Dear Wedding Vendors,
I would say it’s not you it’s us, but in reality, there were some things you could have done differently while we were searching for vendors. Being part of a couple that looks heterosexual but is actually queer has presented its share of interesting experiences while we were searching for the perfect team to help make our wedding possible. So let’s break it down shall we? You deserve to know why we and maybe other queer clients didn’t reach out, or why we declined your services…
You might not have even received an inquiry from us because of the lack of representation on your website and social media. How are we to trust you with our big day if we don’t know if you’ve even ever worked with LGBTQ+ clients? We get it, everyone starts somewhere, but for us, we passed on any vendors that weren’t showing diversity, not just with sexuality but race, religion, and size too. The wedding industry has plenty of thin white heterosexual couples, but finding someone who looks like us was really important, especially for photography. As much as we love hearing how much you love to travel, or how many cups of coffee you drink, your social media presence can be used to attract queer couples instead. The vendors we hired with strong instagram’s had a variety of images in their feed that showed lots of people from all backgrounds. It’s simple, but will bring you clients like us who are looking for more representation. Just by adding diversity to your portfolio you can reach out to clients you didn’t even realize you were missing out on.
I can’t tell you how many websites I exited out of when I saw only the words “bride and groom” when referring to a wedding couple. Don’t assume that everyone who’s looking for wedding services is part of a male and female couple. The wedding world is saturated with heteronormative traditions and for us queer couples, breaking that tradition is important. Even when posting advertisements in wedding facebook groups saying “hey brides!” cuts out half of the population. This goes for the vendors who responded to my emails saying “future husband” without knowing my partner and assuming I’m marrying a man. There are few things that will get a queer couple more fired up than having their partner’s gender assumed. Simple changes like saying lovebirds, partners, beloved, awesome person, etc. will attract couples who don’t just fit into the stereotypical idea of who gets married. That inclusive language should carry over into contracts, invoices, emails, and the day of. Being mindful of your language can make the difference between an affirming experience and one that leaves a queer couple feeling unsafe.
Story time! I had headshots and branding photos taken a few years ago. During the session the photographer told me she was interested in working with more LGBTQ+ folks. A week after getting the photos I saw that her work was being published by a blatantly homophobic wedding publication, Wedding Pioneer. They have said in plain language that they will not showcase same sex couples in their publication and social media. I reached out to her letting her know their policies and how that would reflect badly on her business when it comes to future LGBT+ clients. Instead of taking that information and retracting her partnership with them, she said she didn’t care because they were getting her images in front of thousands of people that would make her money. The people and companies you support reflect back on you and your business. After some appalling statements and back and forth I told her to remove my images from her website and social media and that I would not be working with her or referring her in the future. It is one thing to be unaware of bad policies but when a queer person tells you that what you are doing is harmful to the community it isn’t up to you to decide it’s not. Queer couples can see through the smoke and mirrors and can tell when you’re being inclusive for money or if you’re truly being an ally.
This should go without saying but make sure you are spelling names correctly and replying in a prompt manner. We straight up didn’t hear back from SO many vendors, like do y’all not want our money?? Couples will not chase you down, you need to follow up and be prompt with your emails. Of course life happens, but it’s one of the easiest ways to keep clients interested and ready to shell over the big bucks. Same goes for spelling, my name is Liv, not Liz. It may be autocorrect but checking your spelling specifically on names is a good practice for everyone. It just goes to show that you are a real person and not just sending an auto response which feels impersonal and left us searching for someone else.
All of these things are simple steps to becoming more inclusive. It doesn’t take a ton of time but will make a huge difference especially to LGBTQ+ couple and folks looking for vendors. We passed on probably 25-30 vendors simply because they didn’t stand out as being queer friendly. If we felt this way then I KNOW more couples have had the same experiences. It’s opened my eyes to ways that I can be a better business owner myself. Just because I’m queer myself doesn’t mean that I know every single thing there is to know and I’m always growing. One of the things I decided to do after having so many negative vendor experiences was to create my workshop all about teaching photographers how to better serve LGBTQ clients. I go into detail about how to navigate pronouns, gender neutral language, translating that to social media and websites, and tons more. I’ve put in hours and hours of time into laying out a step by step road map to success in this area. You are literally missing out on thousands of dollars by not educating yourself on how to be a better photographer and vendor to queer clients. It’s been such an eye opening experience while planning the wedding to see the gaps where people are lacking. Even vendors who claim to be queer friendly have things they can improve on! If you’re a photographer and want to grow in that area I highly recommend checking out the course here!
So….did you realize you have some work to do? Focus on representing a diverse client base not just on your website but social media as well. Take the time to make your website and own personal language more gender neutral. It will show queer clients, especially non binary and trans clients, that you are a safe person to work with. Remember that the companies, websites, and people you support reflect back on you and your business so doing your due diligence to make sure they are inclusive is also important. Lastly, don’t forget the little details, spelling people’s names properly, responding promptly, and not assuming gender can make the difference between someone hiring you or not. If you want to take the easy route and have me teach you how to make these changes step by step you have to check out the online workshop. 10 easy to digest modules that will take you from not having any queer clients to not being able to keep up with all the inquiries! There is so much that the wedding industry can improve on and I’m happy we’ve been moving in the right direction. Now it’s up to everyone to do their part to continue this path to change!
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