getting ready room, ‘green room,’ or just ‘suite.’”

When exploring venue recommendations for her couples, Leah says that she is “pretty disappointed” when seeing venues that “still call these rooms ‘bridal suites’ in this day and age.”  She says that they should know better. “If two grooms are getting married at your venue and you tell them you’ve got a ‘bridal suite,’ that’s not going to go over too well.”

All of this is not to say that there isn’t room for those who would prefer a “traditional wedding,” with all of the “bridal” trappings for a bride to experience the day of her dreams, with her groom playing second chair. That’s great, too, if it’s what the couple wants.

It’s an opportunity for a conscious choice that I encourage wedding professionals to consider. To do so only requires a few adjustments in the opening interview and a consideration of the physical space. As you consider your “ready rooms” and inclusive practices for the 2019 season, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you assume that wedding parties will be defined and split by gender? Tread carefully there because 40% of all couples in 2018 had mixed gender wedding parties.
  • Do you assume that couples interested in visiting your venue are straight (a bride & groom pairing)?
  • Do you assume that the couple won’t see each other or get ready together prior to the wedding?
  • Do you have two spaces of equal size where each member of the couple can get ready if they so choose?
  • Are those rooms flexible in design to suit the needs of all brides or grooms or does each have fixed trimmings for a “bride” (perceived to be feminine) or for a “groom” (perceived to be masculine)?
  • Are those two rooms labeled for a “bride” and her wedding party and a “groom” and his wedding party or do you have creative names for the rooms that will apply to all combinations of couples?
  • Do you have a restroom that a person of any gender identity can use? Bonus point: these facilities are often handicapped accessible or helpful as family restrooms!

Kathryn Hamm

 

This post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. 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.

» Are Your Salutations Inclusive?

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

The addition of a drop-down menu to a website’s sign up form or the collection of a prospective client’s title can offer a welcoming signal to the newcomer and be a help to your team, but it can also send messages of blind spots.

A recent case in point: I was booking a hotel room online with a global brand, and was delighted to stumble upon an inspired (optional) drop-down menu for my “Title.” From Senator to Princess to Pastor or Judge, Major, or Chef; it was tempting to pick something creative just for the purposes of my stay. I could imagine it! I would announce myself at the front desk thusly: “Hello! Ambassador Kathryn Hamm, at your service!” accompanied by a deep bow with a flourish. But, don’t worry… I won’t!

Naturally, the website’s drop-down menu also included the standard Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Dr.; and, if you would be traveling as a married heterosexual couple who follows traditional etiquette, you would have the option to choose Mr. & Mrs. — and would hopefully remember that Emily Post would expect you to use the man’s name in the first name, last name fields to follow.

What I appreciated about this company’s drop-down menu is that they were showing some creativity in terms of the titles that their customers might like to use and, as such, these titles might offer additional information about their needs or expectations. Especially on a global scale. One could, for example, choose Senor (stet.) or Madame, which could indicate something about the country of origin or what language the person might prefer upon check-in.

But just as one can go awry by using fiancé (rather than fiancée) to describe an engaged woman, it’s important to be familiar with the correct expression, accents, and meanings of various languages, especially those not native to you. In the example above, the drop-down menu referenced “Senor” rather than Señor; and while many of us recognize the limitations of some keyboards, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to predict the impression that the use of “Senor” vs “Señor” might make on the gentleman using that drop-down menu or generic form. Additionally, the inclusion of “Mr. & Mrs.” but the omission of “Ms. & Ms.” or “Mr. & Mr.” might send a cautionary, even if unintended, signal to the LGBTQ traveler.

In that spirit, I’d like to offer a salutation that may be new to you and can leave a strong, favorable impression on members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community who are inquiring about your services.

Increasingly, younger couples and especially those in the LGBTQ community are recognizing gender expression as more of a fluid construct. That is, they are more likely to appreciate that someone might not identify as exclusively male/masculine or female/feminine. Thus, rather than using a gendered title like “Ms.” or “Mr.,” they might use a third gender-neutral salutation, “Mx.” (pronounced ‘mix’).

What salutations do you use on your drop-down menus, contact and registration forms? Or do you use them at all?

The advantage of including a salutation that each member of the engaged couple can select — especially if you don’t have verbal or visual cues to help you to determine a person’s gender or gender identity — offers a great way to get more information about the couple. Do they identify as a same-sex or opposite-sex couple (if they select Mr. & Mr. or Ms. & Ms.) or can you learn a bit more about what the potential needs of the couple might be if at least one of them selects Mx. indicating a non-binary (or genderqueer) gender identity?

Beyond the direct advantages for a genderqueer couple, your use of Mx. will send an open, inclusive signal to other members of the LGBTQ community and their allies.

One final tip before I close: it’s easy enough to create a template of options that will exist on paper. But, if you’re unsure as to how to go about this in a personal intake interview or sales call, remember that one can avoid an incorrect assumption by asking directly, “What’s your preferred gender pronoun?” (i.e., he/him/his; she/her/hers; they/them/theirs; etc.).

Kathryn HammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. 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.

» Five Tips To Strengthen Your Multicultural Practices

Photo by Bakerture

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

Recent surveys of millennial couples have made it very clear just how much more inclusive they are in their friendships and in their romantic relationships. According to a Pew Research Center report published in 2015, 39% of Americans who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group (compared to just 19% of Americans who married before 1960), and there has been a 5X increase in interracial marriages since nationwide legalization in 1967. Currently, 19% of WeddingWire couples identify as having an interracial marriage, and 18% have said that they include ceremonial customs related to race/religion in their weddings, and these numbers will only continue to grow.

A large number of the 850 couples I’ve married identify as LGBTQ or interfaith or interracial or intercultural (or some combination), and the experience has offered me a good handle on how to approach, discuss, and integrate culture and religion into a ceremony. I always open a discussion on culture and religion during my initial meeting with a couple, because I want to make sure that I am the proper fit for what they want, and because the design and content of their custom ceremony starts from my understanding of WHAT they want, and WHY the couple wants it.

These exact same discussions and decisions about inclusion of culture, religion and traditions that I apply to the ceremony quite often apply to the entire wedding. Décor and design, food and drink, music and entertainment, attire, hair and makeup, even the schedule and timeline… almost every aspect of a wedding can, and usually does, have resonance related to the upbringing, traditions, and beliefs of the couple, their families, and sometimes even their friends. It is imperative that wedding professionals not only have an inclusive mindset, but also the systems and processes ready to implement a celebration that meets the desires of the couple.

Here are 5 ways that help you do both!

1. Don’t assume. I have put my foot in my mouth with assumptions plenty, I promise. Several years ago, I made the assertion that LGBTQ couples come to Officiants like me because they don’t get married in houses of worship. I was speaking with Kathryn Hamm, WeddingWire’s Diversity & Inclusion Specialist, who pointed me to research that revealed that 10% of LGBTQ couples do get married in houses of worship, and cited some personal anecdotal examples. I was a bit embarrassed, but it was a very poignant reminder that while we all have assumptions based on what we have seen, heard and experienced, personally or with previous couples, those assumptions may not tell the whole story.

This is why I recommend that you start the conversation with all your couples from as blank of a sheet as possible, with your assumptions locked away. The best way to make sure that your process is assumption-free (or relying on as few assumptions as possible) is to have an initial set of standard questions that you ask every couple, regardless of any automatic assumptions you made upon meeting them. Plus, be sure to ask open-ended questions to allow them to share what they want. Once they answer, you can ask follow-up questions based on what your experience tells you that you still need to know.

For example, a question an Officiant or DJ might ask is, “Are there any religious or cultural traditions you want to honor or include?” A follow-up question could relate to the “level” to which they want to include them – for instance, the caterer needs to distinguish between having a kosher option on the menu vs. kosher-style vs. the entire menu needing to be kosher.

2. Find out the why. The what is very important but the why is the driver. Honestly, we wedding folks tend to want to help and jump right into ideas or solutions (the “what”), without yet knowing the ‘why’. Understanding the rationale behind a client’s thoughts allows you to make more fitting suggestions. Does the couple want a certain tradition included because they desire it or because they feel they want/need it for family, or even one specific family member? I’ve had couples think that they need to have a traditional Christian wedding – even though they were non-religious themselves – when what they really wanted to do was honor their families and thought that that was the only way to do so.

By understanding the why, you can make sure that what you are suggesting or including will satisfy the couple and the people, or person, it is meant to satisfy. By providing options to your couple for the ‘what” that satisfies this ‘why,’ you increase your value to them, while at the same time making sure everyone is happy or at least satisfied by the solution.

3. Be a solutions person. We as wedding professionals need to be solution providers. And, when it comes to religious and cultural inclusion, I find that, in addition to satisfying family, there are often two points in a couple’s life where the differences in their upbringings can clash: 1) during their wedding and 2) raising their children. As wedding professionals, it’s likely that we encounter the first point regularly, which means that we might have to be mediators, not only between the couple and members of their families, but between the couple themselves, by either having solutions or knowing where to go to find solutions.

The basic rules apply here: listen to both sides, probe with follow-up questions and potential ideas (if you have them), step away and think about it, talk to others who may have dealt with this type of scenario, and then come back to the couple with solutions. The idea is to satisfy both sides as much as possible. And, please resist the “bridal bias” that I see way too often in our industry – you need to make sure to take into account the feelings and wants of both members of the couple.

4. Be a capable match. There is always the balance in our businesses between wanting to say yes and help (and the income that comes from that, too), and wanting to be sure that you are doing right by a couple and their needs. Here is my thought: if in doubt, ask yourself the following question, “Will the quality of what the couple gets from me and my business be adversely affected by my lack of skills or knowledge?” If yes, then maybe you aren’t the best fit for them.

If you reach that point, I always recommend that you be honest with a couple that you don’t have that specific experience or knowledge, and then allow them to make that decision. If you still feel that you can serve them properly, and want to, you can let them know that you are indeed willing to help and happy to do so. Allow the couple to decide if they still want to work with you.

If the couple ultimately determines you are not the right fit, you can always suggest other vendors that may specialize or have experience in their specific request(s). Or, you can look at the solution of partnering up with a colleague to service them together. For example, if you are a wedding planner and an Indian couple comes to you and wants a full Indian wedding, yet you have never done one, should you take it? Without that experience, you may not be their perfect fit, so bringing on the right partner with this expertise could be the perfect solution! You could partner with planner who has experience in Indian weddings so that the couple gets to work with a team that understands not only the what they are looking for, but also the why. And the plus side of the solution is that you get to learn and feel more confident the next time you are asked because you’ll now have that experience

5. Showcase your experience. For everyone’s sake, attracting couples from the get-go who are more your fit, and who you can service and celebrate fully and properly, is a top goal. Therefore, make sure that your service descriptions and portfolio – in places such as your website or WeddingWire Storefront or social media – show past work with a wide range of religious and/or cultural rituals, when you feel confident in your ability to professionally service those couples again.

Keep these tips in mind when engaging with potential clients — I believe it is not only the best thing for society when we are all more understanding and inclusive, but it also turns out to be the right thing for your business.

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker.  Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business.  And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

 

» Ways to Make Your Website Accessible for More Clients

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

The first and easiest part of being more inclusive in your digital marketing is to diversify representation within your images and text. As I’ve written previously, this includes written and visual representation of “brides and grooms” or “engaged couples;” of same-sex couples; of various races and ethnicities, religious rituals and physical abilities, shapes and sizes. These are simple cues that say “I see you” to prospective clients who might not feel included in mainstream wedding media.

Consistency is key

Though this may be enough to broaden your appeal to more clients, I advise wedding professionals to seek more information to understand the nuance of need beneath a first impression. It’s important to recognize that when a client feels “seen,” they are more likely to make an inquiry, but also they are more likely to hire you if you can deliver a truly inclusive experience from beginning to end.

Consider the case of a Caucasian stylist who features African-American brides on her website, but does not have a wide range of foundations and complementary hues for darker skin tones or an understanding of styles that are trending amongst black brides. Or the photographer who books a same-sex couple but applies a heteronormative (one bride, one groom) approach to the poses of two grooms or two brides or offers a referral to a caterer who is outspoken against same-sex marriage. When broadening your service offering, extra homework, preparation and consistency goes a long way.

Consider your website accessibility for all clients

Though your website may offer that “first impression” opportunity for some clients, it can also result in couples (and/or their attendants and guests) who have disabilities leaving your website quickly due to accessibility issues.

Below are a few simple tips to enhance your website to be more inclusive and accessible for clients with disabilities. Remember: these considerations may be important for the engaged person who is doing the planning, but might also be important for engaging the collaborative assistance of a parent or best man or best woman.

  1. Image accessibility
    Make sure that your key images and actionable buttons are large enough to be seen by someone with limited eyesight and that your ‘alt tags’ and ‘title tags’ clearly describe the content in an image so that a screen reader can interpret that visual information in a spoken form for those who are blind or dyslexic. It’s likely that many of you are already tending to your ‘alt tags’ for SEO (and if not you should be!) so this additional consideration increases the value of your business investment.
  2. Text accessibility
    Consider the flexibility of your written content to make sure that the information you are presenting comes across impactfully if a client is using a screen magnification tool to enlarge the text or a screen reader to interpret the text. It can also be helpful to make sure that your links are underlined or otherwise clearly differentiated from your normal text so that those who are color blind can easily find important links on your site.
  3. Video accessibility
    As you publish video content of your work or expertise on your website and in social media feeds, make sure to offer a clear description about the main point of your content, but also consider adding subtitles or investing in a sign language interpreter to provide a translation for those who are deaf.
  4. Inclusive representation
    Beyond including images of brides, grooms and guests with disabilities in your marketing images, take the time to find a local ASL interpreter to include in your referral list and/or professional network. If you aren’t otherwise required by ADA compliance, take a take a test tour of your office, event space or venue in a wheelchair to understand where access may be an issue. Or consider having a large print or screen-reader-friendly version of your contract so that a client with a visual impairment or dyslexia can more easily understand all of the terms related to the booking.

These small adjustments can be made during your next website update or as an improvement to your next blog, social media or video post. And, beyond making a meaningful difference for many brides and grooms with disabilities, engaged couples who are looking out for their guests with disabilities will also appreciate that you are ready, willing and able to serve them, too.

Did you know? Apple products have a wide range of accessibility tools built in to its iOS. If you have an iPad or iPhone, explore the features on your own device to see how those with vision, hearing or physical disabilities might be accessing your digital presence without even realizing it. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. 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.

» Why You Shouldn’t Cater to Only One Type of Client

Photo by Cassie Madden Photography

This post was written by Megan Hayes, Regional Manager, Customer Success at WeddingWire.

One of the most common challenges in the wedding industry is the lack of diversity and representation of all types of couples in the media. While society has led us to think a certain way based on what’s typically portrayed in media outlets, such as magazines and television, the reality is that today’s couples come from all backgrounds and lifestyles.

Just think: How many times have you seen a young bride standing alone on the cover of a wedding magazine and thought, “Wow, she really represents all of my clients”? The short answer is you probably haven’t!

Whether it’s your business website, your social networks, or ads in wedding magazines, only catering to one type of client could mean that your website (and marketing materials) could be turning away potential clients. According to this WedInsights fact sheet, 40% of straight grooms and 50% of brides and grooms of color say it is challenging to see themselves reflected in the content and imagery of magazines and online resources. Additionally, same-sex couples and those with lower household incomes are more likely to say they also experience this lack of representation in media.

It’s important to remember that all types of couples are looking for inspiration and relevant resources to help them with their decision-making needs throughout the wedding planning process. If couples can’t relate to, or identify with your work, this might deter them from considering your services. Conversely, our data shows that representing more diverse audiences can actually benefit your business. According to our 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples & Current Wedding Trends, 98% of same-sex couples surveyed feel positively about a company featuring same-sex imagery on their websites and marketing collateral.

In preparation for engagement season, take a second to think about the couples you’ve worked with in the past year. Now take a look at your advertising. Does your advertising display the array of body shapes, ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, or even personal styles of the couples you service? Are all of your recent clients reflected in your marketing materials? If your answer is no, here are some suggestions for how you can incorporate diversity into  your website, WeddingWire Storefront, and other marketing materials to make underrepresented couples feel welcome:

  • Display an assorted representation of couples you’ve worked with through visual content on your Storefront such as your main image, photo albums, and video content.
  • In your About Us section, use inclusive language (i.e. use “couples” in place of “brides” wherever possible) and convey that you embrace diversity and welcome all couples.
  • Utilize photography that showcases diversity in your blog posts, social media channels, and on your website.

Remember: Small changes can go a long way towards helping all types of couples feel comfortable reaching out to you and booking your business.

 

Megan Hayes is a Regional Manager of the Customer Success Team at WeddingWire. As a client-facing customer advocate with 7+ years of experience in both account management and online advertising, she’s now taken her experience and travels nationally speaking on topics to empower small businesses with industry trends. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a Public Relations concentration from James Madison University.

» 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-To: Make Your Website LGBTQ-friendly

How-To: Make Your Website LGBTQ-friendlySince the historic Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, an entire new segment of the population has entered the wedding industry as newly-engaged couples. Your wedding business could be catering to those couples, but website content and images could be holding you back!

According to our 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples & Current Wedding Trends, 98% of same-sex couples surveyed feel positively about a company featuring same-sex imagery on their websites and marketing collateral. However, at the same time, many couples are turned away from a site if they cannot relate to the content or visuals they see.

Are all different types of couples reflected in your marketing materials? If your answer is no, here are some suggestions for how you can incorporate more LGBTQ-friendly language and images in your website, WeddingWire Storefront, and other online listings:

  • Display an assorted representation of couples you’ve worked with through visual content such as your main image, photo albums, and video content
  • Select all of the types of weddings you service within your FAQ to make it clear to same-sex couples whether or not you are open to LGBTQ clients
  • Consider your social presence and the couples you’re using to feature in your blogs, social media, and website

Don’t forget: Language is huge factor in making underrepresented couples feel welcome! Be sure to use inclusive language within your About Us section, such as writing “couples” in place of “brides,” since same-sex couples as well as straight grooms will not be able to identify with what you’re trying to say.

Small changes can go a long way towards helping all types of couples feel comfortable reaching out and working with your business. Get started today!

» 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

» 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’ 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