» National LGBTQ Wedding Trends for 2019

These days, there are two overarching planning trends influencing today’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) couples — one follows a pattern of increasing assimilation into the mainstream market and its trends; the other follows an increasing embrace of broader, less restrictive definitions of gender expression. In order to better serve all couples, it’s important for wedding professionals to be vigilant about these two seemingly contradictory trends and how to identify the needs of each individual couple.  

Broadly speaking, with 80% of today’s wedding market represented by Millennials, LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ (aka ‘straight’) couples are looking to add personalized touches that play well on social media and serve their authentic expression. Thus, we’ll be seeing more similarity than difference in wedding planning trends between the two groups.

At the same time, wedding professionals must understand that younger couples are embracing the term “queer” as a more inclusive term for their gender identities, expression, and sexual orientation. Though more couples may be challenging traditional concepts of gender expression (and the traditional roles of “bride” and “groom”), this doesn’t mean that their weddings will be unrecognizable.

The key element for wedding professionals to understand is that while cultural assimilation is underway, LGBTQ couples still want to build wedding rituals that are reflective of their own identities, and the range of expression will be more broad than what we expected from a “bride and groom” 50 – or even 15! – years ago.

 

Mainstream representation

When I talk about “mainstream representation,” I’m referring to planning trends that are inclusive not only of traditional weddings, but also of seasonal and evolving trends for a broad swath of today’s couples. These are the wedding trends you’ll hear about in national trend reports, and these are the weddings you’ll see on the largest wedding blogs and platforms and in national magazines. The representation is increasingly inclusive of additional religious, ethnic and cultural wedding customs, and also will include same-sex couples and mixed-race and non-white couples. The unifying feature is generally the wedding wallet, as most of these featured couples are able to afford highly stylized weddings, photographers, and videographers.

Since marriage equality recognition has settled in over the past 4 years, LGBTQ couples have assimilated and adapted to the general wedding trends that suit their taste, style, and budget rather than their legal needs and familial support. Many same-sex weddings appearing in mainstream media sources, for example, look increasingly like their opposite-sex counterparts; the primary difference is whether there are two brides, two grooms or one bride and one groom getting married.

Accompanying increased assimilation, straight (non-LGBTQ) couples are demonstrating their curiosity and excitement about new wedding customs introduced in same-sex weddings. Many of these new rituals have evolved from the very practical purpose of adapting rituals for one man and one woman to be better suited for two women or two men. Today, however, younger couples across the board are planning their wedding rituals and receptions, choosing to adopt rituals that are less restrictive of gender roles and more accepting of an equal expression of love and commitment.

For all couples from mainstream sources who approach you looking for services, it’s incredibly important that you ask open-ended questions to understand not only what they are looking for, but how they see themselves and to which planning trends they are responding. The majority of the market is represented by engaged couples who seek personalized service, and want to be understood and supported in developing a meaningful tradition that is reflective of their love and commitment. It’s important to understand what a bride and groom might want and/or need; what two grooms might want and/or need; or what two brides might want and/or need. In sum, cultural shifts are impacting everyone.

 

Progressive representation

Though most couples (LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ) may be seeking personalization and a wedding worthy of a wedding feature in WeddingWire’s “Real Wedding” inspiration pages, there are also LGBTQ couples who still embody some of the needs and objectives of the early wedding pioneers. They are brides and grooms and bridegrooms who may use their own labels and be struggling to get their needs met because the mainstream market isn’t serving them. For these couples, rather than focusing on how to serve two brides or two grooms, the larger question is one of intentional service to support the couples who have a much more expansive (often non-binary) representation of their gender expression or sexual orientation.

Genderqueer and other non-binary couples, according to “LGBTQ Weddings in 2018: A Study of Same-Sex and Queer Identified Couples,” share a “strong fear of rejection” based on their sexual orientation or gender expression. Sixty-one percent (61%) of transgender and non-binary identified couples and 44% of same-sex couples remain wary. Significantly, 100% of married trans/non-binary identified couples (p. 38) are concerned about “religious freedom” laws that allow service providers to refuse to serve LGBTQ couples (compared to 88% of married same-sex male couples and 96% of married same-sex female couples).

Thus, when you, as a wedding professional, have the opportunity to serve a queer-identified couple, it is important to expect a deeper line of questioning and a higher expectation of understanding about the politics surrounding same-sex marriage, the queer community, and gender identity and expression. Know that historically marginalized couples may be slower to trust the process, having been mistreated, misgendered or misunderstood previously in their planning process.

 

Goodbye to service refusal

Though there are still questions on service refusal to be settled in the courts and by lawmakers, the wedding industry – as a whole – has chosen to be inclusive and welcoming of same-sex couples. In 2017, a majority of wedding professionals (67%) said they believe that wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples; a minority of vendors (32%) supported service refusal. Notably, a number of those who support the right of a business owner to refuse service also said that they think same-sex couples should be served.

Though couples do still express concerns about rejection and discrimination, the market has evolved to offer more powerful examples of unconditional acceptance according to the rule of law (eg, WeddingWire’s non-discrimination policy) than rejection. And, even with a few road bumps along the way, I see this trend continuing to spread from coast to coast throughout 2019.

 

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.

» 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.

» Wedding MBA 2018: See the Highlights!

We had such an exciting week in Las Vegas for another great Wedding MBA conference! We loved connecting with thousands of wedding industry colleagues and friends from across the globe. From outstanding education to a fun-filled celebration, our WeddingWire team was thrilled to see so many of vendor friends doing what they love!

Here are a few of our favorite highlights:

Expert Education

We loved sharing business tips, industry insights and a range of education with you. Our Education Experts presented 16 times at the event — on a wide variety of topics from marketing, to websites, to sales and more. We were also so pleased to include some category-specific education from our Experts. Check out the slides from our presentations here.

Passport to fun

We had so much fun with everyone who stopped by the WeddingWire booth to say hello to the team, and collect passport stamps for swag. Our team loved seeing your selfies in our photo booths provided by The Brand Booth, and watching you contribute to our coloring wall. We were also able to meet with hundreds of pros to share account advice, set their businesses up for success on WeddingWire, and collect product feedback for future updates and improvements. Our team loved seeing friends—old and new.

Celebrating with pros

It wasn’t all business insights and education — there was plenty of fun along the way! We took the time to unwind, after a full day at the conference and take in some Vegas nightlife with great music at the annual WeddingWire party at the Foxtail Pool & Nightclub. Jason Jani of SCE Event Group spun another amazing set, featuring electric violinist Lydia Ansel.

For more event takeaways and to stay up-to-date on all the latest WeddingWire happenings for pros, be sure to follow WeddingWireEDU on Facebook and Instagram. We hope you see you again next year!

 

» 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.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Minneapolis

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at the Lumber Exchange Event Center for our WeddingWire Networking Night Minneapolis!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning venue right in the center of Minneapolis! Guests met with other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and tips for being inclusive of all couples, presented by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm!

Thank you to all the wonderful wedding professionals who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, the latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. You can also see the entire album on our WeddingWire EDU Facebook page!

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:


» Open to All: Building Trust With Prospective Clients

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

There is a simple, sure-fire way to open any conversation with any prospective client and it’s not rocket science.

The time-tested formula is as follows:

  • 1 part greeting as simple as “Hello”
  • 1 part open-ended question as simple as “How may I help you?”
  • 1 part active listening

Be present and listen actively

How many times a day do you answer the phone or welcome someone into your place of business with this greeting? But how often do you mean it?

We have been taught to offer this generic greeting phrase as part of the social ritual in service and retail settings. It’s become a bit of background pleasantry, and I suspect that many of us are distracted by other pressures, assumptions and distractions, and aren’t as present to how we are introducing this question of connection and service.

What if we reinstituted intentionality into our greetings?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if we removed any assumptions we are making about who might be calling and what they might need?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if our listening was tuned to not only the words they are using, but also what their concerns or emotional state might be?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

In my experience, the next, best response includes a follow-up question that incorporates an understanding and reflection of what that prospective client has just said or revealed. In this first minute of conversation, the process of earning trust is well underway.

Wedding professionals can use this formula successfully with every single prospective client. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach, though the trust earning portion of the exchange may take more time when a wedding professional is working with an engaged couple with whom they aren’t familiar (i.e., a straight, White, Christian woman in her 40s working with a gay Black couple who are atheists in their 20s or a mixed-race Jewish couple in their 60s). One may have to listen more carefully when navigating a new relationship outside of one’s own lived experience.

Reject the cookie-cutter approach

The key to the process is that it all begins with earning trust and resisting the urge to treat every couple with a cookie-cutter approach. Couples of all stripes appreciate the customized approach and Millennials, as a rule, even when they fit the mold of the “average couple,” require it.

Once you’ve established how a couple frames the way in which they’d like your help, you can then share with them the ways in which you are best suited to help them. As much as it’s important to hear their needs, it’s also important to know your strengths (and weaknesses) and be able to articulate them in a way that advances the conversation.

An example as it pertains to same-sex couples is as follows: in 2005, a GayWeddings.com survey found that same-sex couples were willing to book any vendor who was willing to work with them. Experience didn’t matter as much as openness and customer service did. Now that marriage equality has been recognized and the competitive wedding market is prepared to serve LGBTQ couples, customer service AND expertise matter when it comes to winning business.

And, this is true for other couples who identify as something other than the young, White, straight, fit couple most often represented in blogs and magazines. There are so many types of couples in need of services and each has their own way of expressing their love and sealing their bond.

It’s up to wedding professionals to welcome all couples with grace and to be receptive to their needs; but it’s also essential for wedding professionals to have clear boundaries around what they can and can’t offer as services in order to establish a strong foundation for a fruitful working relationship.

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.

» Can I Call It A Gay Wedding?

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

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

I was at a luncheon a few weeks ago, and a new acquaintance asked me about my line of work. I explained that my straight mother had founded our business — GayWeddings.com — almost 20 years ago and that now, in the years since WeddingWire had acquired our site, I was spending the majority of my time helping wedding vendors understand how to best serve same-sex couples and explaining LGBTQ wedding trends to journalists.

A Manhattan resident who was in her seventies, my new friend was excited and curious about my work, especially because she had enjoyed the same-sex weddings she had attended. So our conversation continued, and, in response to one of her questions, I answered by saying something to the effect of, “For example, at a gay wedding…”

But this is where she interrupted me.

“Don’t call it a gay wedding!” she admonished. “A wedding is a wedding! It’s not a gay wedding!”

I understood what she meant. I’ve heard this refrain and have even found occasion to use it myself in certain contexts. A wedding is a wedding when the consideration is how much it costs to produce a ceremony and a reception at peak season on a Saturday night. These are structural elements that impact the price of the wedding, the budget, the availability of a venue, the size of the guestlist and so on. A wedding is a wedding when we are talking about two persons in love choosing to exchange a solemn and legal vow in front of their loved ones. In these ways, I agree with her.

I think I surprised her, however, when I pushed back — graciously, of course — on her premise.

Actually, I said, a wedding isn’t always a wedding, but I appreciate your message of equality and recognition. By custom and habit, I went on to explain, weddings have been a strongly gendered, heteronormative exercise where all that flows seems to come from planning around a pair of pants and a dress — but especially around the dress! — and that this equation can be very different for two brides, two grooms or two persons who define themselves in a way other than “bride and groom.”

This is where there is room, I explained, to recognize that a “gay wedding” is different, and that understanding and addressing those differences is key to helping a couple celebrate.

For example, though statistics show that most couples are most concerned about price and availability when trying to locate and book wedding professionals to help them, LGBTQ couples are just as concerned about being rejected as they are about price and availability. This is an important difference and, even since marriage equality was recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2015, that fear (and reality) of service refusal remains.

Additionally, same-sex couples have tended to be older in age and have tended to pay for most or all the wedding themselves. This has an impact on budget priorities, the guest list, and who the decision-maker(s) are in the planning. Over time, however, same-sex couples are getting younger and families are getting more involved in the planning and budgeting for the wedding.

Another key difference is what it means to photographers in how they plan to work with same-sex couples. One must consider posing, detail sessions with attire, having enough photographers to cover the wedding preparation rituals for two brides wearing traditional gowns and needing styling services. They must consider how two gowns or two bouquets can be awkward to stage in close proximity or how two tuxes next to one another provide no color contrast. If a photographer plans with ‘a wedding is a wedding’ in mind, he or she will likely stumble into unexpected traps that can impact the final product.

I’m not sure that my lunch buddy fully understood what I meant about how important nuance and cultural competence is in helping wedding pros deliver superior services to LGBTQ couples in a competitive market. I certainly hope, however, that she felt my appreciation for her unabashed support of marriage equality and recognition that same-sex couples deserve a seat at the proverbial table.

As same-sex couples continue to assimilate into the larger wedding market, I invite everyone to remember that two grooms and two brides still have some unique needs that shouldn’t be overlooked. So, until the dust has settled on the modern market, let’s not fully retire the phrase “gay wedding” or “lesbian wedding” or “queer wedding;” there is still something very special to remember and celebrate about our unions.

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.

» Wedding Pros Lead By Inclusive Example

Photo by Creative Island Visions

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

I wasn’t sure what to expect at my very first wedding industry conference in 2005. At the time, our business (originally called TwoBrides.com and TwoGrooms.com) had been focused on helping couples who were desperate to find us, so I wasn’t sure how wedding professionals might react to our specialized services.

For context, it’s important to remember that Massachusetts had only just recognized marriage equality — the first state to do so — and the topic of “gay marriage” remained largely controversial. The military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in effect; some states began to introduce legislation to ban same-sex marriage in response to legislation advancing in Massachusetts; and, some states were promoting civil unions instead of full marriage rights. It was a very different time.

The opening night of the conference included a networking reception, where I spent most of my time listening to other attendees sharing their experiences. Eventually, though, a wedding planner from Virginia, with whom I was having a pleasant conversation, asked what I did for a living. I explained that I ran an online boutique dedicated to serving same-sex couples. I had hardly finished my sentence when, without a further word, she turned on her heel and walked away from me.

I was stunned. But not deterred.

It might have been the first time (and one of the most pronounced!) that I encountered discomfort and disagreement about my passion for helping LGBTQ couples plan their weddings, but it wasn’t the last.

The good news is that, on the whole, I’ve had very positive and welcoming experiences in the wedding industry. Increasingly, interested wedding professionals, who were growing in number as marriage equality advanced, realized that they had questions about working with same-sex couples and sought my advice. And, when we launched our GayWeddings partnership with WeddingWire in January, 2011, acceptance deepened further.

Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the partnership with WeddingWire was watching the enrollment in our LGBTQ-friendly directory of wedding vendors grow by leaps and bounds.  WeddingWire helps same-sex couples understand that there is a safe and welcoming place for them; an incredibly important resource given that approximately half of all LGBTQ couples say that they experienced a fear of rejection based on their sexual orientation when searching for wedding vendors.

After WeddingWire acquired GayWeddings and marriage equality became the law of the land three years ago this month, it became clear that, going forward, same-sex couples would have access to the marriage licenses, services and planning resources available to all couples.

At WeddingWire, this rings more true than ever, even in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to find narrowly in favor of Jack Phillips’ request to be able to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex couple (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission). I am heartened by WeddingWire’s uninterrupted commitment to inclusion through its non-discrimination policy; its position as the first and only wedding company to earn a spot on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (and perfect scores at that!); and knowing that the majority of wedding professionals believe that wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples as they would all other couples.

This month, as we celebrate Pride, know that I’ll be celebrating you, the many supportive wedding professionals who have been out there, working with couples and celebrating our unions with open arms. You are a big part of the story of marriage equality, and responsible for helping to weave same-sex weddings into the fabric of our industry and mainstream acceptance.

Our work is not done, but the conversations are happening. And, now more than ever, we must continue to lead with love, to listen with love and to serve each other with love. Happy Pride!

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.

» What the Supreme Court’s Decision Means for the Wedding Industry

Photo by Nick Spiker Photography

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

Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission has been one of the most watched court cases of the 2017-2018 Supreme Court session. In today’s 7-2 decision, the Justices have ruled in favor of baker, Jack Phillips, who declined to serve David Mullins and Charles Craig, who asked him to make them a wedding cake in 2012.

Justice Kennedy, who issued the majority opinion (with Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissenting), emphasized that this ruling is about this case in particular. The ruling does not offer a broad-sweeping permission for service refusal, but it does underscore the value that a religious belief be given as much dignity as the court extended to same-sex couples in the 2015 Obergefell ruling.

Says SCOTUSblog analyst, Amy Howe:

“Although (Jack) Phillips prevailed today, the opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy rested largely on the majority’s conclusion that the Colorado administrative agency that ruled against Phillips treated him unfairly by being too hostile to his sincere religious beliefs. The court seemed to leave open the possibility that a different outcome could result in a future case, and it did not rule at all one of the central arguments in the case – whether compelling Phillips to bake a cake for a same-sex couple would violate his right to freedom of speech…

“‘The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances,’ the majority closed, ‘must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.’”

I know that there are many LGBTQ couples who express anxiety about finding vendors to help them with their wedding planning, and I can imagine that this will only enhance those concerns.

I also know, from the research I’ve done in this past year, that there are many wedding professionals who care deeply about LGBTQ couples and that they receive a kind and loving reception when they are searching for their teams of vendors.

In addition to the individual wedding pros who are steadfast allies, WeddingWire remains steadfast in its core belief of equality and its desire for the industry as a whole, to be a warm and welcoming community for all people. As it has been for years, the vendor directory will continue to be a reliable and safe resource for same-sex couples.

Additionally, it is important for LGBTQ couples to know that, though it may seem a contradiction, there are wedding pros who support Jack Phillips’ freedom of expression, but who also believe that that same-sex couples should not be turned away on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. They support Phillips’ freedom to express himself but think he is in the wrong to refuse to serve same-sex couples. This group of wedding professionals understands that the wedding industry has welcomed same-sex couples with open arms, and that the vast majority is ready, willing and able to serve them.

To the wedding pros reading this I say: Thank you for all that you have done in the past 15 years to recognize the importance of marriage equality, and to help the LGBTQ community, our friends and our families to celebrate our loving unions.

Today offers a wonderful opportunity to open your arms, and welcome those couples who need to know that they have a safe space to plan their weddings. More than ever, the Pride hashtag, inclusive language and images in your storefronts and in your social media feeds, will speak volumes.

In closing, I’d like to remind you of the mantra many of you have heard from me at WeddingWire World over the years, and it still holds today:

Lead with love, listen with love and serve with love and you can’t go wrong.

I hope you’ll join me in this spirit as this important conversation continues.

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.

» 5 Big Ways LGBTQ Wedding Planning Has Changed in 5 Short Years

Photo by B. Jones Photography

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

Five years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided that New York resident Edie Windsor’s out-of-state marriage (she married Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007) would be recognized in New York, where same-sex marriage had been legally recognized since 2011.

This landmark decision immediately opened the door for the many same-sex couples who wished to seek legal partnership recognition but could not do so in their home states, and ultimately paved the way toward SCOTUS’ Obergefell decision in 2015, which embraced marriage equality nationwide. Those legal shifts, though taking place in courtrooms, ultimately had a significant impact on the wedding market and the choices of engaged LGBTQ couples.

Time Flies

Prior to 2013, LGBTQ weddings were smaller, had older brides and grooms, were more custom than traditional in design, and the couples themselves tended to pay for the ceremony and celebration. After 2005, when Massachusetts legalized marriage and others followed, some couples were planning legal elopements to travel to jurisdictions for a marriage certificate, but many were choosing to have non-legally-recognized ceremonies and otherwise share their commitments more publicly.

Though I have a file full of instructive anecdotes and isolated data snapshots to explain what was happening in the market back in the day, it was 2013 that offered a turning point for enough data to explain how the same-sex wedding market has been changing with legal recognition. The result? With the spread of marriage equality recognition, we could see in real time how LGBTQ weddings were beginning to assimilate into the “mainstream” market and, conversely, how non-LGBTQ weddings had begun to adopt LGBTQ innovation more frequently, including trends like ‘pop up’ or micro-weddings, blended wedding parties, color variety in wedding parties, laypeople as officiants, and more.

Newlywed Report: LGBTQ Market Analysis

Over the past few years, WeddingWire’s WedInights team has issued its annual Newlywed Report, which is chock full of insights about today’s couples, gleaned from the answers from almost 18,000 participants (the most comprehensive and rigorous report in the industry). This essential tool is important to help wedding professionals stay up-to-date on the latest trends, particularly when it comes to same-sex couples because the LGBTQ market segment has been in a state of constant growth and flux for the past decade. What was true five years ago is not necessarily true today. Now that the U.S. is celebrating three years of marriage equality nationwide, however, trends within the LGBTQ market segment are beginning to stabilize, making it easier for wedding professionals to make thoughtful decisions about their marketing plans and service offerings for all couples.

‘What was true five years ago is not necessarily true today.’

Before I highlight a few key shifts in lesbian and gay wedding trends, it’s important to note that this analysis draws primarily from the WeddingWire Newlywed Reports (2015-2018) and WeddingWire Trends & Traditions Surveys, which offer a direct year-over-year comparison of questions. It also references trends revealed in the 2015 Contemporary Couples Report (by WeddingWire, GayWeddings, Community Marketing, Inc and the Gay Wedding Institute) of those who married in 2014, and a related report, Same-Sex Couples: Weddings & Engagements (by Community Marketing, Inc and the Gay Wedding Institute) of couples surveyed in 2013, but who may have celebrated a union or become engaged at any time in the previous years.

Five Big Changes for Same-Sex Couples

#1 Parents are stepping up. And in?

More than ever, same-sex couples are receiving help paying for their weddings. Five years ago, a strong majority of same-sex couples (79% in 2013) reported paying for all or most of the wedding themselves, compared to 2017 where that number has dropped significantly to 59% of couples. This shift tells us that more parents (and extended family) are participating in and supporting their kids’ LGBTQ weddings, and, as a result, the overall wedding spend is increasing as more vendors are hired, more guests are invited, and as LGBTQ couples have shifted away from practical and often quickly planned legal elopements to a more typical engagement and wedding planning process.

This also means that identifying the decision-maker in the booking process may be shifting now that a couple’s parents may have more financial investment in the wedding and, as such, an expectation around decision-making.

#2 Growth of the guestlist

The growth of the guestlist at gay and lesbian weddings is a direct result of more couples coming out, more couples choosing to marry, and more couples feeling comfortable celebrating with a broader circle of families, friends, and co-workers. It’s also a function of being able to get legally married in one’s home state and having the chance to plan accordingly. In fact, the 2015 Survey of Contemporary Couples revealed that 79% of same-sex couples were planning a wedding ceremony and reception, almost doubling the result (43%) of couples surveyed previously (Same-Sex Couples: Weddings & Engagements, 2013).

  • Prior to 2013, the size of the average guestlist was 65
  • In 2014, the average size was 80
  • In 2015 and 2016: 100
  • In 2017: 107 (which still lags behind non-LGBTQ couples average guestlist size of 127)

In sum, having both a ceremony and a reception is a relatively new development for a majority of same-sex couples and marks a major shift with clear planning and budgeting implications and has had a direct impact on the growth in size of the average guestlist.

#3 Size of wedding party

As same-sex weddings have grown in size, so, too, has the supporting cast. In 2013, 63% of same-sex couples reported that they had anywhere from 0 to 3 persons in their wedding party. Yes, you are hearing that correctly. Five years ago, same-sex couples had 3 or fewer people standing up with them as witnesses. Today, the average wedding party size for same-sex couples is 7, compared to 9 for heterosexual couples.

More moving parts, more guests and bigger wedding parties are just another indicator that same-sex couples are following the structural rules of traditional wedding planning compared to the highly personalized, more modestly-sized ceremonies from years’ past.

#4 Blended Wedding Party

There is perhaps no better example of a wedding custom than the wedding party in order to illustrate not only the difference in the willingness of same-sex couples to break with tradition, but also an impressive example of how gay weddings have influenced straight weddings.

In WeddingWire’s 2016 Trends and Traditions Report, only 14% of LGBTQ couples reported dividing their wedding parties based on gender. That is, guys on one side and gals on the other. Same-sex couples have always tended to blend their wedding parties, asking their closest supporters to stand with them, regardless of gender and often in whatever attire they choose (eg women wearing pants and dresses to suit). What’s most remarkable is to understand how this repurposed vision of a wedding party for same-sex couples has dramatically influenced the choices of opposite-sex couples in a short amount of time. Seventy-four (74%) of straight couples divided their wedding parties by gender in 2015, but the needle moved to 69% in 2016 and, more recently, dropped to 60% in 2017.

‘What’s most remarkable is to understand how this repurposed vision of a wedding party for same-sex couples has dramatically influenced the choices of opposite-sex couples in a short amount of time.’

As same-sex couples are assimilated into the mainstream market, it’s clear that there has been a two-way street of influence, which has been amplified by Millennial couples, who choose rituals and make planning choices that are highly customized to their preferences.

#5 Age of the couple

In 2014, Jennifer Senior, then a writer for the New York Magazine, noted that one third of LGBTQ newlyweds were over 50. WeddingWire’s Newlywed Report revealed that the average age of same-sex couples who had married in 2015 and 2016 was 35 (with a smidge of variation in age between gay grooms and lesbian brides). In 2017, the age dropped to 34. Today, LGBTQ couples still skew a bit older than non-LGBTQ couples (the average age for heterosexual couples in 2017 was 32), but the shrinking gap reveals not only how opposite-sex couples are getting married a few years later in life, but also how same-sex couples are getting younger.

This is just one more example of how the engagement and wedding planning trajectory for same-sex couples is assimilating to match the typical relationship trajectory for heterosexual couples: start dating, (perhaps cohabitate), get engaged, and get married. With more open acceptance of LGBTQ individuals and couples, one’s sexual orientation is no longer a factor in one’s interest in and access to marriage and wedding planning services.

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.

» 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.

» A Fresh Look at the Legal Landscape for LGBTQ Couples

Photo by Hitched Photo

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

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

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

Is Marriage Legal in Australia Or Not?

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

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

Germany, Finland and Malta Celebrate Marriage Equality

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

Masterpiece Cakeshop & The Question of Service Refusal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.