Above photo courtesy Wildly Connected Photography
As a wedding and elopement photographer, witnessing love right before my eyes is the most beautiful thing about my job. As a queer person, I work predominantly in LGBTQ+ spaces. To me, this work is sacred. When couples welcome me into their lives to celebrate their unique love and identities, nothing makes me happier—queer love is sacred.
Being in this space for a long time has shown me the good, the bad, and the ugly. While I and other wedding vendors strive to create safe and inclusive environments for all, the wedding industry is, unfortunately, still built on heteronormative traditions. Queer-friendly wedding spaces shouldn’t even be a question. However, too many vendors still hold harmful views of what love “should” be.
Norms are changing—but not fast enough. If you’re a vendor wanting to create more queer-friendly wedding spaces and contribute to this change, here’s my quick guide:
Why do We Need Queer-Friendly Wedding Spaces?
No matter what kind of vendor or event professional you are, you hold a powerful wand in making or breaking a couple’s experience. So, the way you show up and interact with them matters. Here’s why we need queer-friendly wedding spaces:
1. To Help Everyone Feel Safe
When you hold discriminatory views and embrace heteronormative traditions, it shows. And it’s uncomfortable for us. Love doesn’t fit into molds and certainly doesn’t play by outdated rules. Everyone deserves to feel safe while getting married. End of story.
This sense of safety also extends to the rest of the wedding guests. Chances are, someone on that guest list also identifies as queer or non-conforming. They, too, deserve to feel safe, seen, and accepted.
2. To Create Lasting Memories
Weddings are monumental milestones in people's lives. By fostering queer-friendly spaces, we create an environment where LGBTQ+ couples can celebrate their love authentically, free from judgment or discrimination. As wedding vendors, we want to be part of creating happy memories, right?
3. To Lead by Example
We have the power to influence and shape the industry. We can set an example for others to follow, creating a ripple effect that inspires current and future generations of vendors to embrace and celebrate love in all its forms.
Am I Being Inclusive? Questions to Ask Yourself:
If you want to start creating queer-friendly spaces, take a moment for introspection. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you reflect on where you truly stand in embracing respect for all couples:
- Are my marketing materials inclusive? Can I make them inclusive?
- Do I use gender-neutral language in communications?
- Do I use gender and identity-neutral language in my signage?
- Do I have gender-neutral stalls?
- Do I give people the space to be who they are? Am I okay with giving people this space?
- Do I ask for people’s pronouns? Do I understand why this is important?
- Is my space accessible?
- Am I open to learning?
Taking Steps to Build Queer-Friendly Spaces
1. Start by Reflecting Inwards:
After you’ve asked yourself the above questions, it’s time to think about your intentions. Creating queer-friendly wedding spaces requires more than a superficial desire to follow a “trend.” It’s about genuinely embracing everyone and contributing to more accurate representation. Take a moment to reflect on your motivations—are you here to support the queer community wholeheartedly, or are you here for the money, reputation, or image?
2. Examine Your Language and Content
Make your contact forms, website, social media platforms, and other communication channels gender-neutral. Use inclusive terminology that welcomes all identities. Hint: If your contact form requires the names of the “bride” and “groom,” it’s time to change that.
3. Evaluate and Change Your Practices
It's essential to acknowledge areas of improvement within your practices. Here are some case examples:
- Photographers: Avoid relying on stereotypical poses or assumptions about gender roles. Let each couple's unique story tell itself.
- Wedding Officiants: Craft inclusive ceremonies that resonate with couples of all identities. Use inclusive language and avoid assumptions about gender or relationship structures.
- Venue Owners: Evaluate your signage, decor, and facilities to ensure they are inclusive and welcoming. Make sure your space is accessible and adaptable, allowing couples to personalize their wedding without restrictions based on tradition or harmful norms.
4. Deconstruct Your Own Biases
You must actively deconstruct your preconceived notions of love and identity to move towards change. Here are some things you can do to get started:
- Ask questions and listen to the perspectives and experiences of LGBTQ+ folks.
- Actively work with queer couples—not to fill a quota, but because you genuinely want to celebrate their love.
- Start acknowledging, questioning, and challenging heteronormative traditions everywhere you go.
- Build a network with queer event professionals. Collaborate, learn from their experiences, and follow their lead.
5. Celebrate Us. Like, Genuinely
Genuine celebration is at the heart of queer-friendly wedding spaces. When working with LGBTQ+ couples, show your enthusiasm and excitement for their love stories. Remember, the keyword here is genuine. If you have a different agenda (like wanting to make extra profit), please step aside and allow couples to find other arms-wide-open vendors.
The Work Starts Today
Whether you fully embrace the sacredness of queer love or are just starting to challenge your biases, I’m confident we’ll make the wedding space more inclusive, safe, and comfortable with some work and time. Regardless of what stage you’re at, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for being on the right side of change.
Anna is an LGBTQ+ wedding and elopement photographer and owner of Wildly Connected Photography. She cares about capturing the unique love stories and identities of queer folks and wants to make the wedding industry a more inclusive place. This blog was written in collaboration with Mariah Hess, a queer writer passionate about storytelling, representation, and amplifying LGBTQ+ voices.