HOW TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS WELCOMING AND INCLUSIVE

Hello! Today I have something for wedding suppliers. And really all the businesses out there. 
Spring is the time when we all work on our businesses, update websites, prepare new offers for clients. I thought it would be a perfect moment to share some tips on how to make your wedding business more inclusive. Hope this helps!


IMAGES FROM THE STARS INSIDE

As times change, so do our couples, and all of us business owners in the wedding industry have the duty, and joy, of ensuring everyone feels welcome, represented, and understood. Every photo, video, caption, or snippet we share on our online platforms tells the story of our brand – and the customers we hope to reach through it. Being an awesome LGBT-allied vendor is more than just a badge or a token photo – it’s about making your business truly aware of everyone, and thinking of it as more people to welcome, rather than a larger market to tap.

Here are some guidelines on how to take an open-minded and conscientious approach to business inclusivity:

Brand name and logo.
If your brand name or logo includes a reference to heterosexual partnership, it may be time to think of modernising it to something more inclusive. For example, if you use ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’, or perhaps have a silhouette of a bride and groom, this may cause you to unknowingly exclude some of your audience.

Brand language.
When choosing pronouns and descriptors for any blog posts or social media captions, try to use welcoming and accepting language – by using terms like ‘the couple’, ‘the wedding party’ or ‘your partner’, you can subtly ensure all your readers feel addressed equally. There may be two, one, or no ‘brides’ – and similarly for ‘grooms’. Think about whether you need to modify your website’s contact form or your contract documents to use gender neutral language as well. Don’t forget to include in your posts the keyword phrases these couples might be searching for, like ‘gay friendly wedding vendors in London’, and to use relevant hashtags on Facebook and Instagram (if sharing a real wedding, consider asking your couple which tag they’re comfortable with).

Portfolio and packages.
If you can, show off a varied wedding portfolio where all types of couples are represented with equal focus. If you’re yet to have a booking from a same-sex couple, consider organising a styled shoot (with a REAL couple), asking a colleague whom you can borrow or purchase an image from, or using a stock image if appropriate. Depending on what your business is, you can offer packages specifically designed for same-sex couples (like tuxedo rentals for two, wedding gowns for two, and so on).


IMAGE FROM THE STARS INSIDE

Email etiquette.
When replying to enquiries, try to keep your wording considerate and non-specific until you’ve found out more about the couple (like saying, “What is your partner’s name?” rather than, “What is the groom’s name?”). Making assumptions at this stage may be hurtful to the reader, and may lead them to assume that you only serve heterosexual couples. If in doubt, it’s far better to respectfully ask ‘What pronouns do you prefer?’ than to repeatedly misgender someone – and do make sure you respect and adhere to what they reply. Listen to how your clients describe their relationship and how they interact, and keep that in mind when supporting them.

Blog posts and news articles.
When sharing news or articles from third party sources, do take a moment to assess whether the topic is generic enough to apply to all couples, or is aimed towards particular types of unions. When writing blog posts, make sure to include some non-exclusionary and LGBT-friendly tips and interviews – you can even send these guest posts to websites geared towards this audience, so your couples can more easily find you. Try not to assume that, because the couple is non-heterosexual, this has an effect on cultural or religious traditions. The couple may choose to honour them, to modify them to suit their relationship, or may opt for breaking them altogether. Try to rid your questions of preconceptions, and find out more about their ceremony and reception in an open way (like not asking ‘will you be wearing a normal dress?’ but rather saying ‘what are you planning for your attire?’). Of course, don’t discuss traditions in a way that indicates you don’t take them seriously, consider them offensive, or a ‘lifestyle choice’.

Educate yourself.
Educate yourself on the language, concerns and legalities of the market you want to serve in order to develop into the caring professional they want to hire. Promote any local Pride events and activities, and try to get actively involved in the local LGBT community so you can learn as much as you can – and meet as many people as you can. Knowing legislation and regulations, as well as regional attitudes and the sensibilities of other vendors is also important. Your willingness to serve the LGBT community should be displayed prominently, but also thoughtfully and in an educated manner; level up your business from LGBT-friendly to LGBT-competent.

Be proud.
Couples who feel strongly about working with wedding professionals who support marriage equality will be carefully scanning your website and social media profiles to determine how you feel about the issue before they even contact you. Announce your openness by submitting LGBT weddings to blogs, and getting yourself listed on national and international websites and associations of LGBT friendly wedding businesses. Display badges and links on your own website, if you can (find out more about our GWB directory here). This also helps other wedding businesses know your position, which may lead to them sending referrals your way.


IMAGE BY EVA PHOTOGRAPHY

If you haven’t updated your website or brochures in a while, why not take some time now to reflect on whether any of the above might help you reach your audience more positively and widely? This will require a mindset shift as well as attention to practical detail, and will take some time to do successfully and gracefully. All of the notes above are about being sensitive to the journey that LGBT couples have taken to get closer to equality and recognition today, as that journey affects every interaction and decision made in their wedding planning process. What it all comes down to fundamentally is paying attention, asking, listening, learning – and being respectful to difference.

We hope this guide has helped you in your business journey – please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to brainstorm on this further!

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