The wedding industry landscape has changed significantly in the past decade and will continue to grow and expand in years to come. A big factor in this shift is the increased acceptance and openness of the gender-fluid generation.
There tend to be a lot of misunderstandings about gender fluidity, so let’s start by breaking it down.
What does “gender fluid” mean?
“Gender fluid” is an identity that refers to a gender that varies over time. Keep in mind that gender is not the same as birth-assigned sex; it is how people identify themselves. For someone who is fluid, gender is not binary (i.e., male or female) nor is it stationary.
Gender-fluid people might shift between what society has deemed to be “masculine” or “feminine.” They may feel more feminine one day and more masculine the next, which they may choose to reflect in their physical presentation.
Who is identifying as gender fluid?
A common misconception is that gender fluidity is a “new” concept, but the truth is that it has always been around. Our society is just now starting to embrace it as an identity and, due to this progressiveness, more people are coming out as gender-fluid.
We are seeing the majority of gender fluidity fall into the Generation Z age group (those born after 1997), the oldest of whom are currently 22 and will soon be entering the average age of marriage in the next five years.
How does gender fluidity impact the wedding industry?
The average age of marriage currently floats around 28 or 29 years of age. With Gen Z inching closer to this age with every passing year, it is important to understand their values now so that you can successfully market to them when they reach the wedding-planning stage of their lives.
The wedding industry is historically heteronormative, with traditions and terminology that have spoken to a “bride and groom” couple for decades. But, in this day and age, couples value inclusivity greatly--and that goes for all couples, including heterosexual pairs. People want to know that their LGBTQ+ and non-binary/non-conforming friends and family members will be accepted at their wedding, even if they are adhering to traditional wedding customs.
Thus, couples want stationers who understand etiquette for addressing invitations for LGBTQ+ and non-binary couples and individuals, such as using the popular third-gender prefix Mx. Likewise, they are seeking venues with gender-neutral bathrooms and planners who understand the importance of creating a safe space for all and who can resolve potential negativity that may arise with more conservative guests.
Regardless of where a couple falls on the spectrum, it will be essential for wedding businesses to welcome and include all people to ensure they and their guests feel safe and comfortable. By no means is this a trend; this shift is here to stay and will only continue to grow in acceptance, so it is up to the industry at large to make inclusivity an expectation for every company.
What can wedding pros do to embrace the change?
It’s time we start removing the binary agenda from our marketing materials and replace them with gender-neutral terms that embrace people from all walks of life. This includes your website copy, email communications, client documentation, and social media posts. Not every wedding has a bride or a groom, so remove those assumptions from the way you speak and sell your services.
A good place to start is by educating yourself. Make the effort to understand the community, connect with like-minded businesses to promote inclusivity, and train your team to embrace the same ideas and use the same terminology. Donate and give back to LGBTQ+ rights groups year-round.
Another great way to embrace your clients’ gender identity and orientation is to start asking for preferred pronouns in your general inquiries. We should never make an assumption about someone’s gender, orientation or identity, so allow your clients the opportunity to share for themselves.
This practice will prepare your company in anticipation for Gen Z, but it will also open your business up to current couples who are planning their weddings--many of whom are LGBTQ+, non-binary, gender-fluid, or heterosexual allies who are close to others who identify as such.
Remember that inclusivity is not just a business strategy that requires tweaking your website. It is a mind-set first and foremost, so it is important that your beliefs align with the changes you are making in your business. Today’s client values authenticity, so they will be looking to see that you can back up the words on your marketing materials.
Brittny Drye is the founder and editor-in-chief of Love Inc., one of the leading equality-minded wedding blog and print publications. Her inclusive efforts have been noted by the New York Times, Forbes, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, Refinery29, NY Daily News, Cosmopolitan, and more. She serves on the 2018-19 North American Advisory Board for the International Academy of Wedding and Events.