It’s 2019 and it’s been nearly four years since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across all 50 states. While these unions are recognized by a court of law, we have not yet seen same-sex marriage elevated to the same level of acceptance as heterosexual marriage in the wedding industry. It does not appear as overt discrimination, but lives in the terms and imagery used in marketing materials.
It’s ironic, seeing that a survey by the J. Walter Thompson Intelligence Group found that only 48 percent of the Gen Z population identifies as being exclusively heterosexual. Additionally, even strictly heterosexual individuals seek inclusivity for their counterparts on the spectrum; equality is not a trend, but something that is here to stay.
EMBRACING INCLUSIVITY Seeing that this extremely fluid generation will soon make up the majority of event clients, it’s time that our industry collectively pivots its messaging to embrace inclusivity. Our industry is ripe with heteronormative terminology and traditions, so it’s important to retrain your brand to think, speak and act in ways that are more inclusive. Also, the probability of a couple inviting LGBTQ friends and family members is likely, so it is helps to make their guests feel welcome as well.
Start by ditching the dated assumptions that a male-female couple is strictly heterosexual. One (or both) could be bisexual, pansexual or transgender. So it’s wise to avoid presuming someone’s sexuality or identity unless they’ve made it clear to you how they identify. Listen to them and internalize what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. Let them guide you. If they’re not forthcoming with that information, respect their boundaries and don’t try to interpret it. Remember that their personal life isn’t for your speculation.
WATCH YOUR WORDS Another inclusive move is to change up the verbiage on your marketing materials and the way you communicate with couples. Not every wedding has a bride or a groom, so using terms like “husband and wife” or “bridal party” can come off wrong--even if that isn’t your intention. Instead, opt for inclusive terms like “couples” and “wedding party” that speak to people of all genders and identities.
Likewise, you’ll want to remove gender-biased assumptions from your business’ products and services. Not every bride feels comfortable in a dress, just as not every groom feels comfortable in a suit. The same goes for wedding parties. Gone are the days of all-female bridesmaids and all-male groomsmen. Couples of all orientations and identities are having mixed-gender wedding parties. That also means pre-wedding festivities, like showers and bach parties, are mixed as well.
With mixed-gendered wedding parties, don’t base the processional, recessional or the reception entrance by pairing them up based on gender. Consider suggesting each person enter by themselves, or partner them up based on where they will stand at the altar. The lines are crossing and you need to be flexible and prepared for each unique situation.
Many traditions, like a father giving away his daughter or the bouquet toss, might not be a consideration for many fluid couples. If you are an MC or officiant, going through your wedding script is crucial to take out traditionally gendered verbiage. For example:
- “You may now kiss the bride.” Instead, opt for a modern update: “You may now seal your vows with a kiss.”
- “Who will give this woman away?” Switch it up with: “Do you promise to support this marriage and accept your (partner) into your family?”
- “I now pronounce you man and wife.” Make it equality-based by saying: “I now pronounce you partners for life.”
It is important to be mindful of song choices as well if you are a DJ or band, as many love songs feature a male singing about a female or vice-versa. But there are so many beautiful love songs that don’t mention gender at all that would be appropriate to play.
Consider songs such as “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri or “Sunday Kind of Love” by Etta James. If you usually suggest a couple to have an anniversary dance, be sure to change the language for this as well from “husband and wife” to “partners.” Instead of celebrating the number of years they have been married, perhaps consider using the phrase “celebrating X years together,” as many couples didn’t have the right to marry until 2015.
As society continues to evolve and become more progressive, your company’s inclusive values will go a long way in earning new business and creating a respectful and welcoming experience for all. While this transition is one that requires concrete changes to your business approach, it’s ultimately a mind-set shift that will set you and your company up for a sustainable future.
Brittny Drye is the founder and editor-in-chief of Love Inc., one of the leading equality-minded wedding blog and digital publication. Her inclusive efforts have been noted by the New York Times, 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.