With nearly one-third of the United States recognizing same-sex marriage (often referred to in the industry as gay weddings), the wedding industry is quickly transitioning from traditional bride and groom language to one that is inclusive of brides and grooms (note the lack of gender-specific identification when bride and groom are in plural form). But are same-sex weddings right for your business? Do you understand the difference between civil unions and gay marriage?
Who is the gay wedding market?
Most individuals associate gay weddings to a couple who is either two males or two females, however, the clientele who may fall under this term is more broad, and you should consider couples that identify as GLBTQ when considering “gay weddings.” The GLBTQ acronym is defined as:
G: gay; usually associated to males who are attracted to males but also used to identify same-sex couples.
L: lesbian; associated to females who are attracted to females.
B: bisexual (bi); associated to individuals who are attracted to both males and females. One or both parties in a couple can be bi.
T: trans; the first segment is transgender – where one’s gender identity does not necessarily match their physical sex at birth. The second segment is Transsexual, a person who physically changes their sex. To identify both segments, the “T” is then stated as “trans.” One or both parties to a couple can be trans and could identify as straight, gay, lesbian or something not defined here.
Q: queer; a reclaimed term to identify a gay, lesbian or transgender person or couple. The term can be offensive if used incorrectly.
There are actually several more letters to the acronym, but for now, these are the primary ones with which you should become familiar.
Are you comfortable working with GLBTQ couples?
To determine if you’re comfortable with working with GLBTQ couples, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I comfortable watching two men, two women, or a trans couple kiss?
- Do I fully support marriage equality for all couples?
- If I could, would I donate money to causes that support marriage equality?
- Do I understand the differences between civil unions and marriage (but realize a couple may have a wedding regardless of which legal recognition is available in the couple’s state)?
- Am I able to adapt to the couple’s personalization of the wedding, which may or may not follow traditional “norms”?
- Am I able to use gender-neutral language that recognizes all individuals (for example, instead of saying “bride’s family or groom’s family” can I say “the couple’s family” or “<name’s> family” and “<name’s> family” so as not to label the couple)?
- What will I do if one of the parties’ family members or friends reacts negatively because they disagree with the marriage?
If you answered no to any of the questions above, you may want to spend more time considering if you’d be successful working with gay couples. It’s also important to note that purposely discriminating against a couple because of their sexual orientation (or any other protected class) may be considered illegal under federal or state laws.
What is proper etiquette when working with gay couples?
Given the various types of couples, as well as the creation of new traditions, it can be difficult to understand the etiquette of working with gay couples.
My recommendation is to:
- Match terminology: The couple may identify their event as a wedding, civil union, commitment ceremony, celebration of love, partnership party, or something else. Matching their terminology will show you are on the same page.
- Be neutral: When working with GLBTQ couples, be gender neutral. Don’t reference the “bride’s suite” when two men are touring the property. State “game room” instead of “man cave” when two brides are present. Use “parent’s dance” instead of “father/bride dance” and “wedding party” instead of “bridesmaids and groomsmen.” I’d encourage you go so far as to use gender-neutral language with ALL couples; male/female couples won’t notice and GLBTQ couples will appreciate the gender-inclusive approach.
- Ask questions: If you don’t know how to address a topic, or how the couple will handle an aspect, just ask (and make sure you’re not insulting or being degrading).
- Never assume: You know what they say about assuming! If you are unsure how to proceed, it is better to ask than to assume.
- Be professional: Never make inappropriate comments or ask questions that can be demeaning or hurtful. For example, asking a male couple: “which one is going to be the bride’” is inappropriate and shows a lack of understanding the couple’s wedding needs. Instead, you can ask “are you standing side by side at an altar, and if so, who is on which side?”
Where can I learn more information about working with gay couples?
There are numerous sources for obtaining additional information. Below are a few of our favorites:
A Vote and A Vow provides information on marriage equality, inspiration, and certification for same-sex wedding professionals.
Colorado Gay Weddings offers a source for pre-screened gay-friendly advertisers to the Colorado gay wedding community as well as gender-neutral training for wedding professionals.
Gay Wedding Institute offers certification training for working with same-sex couples as well as gay wedding data and trend information.
Gay Weddings provides tools for planning and various forums for couples and professionals.
This is a guest post from Mark C. Paquette. Mark is the founder of coloradogayweddings.com, a resource for prescreened professionals to advertise their services to GLBTQ couples. He’s also the founder and lead planner for Mark Christopher Weddings and Events and has over 15 years in catering, corporate, and social events. He enjoys cooking, traveling, volleyball, and spending time with his partner and their two miniature dachshunds.