I remember clearly the day the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government would recognize “same sex” marriage. I was in a field. It was hot as blazes. I was with a bunch of farm workers who were young, cis, straight, and didn’t appreciate the monumental event for what it was. It was the moment I found out my marriage was legally valid and more than just the expression of our commitment to each other. It changed everything for me.
What I hear from my couples and from couples across the country is they often run into much the same thing when trying to plan their weddings today. And I can see it easily when I google “lgbtq wedding.” A lot of the same advice over and over, which to me feels like an attempt at marketing inclusivity rather than genuinely caring about supporting couples outside the cis/hetero norm.
I want to take a minute to talk to those couples right now, but I also want to talk to wedding vendors about genuineness and true allyship in a part 2 coming up next.
I know we would like to think everything has been rainbows and unicorns since that day in 2015, but I hear often from couples that it is not. They are still refused access to certain venues, services from certain vendors, and still feel trepidation about booking everything for their wedding because they are uncertain how a vendor will respond to them.
Spoiler: I can’t fix that. Social progress is painfully slow, and those of us in minority groups are forced to navigate it as we are, not as we wish society would be.
So how can you make this easier for yourself?
There are lgbtq-affirming wedding directories galore, but they aren’t going to capture most of the vendors out there. Each directory costs money to join. My marketing dollars are limited, so that’s not how I choose to connect with my couples. Word of mouth is probably going to be much more effective, particularly if you’ve had lgbtq friends who have gotten married in the same area.
My number one gauge for determining if any vendor is genuinely inclusive are their words and actions. Social media is the best place for quick research like that. Who is in their pictures? Are they a genuinely diverse array of couples? What other vendors do they work with regularly? And what sort of language does the vendor use in their posts? Their websites? If their inclusivity isn’t blatant, it doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t work with you. In fact, statistically, they would probably be happy to. But we know there is a difference between acceptance and joyfully celebrating all people, a difference between “supporting” someone and trying to educate oneself about the realities of serving peo
ple in a marginalized culture.
I want to be celebrated and joyfully accepted for everything that I am, and I am most drawn to businesses who are clearly and visibly capable of doing that.
What to do if you’ve found a vendor you would love to work with but still have doubts about how excited they would be to work with you? I’m an advocate for ripping that bandaid off quickly. Send an email or call, and while you don’t need to blatantly say “do you work with lgbtq couples,” you can also just blurt it out. (I would, but I’m blunt like that.) Or maybe a little softer: “Tell me about some of your past lgbtq+ weddings.” I had to locate a healthcare provider several years ago, so I emailed 5 people and “interviewed” them. It was quickly obvious who was giving me lip service and who genuinely could support me as I am. So maybe write up a template letter, and get ready to send it to your favorite vendors.
Above all, believe that you will find the vendors who are right for you. It make take patience, and frankly, some of the stories I hear grieve me. But a LGBTQ+ wedding in Charleston that is joyfully celebrated is absolutely possible, and it’s the least all people deserve when they want to form a lifetime commitment to someone.