Even pro-gay wedding vendors are excluding LGBT couples
Less than six weeks after the Supreme Court legitimized the constitutional right to same-sex marriage in America, my partner and I picked a beautiful site to host our long-awaited wedding ceremony and reception. After nearly five years of being engaged, we were finally moving forward with our intentions to tie the knot — legally.
Everything felt so perfect, I almost didn’t mind having to cross out the word “groom” as I signed the venue’s contract.
The slightly awkward moment — to which I respectfully called the event manager’s attention — was the first of several we encountered during the wedding planning process. With news of discrimination against other same-sex couples fresh in my mind, I insisted we tell prospective vendors upfront that we weren’t a heterosexual couple. I even felt the need to ask each potential photographer, caterer and baker if they were “OK” working with us despite our same-sex status.
We consider ourselves lucky. Other than a few overcompensating responses along the lines of “Oh, I’m so cool with that! My 2nd cousin’s roommate’s friend is gay and I totally love him/her,” most people seemed unfazed by our disclosure.
Sadly, not every same-sex couple can say the same. While change is underway following last year’s historic ruling, the wedding industry has a long way to go before full inclusivity of the LGBTQIA community is achieved — and that’s where Brittny Drye comes in.
A self-proclaimed “lover of all things wedding” and “fierce cheerleader for marriage equality,” Drye is the founder of online magazine Love Inc. and co-creator of Halls of Ivy, a consulting service aimed at helping wedding pros become more equality-minded. I spoke with Drye by phone to get the scoop on her services — and to find out what wedding vendors (even in New York City!) still don’t get about same-sex couples.
“I had been in the wedding editorial world for a couple years at that point, but realized LGBT wedding content was very separated,” said Drye, who started Love Inc. in October 2013. “There were no resources that were truly inclusive in terms of gender-neutral language and featuring the same amount of gay, lesbian and straight weddings.”
Halls of Ivy came later as the combined brainchild of Drye and Kate Schaefer, founder and editor of H&H Weddings. The idea was to target wedding pros who wanted to attract same-sex couples but lacked inclusivity in their brands. In fact, Drye said most of the vendors they work with don’t even realize their branding could be a turn-off to the LGBT community.
Here’s a sampling of the issues Drye and Schaefer discuss during Halls of Ivy workshops and one-on-one consultations:
1. Language — and not just in contract documents
“The industry is so heteronormative that it’s ingrained into our brains to use language targeting the bride,” she said. “Words like ‘bridal suite’ or ‘bridal party’ are common terms in the wedding industry, but they’re not applicable to all couples anymore.”
“The images (wedding pros) include on their website are really important,” Drye said. “If they’ve done a same-sex wedding, it should be featured.”
I couldn’t agree more. When visiting the websites of wedding photographers whose work I loved, I was surprised when I didn’t see a single image of a smiling same-sex couple staring back at me. Though it’s impossible to know whether such omissions are intentionally exclusionary or merely accidental oversights, it was still disheartening to notice.
3. LGBT-specific traditions
“As an example, it’s important for photographers to know that not all same-sex couples use traditional engagement rings,” Drye said. “A trend in the LGBT community is to give engagement watches instead, but some photographers may not be aware or know they should do a special photo for that.”
While I felt like a poor representative of LGBTs during my conversation with Drye (I had never heard about the watch trend!), I can’t deny our own planning process would have gone more smoothly had the companies we worked with better understood our unique needs. With the potential of gay marriage to add $2.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy — and with 70 percent of same-sex couples thinking it’s important for wedding vendors to have LGBT-inclusive language and photos on their websites — it’s clear industry pros had better flock to Drye’s side, and quickly.
Thankfully, though, most of our own wedding-related decisions are behind us (insert sigh of relief). Despite a handful of bothersome and awkward experiences during the planning process, I have to say those little inconveniences were a small price to pay for the privilege of celebrating the extraordinary love I share with my soon-to-be wife.
The totally valid marriage license is just a bonus.