Ellen wedding

By Kelly Rice

Recent advances in marriage equality have once again changed the landscape for wedding businesses all over the country.

The industry is no stranger to change, of course, with marriages and families helping to shape innovations in the marketplace as well as developing new traditions while still giving people the ‘fairy tale wedding’ they always dreamed of.

There are, however, some unique challenges when it comes to working with LGBT couples.  Some companies make simple mistakes that alienate same sex couples while others simply don’t know where to begin.

Attracting LGBT Couples

The march towards marriage equality creates mixed emotions in many people, even for the couples who benefit most from progress.  Many LGBT couples feel awkward about approaching wedding professionals, concerned they’ll be dismissed or treated differently than their heterosexual counterparts.

As a result, wedding pros have to walk a fine when marketing to the LGBT community without becoming pushy.  This can be done in a number of ways, both subtle and overt.

•    Sponsorship – Look into sponsoring a float, stall or other attraction at local Gay Pride festivals and parades which typically happen during the month of June throughout most major cities.

•    LGBT Fashion – Include articles and round-up style posts with fashion options for men and women that break traditional roles.  Feature tailored suits for women or complimentary tuxedos or suits for two grooms.

•    Include LGBT Couples in Your Story – Add photos of LGBT couples and their weddings to your online portfolio.  Show visitors that you cater to all types of couples by displaying diversity in your portfolio and home pages so everyone who visits knows they are welcome.

LGBT-centric Issues

Every wedding is different and every couple has their own set of worries but, for LGBT couples, there are certain specific concerns which should be addressed up front.

Dealing with these issues at the beginning of your working relationship helps to set the stage so clients know you want to have everything covered and that you’re well versed in everything connected to their special day.

Legalities – While the Supreme Court decision remains in the air, the legalities of LGBT ceremonies remains in limbo.  Even after the ruling is handed down this summer, chances are the finer points of law will remain an issue in several states.

If you’re operating in a state where the laws aren’t clear cut, discuss the options for finalizing the legality of the ceremony with the couple.

Double Check Your Vendors – Wedding professionals often have long standing relationships with a variety of vendors and so they don’t think twice about using the same people for each wedding.  But as recent news stories have illustrated, some companies aren’t comfortable doing business with everyone and that kind of backlash can easily affect your business if you’ve referred an LGBT couple to a vendor who refuses service.

Reach out to your vendors ahead of your meeting with the couple to ensure the service clients receive remains high.

Have LGBT Options for Traditional Wedding Elements – LGBT weddings may be a new development in the professional wedding industry but that doesn’t mean these couples want to skip traditional elements of the wedding experience.  It does, however, mean getting creative in order to gives brides and grooms exactly what they want.

Maybe a groom wants his mother to give him away.  Or maybe a set of brides want to walk down the aisle together.  Should the brides have matching bouquets?  What about cake toppers, officiants or even seating for the guests?

Take some time to review the new etiquette rules for LGBT weddings and use them to build new practices for your business.

Marketing to and working with LGBT couples can be a bit challenging at first, especially when you’re stuck in a rut concerning how weddings are managed.  Business practices that have worked in the past to attract customers can now easily work against you.

But, as with other changes in the wedding field, understanding these couples is the first step in learning how to make their wedding dreams a reality.

At the end of the day, LGBT couples are no different from any other couple you’ve worked with, it’s just a matter of identifying what they need and finding a way to make it happen in time for the Big Day.

Kelly Rice is a freelance writer living in Columbus, Ohio.  She is married and she and her wife have a daughter and three dogs.  In her spare time she enjoys hiking, reading and urban exploration.

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