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How to Be a More Inclusive Wedding Vendor

In the fall of 2015, the United States Supreme Court upheld the landmark Oberfell v. Hodges decision, legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country. Five years later, there are more than half-a-million married same-sex households according to recently published US Census Bureau data. Love is in the air! And with more and more LGBTQ+ identified couples choosing to marry, it is essential that wedding vendors are as inclusive as possible.

But what does it mean to be an inclusive wedding vendor?

Weddings are historically rooted in traditional, often gender-specific values. That is why, as more same-sex couples tie the knot, it is paramount that our industry adapt and approach LGBTQ+ clients with intentionality and inclusivity. Our goal as wedding professionals is to create experiences that will allow our clients and their loved ones to shine on one of the most important days of their lives. As an LGBT-identified wedding photographer, I will share some inclusive best practices I have implemented in my business that you may want to consider. 

Some Best Practices for Inclusive Wedding Vendors

  • Ask your clients about their preferred gender pronouns and names. This may seem obvious, but many wedding vendors do not do this. It is important to respect your client’s gender identities and to refer to them by the name they are most comfortable using. This is especially important as a wedding photographer because the relationship with my couples is paramount; maintaining a safe and comfortable space for my clients ensures we are able to create the best photographs possible. If you’re not sure when or where to ask, you can always include this question in your client questionnaire or on the intake form on your website. 
  • Take care when using gendered language on your website, social media, contracts, and client questionnaires. It’s very common in the wedding industry to refer to couples generally as “bride and groom.” However, these labels do not reflect the vast spectrum of identities of our clients. Referring to your couples only as “bride and groom” on your website, social media, and in print materials can alienate potential clients who do not see themselves reflected in those terms. Similarly, it is becoming more and more common for wedding parties to include people of all genders, so take care when using terms like “bridesmaids” and “groomsmen”, and consider substituting the more general term “wedding party.” We’ve also had bridesmen and groomswomen--stay open to the wonderful and limitless possibilities! There are times, of course, when the traditional terms are perfectly appropriate; however, we should try our best not to default to gender-specific language when referring to our clients in a general way. When in doubt, ask.
  • Treat your client’s chosen family as family. Wedding professionals with limited experience working with LGBTQ+ couples may not understand the complicated relationships that can exist between queer people and their families. Make it a practice to ask your clients who in their wedding do they consider family. Taking the time to understand these relationships will ensure that you help maintain a comfortable atmosphere for all couples and their guests.
  • Respect the privacy of your clients. Despite the monumental progress we’ve seen with acceptance and inclusivity for LGBTQ+ couples in recent years, there are still some individuals who do not feel safe being publicly out, but still wish to celebrate their love with their closest friends and family. While it is a common practice in the wedding industry for vendors to post wedding images on social media and their website, it is critical to prioritize your client’s privacy when requested. 
  • Work with associates who share your values of inclusion and diversity. For some vendors, it is common practice to hire associates to assist with weddings. For example, many photographers hire second (and sometimes third) photographers to help capture every detail of their clients' big day. It is essential, as inclusive wedding professionals, that we strive to work with associates who share our values of inclusion and diversity.
  • Wedding photographers: take into account special sensitivities of your clients. Some couples are naturally more camera-shy or less comfortable with openly displaying affection on camera. For LGBTQ+ couples, there are further considerations. For example, some of these couples may come from locations in which they were not comfortable fully expressing their identity. This can also sometimes be the case for older LGBTQ+ couples who came of age in a time when their identities were more marginalized. For a couple to authentically shine on their wedding day, they must feel comfortable. Never pressure your clients to do anything they are not fully and enthusiastically on board with.

As a wedding photographer and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it is an honor and a privilege to tell stories of love for all couples. Inclusive business practices are more than a hashtag--they require wedding professionals to learn and engage with communities they may not be familiar with.

This list of best practices for inclusive wedding vendors is by no means an exhaustive one. We are constantly striving to be more inclusive. It’s a continual process of learning and listening. In that spirit, please share in the comments below if you have other suggestions!

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