Weddings can be stressful, given the endless different tasks that cry out for your attention at the same time. However, they make for the most important day for any couple who is in love. Your wedding day symbolizes the accomplishment of something a couple has created together, it symbolizes union.
As a gay marriage celebrant, I can say that this matters even more in the case of a couple from the LGBTI community who have faced judgements in the past. And to top off all the stress that can come with a wedding, they face the problem of discrimination and rejection in society, too. To LGBTI couples, marriage symbolizes overcoming all the struggles they have been through together.
The first step for every marriage ceremony is having a vendor or supplier who caters to and personalises the ceremony according to your needs. This becomes very tricky when it comes to LGBTI couples. They are often sceptical of their requirements being understood by the supplier – and many, in fact, don’t know what type of wedding they want or what’s involved in organizing a wedding. A supplier’s job is to always understand the right need at the right time and cater to it promptly. And that comes with experience and a little bit of common sense, to read between the lines of the client. In the case of catering to the needs of LGBTI couples, it helps if suppliers also have some understanding of the LGBTI community and its ongoing fight for equality.
As a supplier, it is important for you to understand not only the market potential LGBTI weddings have for your business but also how to market to that niche.
If you are onto it, never say or believe, “LGBTI weddings aren’t any different from straight weddings”, because THEY ARE!
1. Undergo sensitivity training to cater to LGBTI couples
LGBTI weddings are a comparatively new addition to the marriage industry. Chances are high you don’t understand the complexities even after trying hard to understand the nuances. There are courses and training that help you learn the sensibilities of LGBTI couples. This is why it is wise to undergo training that teaches you the basics of what might be expected from you as a wedding supplier. It also shows your prospective LGBTI clients that you cared enough about them and their tribe to learn and train yourself to better cater to them and their needs. It also tells them that they can rely on you on their big day.
If you are part of a larger organization, make sure your whole team understands the same and doesn’t have any hesitations. It’s wise to have an internal policy with sufficient flexibility for them to opt-out. This will keep confusion and stress at bay.
2. Have gender-neutral language at LGBTI weddings
Straight weddings were designed in a very gender-specific manner. The brief history of weddings has very gendered roles for everyone – in fact, rituals, traditions etc. have all evolved along gender lines, over time. This is not the case with LGBTI weddings. Terms like Husband, Wife and Bridesmaid etc., might seem offensive in such situations, depending on the two parties to the marriage. Take care to create a wedding ceremony for your LGBTI clients in a non-gendered manner. This will ensure they get to celebrate their wedding day in a way that’s similar to how they live their daily lives, is memorable and authentic.
Remember that LGBTI couples might be less traditional with the gendered roles typically seen at a straight wedding.
3. Like any other couple, LGBTI couples need to be assured that you understand their values
Like every other couple, an LGBTI couple will want to know your core values. It’s possible that you don’t understand all their needs initially, which is still okay if you can convince them that you are trying & willing to learn. Your values of honesty and transparency might be something that connects them with you. Tell them about the contributions you have towards the LGBTI community and how you are trying hard to make things better. It will help them see how you are trying to understand them. This will also allow you to see them closely and understand what their requirements could possibly be.
4. Ensure you have inclusive language on your websites and all your marketing materials
Just talking to your LGBTI clients with gender-inclusive language is not enough. If your websites and pamphlets do not contain gender-inclusive language and images, it’s highly unlikely they will believe in you. A simple example would be when your website only has images of a straight couple and mentions only “Bride & Groom” or “Mr. & Mrs.”. This makes it difficult for an LGBTI couple to imagine themselves on your website, which should be a big red alert for your business. Check all your banners, social media and contact forms to ensure you have gender neutral alternatives.
5. It’s wise to keep the closet door closed unless the couple is fine with it
Even though things are changing positively for the LGBTI community, not everyone is okay with coming out as gay. It could be because of a fear of the response from other members of society, including their family or friends or the fear of rejection from church or job, or of harassment from sports team members. As a supplier, it’s your job to not question the reason while still giving your client the anonymity and privacy they may seek. Working with closeted couples might be a little trickier but, if you do it right, you may get more requests from the same group of closeted couples. Encourage them to meet at discreet locations and assure them their details are safe and won’t be divulged to anyone. You need to understand that some couples or individuals might have come out in one part of their lives but identify as straight in another. Instead of being judgmental or curious, try to understand how to cater to such clients better.
Author Bio – Bronte Price is Australia’s First Certified Gay Wedding Celebrant. He stands strongly for marriage equality and takes immense pleasure in marrying any couples in love. He has also co-founded The Equality Network to help wedding suppliers create a better wedding experience for LGBTI couples. He is a regular volunteer newsreader at Joy 94.9, and a member of GLOBE (Gay and Lesbian Organization for Business and Enterprise). Beyond this, you will find him either in his organic backyard vegetable garden or taking walks with his fiancée Clint and their four-legged fur baby – Bingo.