I’m here to help you with things you need to know about inclusivity as a wedding professional.
the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those having physical or mental disabilities or belonging to other minority groups.
As a wedding professional that is a member of the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual or Ally) community, I cringe when I see/hear wording that is very hetero specific, therefore excluding anyone who is not. I feel it’s a very dated way of talking/thinking more than really trying to exclude people (most times)…which is the reason for my blog post. I also feel it’s the easy/lazy way of speaking because it rolls off the tongue out of habit, rather than taking the time or maybe being intimidated or confused or not knowing who to ask for help or being afraid to get something wrong…which is another reason for my post.
Let me ease your mind a bit…and say that even as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community…it is hard for even me to keep up with ever-changing terminology and even I have fears of forgetting or misusing pronouns. Speaking to you as a member of the community, I can assure you that as long as you are trying to make the effort and learn…that speaks volumes.
Before I get into the checklist of what you need to do to get your business to being one of inclusivity and of being in the know, here are a couple of things I’d like for you to keep in mind:
- It’s okay to ask what preferred pronouns are for the person/people. Don’t just assume what they are. If you do make an assumption and are corrected during the conversation, please utilize the correct pronoun for the remainder of the conversation.
- If you already know the pronoun, and make a mistake when using pronouns in a conversation, try to correct yourself immediately, and move on…don’t make a big deal about it. It will only make the situation more awkward for you and more importantly the person/people.
There is a lot I want to cover here, so I thought the bulleted checklist route is the best way to proceed, and is the most helpful for you.
- Use a variety of imagery on your site of couples of all kinds that you have provided services for.
- If you don’t have a diverse portfolio, consider skipping photos with people in them, if it make sense to your service (for example, planners/designers can simply show tablescapes, ceremony set ups, etc.)
- If you opt to do a photo shoot to get diverse imagery, consider using real-life couples and gift them something for their time (dinner gift certificate, the photos from the shoot, etc.) The images should be genuine and the intent should be genuine…not just using the couple/people as a token for your portfolio.
- Stop using the words bride/groom…ESPECIALLY in the same statement. Instead using terms like “couples” or one of my faves is “nearlyweds”
- Consider adding your own pronouns in any snippet where there is an “about you” on your website. You will see on my website, that I noted my pronouns as she/her (We’ll chat more about pronouns a little further down.) This immediately shows anyone browsing your site that you are an ally or maybe even a member of the community…if you are.
- Again…do not use wording like “Bride’s Name” “Groom’s Name” on your contact form. Simply put something like “Your Name” and “Your Partner’s Name”
- Consider asking for preferred pronouns on the contact form so that you know immediately what they prefer before even speaking to the nearlyweds. IMPORTANT NOTE: This should be an optional field, because not everyone will feel comfortable outing their pronouns immediately, or this may not feel relevant to the couple inquiring, but it will be another point on your website that shows you are an ally
- You guessed it, don’t use bride/groom specific wording in your contracts, brochures, documents, questionnaires. Again, default to nearlyweds, partners, couple…universal terminology.
- Don’t assume a “father/daughter” “mother/son” dance…instead consider “special dances” as a whole and let them lead in that conversation. If they are not sure where to start here, you can ask if either will be dancing with a parent (general) or other significant person. As you can imagine, even today…because I hear it often…families (especially parents) are not always supportive allies of their LGBTQIA+ kids, so strictly asking/assuming parents will be in attendance is something you should not do. Also, daughters sometimes want to dance with their mom(s), sons with their father(s) and so on. Sometimes clients don’t want to do any of these parent type dances. Also, the terms sons and daughters may get awkward depending on the client’s journey or identity.
- That leads me to telling you not to assume every client has a hetero set of parents!
- The same conversation can be said for the walk up the aisle. Don’t assume a father will be walking up the aisle with one of the nearlyweds. Maybe there are two moms, maybe the dad is deceased, maybe the couple will walk up together, or each nearlywed will walk alone…you get the idea.
- Do not call the wedding parties “bridal party/bridesmaids” or “groomsmen” etc. until you know that is what the clients are calling them. Instead default to wedding party, and if you are referring to either nearlywed’s party in conversation, simply refer to “Samuel’s wedding party” or “Jennifer’s wedding party” or “Eli’s wedding party” This is something I feel like DJs and Florists need to be especially aware of in their questionnaires, etc, but is really relevant for ANY wedding professional.
- The clients may use “person of honor” or “best person” or may refer to their “man-of-honor” …again, wait for them to coin those terms or ask them what they are calling the members of their party. Some clients get even more creative with these titles. Follow the lead of the nearlyweds on what to call the wedding party members.
How to Use Pronouns
- First, there are probably more pronouns than you may know about or hear often. Here is a helpful chart of pronouns in all their forms:
Here are some examples of how these might be used…
Sarah showed us their favorite restaurants in town.
Alex said ze doesn’t like seeing photos of hirself. (pronouned heerself)
- When speaking, if you make a mistake of using the wrong pronoun immediately, simply say “I meant they” and move along with the conversation
- When speaking, if you make a mistake and realize it after, apologize to that person in private and move on.
- Do NOT dwell on the mistake, making more of a spectacle of the situation for you, or more importantly the other person.
- If you are speaking with a parent (for example) who is stubbornly or intentionally misusing pronouns, simply suggest “You mean, theirs?” or simply continue to use the appropriate pronoun on your side of the conversation with said parent.
- When in doubt or if nervous, simply use the person’s name. For example, you might say something like “Does Alex want Alex’s flowers?” Weddings move so quickly and you may not have time to look back at notes for preferred pronouns while an on-the-fly conversation is happening. So defaulting to using the name is a safe choice.
- Always have the best intentions when you are using inclusive language and imagery on your site, documents and in conversation. Don’t simply add the language or imagery to make money. Have the intention of being an ally.
- Intend to support and be an ally, knowing that you don’t have to understand why the nearlyweds have chosen the pronouns that were chosen. Just be an ally and make effort.
- If you are a DJ or officiant, please please please be sure you DO use the proper terms. I have personally had weddings where the DJ misgendered during the introductions, or when the officiant said bride and groom when there were two nearlyweds who identified as grooms, etc. This is important since your voices will be amplified during really meaningful parts of the wedding day!
- Don’t make assumptions and do respect the person’s journey even if you don’t relate or understand.
It will take time to get used to using new-to-you pronouns and to stop being nervous to do so. I hope you found this post helpful and will update your business collateral.
If you are a wedding pro that is genuinely supportive and are an ally, and that is taking an active approach to using or updating your business in the ways listed above, please let me know, because I’m going to be creating a preferred list of LGBTQIA+ wedding pros to act a resource for nearlyweds. I know first-hand that this is much needed, even in our area, as I constantly hear clients having to come out or identify immediately in the inquiry to be sure the wedding pro they are inquiring with is safe for them.