If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed that I have recently become a consultant with the LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings team. Some of you may know all about LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings and the ethos behind it, but for those of you who are not familiar, I thought I would write a brief blog post to explain why I am proud to be part of a team working hard to create a positive change in the wedding industry.
The Need for Change
A lot of people continue to ask me whether I need to ‘niche’ or ‘specialise’ in LGBTQ+ weddings as surely weddings are weddings and that as a gay man I should not be adding to the ‘us and them’ attitude towards LGBTQ+ weddings. I agree 100% that all weddings should be viewed without labels. However, the wedding industry is still very much orientated to catering to the traditional ‘bride and groom’ image of wedded bliss. There is a distinct lack of diversity across the industry and it can be difficult for any couple - regardless of whether they identify as LGBTQ+ or not - to plan a wedding if it does not fit into a very narrow definition of what a wedding should look like. It can feel very alienating when searching for wedding inspiration to not see images and resources that reflect you and your partner. By visiting LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings, couples can browse a directory of inclusive suppliers who not only value their custom but actively seek to help them celebrate the love that they have found.
You Don’t Need to Ask Here
As a wedding photographer, I strive to provide an inclusive service and wholeheartedly embrace the custom of all couples regardless of the type of wedding they are planning. Therefore, it has always been important for me to make it clear both in person and via my online presence that couples from all communities will be valued and made to feel at ease in front of the lens. When I first became aware of LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings last year, I instantly loved their #youdontneedtoaskhere hashtag. This hashtag quickly became a way for fellow inclusive suppliers to communicate to couples that asking that awkward question of “Do you cater to members of our community?” is not even necessary.
I have been to wedding fairs and witnessed LGBTQ+ couples having to ‘come out’ to every supplier in turn, in order to check whether their custom is welcomed. It breaks my heart and frustrates me that in 2019 this should still have to occur. By proudly using this hashtag on social media and by displaying the LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings logo on my website* and at wedding fairs, I know that I am helping to make couples feel instantly welcome and valued as they consider using my services on their special day.
*only suppliers who have joined LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings as a member are permitted to use the LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings logo on their website.
The Power of Language
Language is an incredibly powerful tool that can have an immense impact on the people around us. Growing up gay meant that I would hear many words and phrases that made me feel less equal, less confident and less comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes these words would be directed specifically at me to cause hurt and / or offence, but often they would be casually banded around in my presence with the speaker(s) unaware of the upset they were unintentionally causing.
As wedding suppliers our language can sometimes be deemed (at best) less than inclusive, or (at worse) discriminatory. Even when we are trying to be inclusive and welcoming of everyone’s custom, we can inadvertently cause offence and / or lose potential business by using terms or sentences that add to those afore-mentioned feelings of alienation and not being valued that many LGBTQ+ couples experience.
When suppliers sign up to become a member of LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings, they receive a language review of their website and supporting documents to ensure that their inclusive mindset and business ethos is reflected in the words and phrases they use. Simple things like not referring to the ‘bride and groom’ when describing your services and not using the word transgender as a noun (a person can be a transgender man or a transgender women but not ‘a transgender’) really makes a difference to the LGBTQ+ customers viewing your website.
This is a crucial part of the work that LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings are doing to enable the industry to become more inclusive. I have started writing some of these reports for fellow suppliers and it is wonderful to help and support suppliers to use more inclusive language. When suppliers submit their details for review, they do so knowing that they are not being judged or ridiculed for any errors or mistakes made in their language. Wanting to learn and asking questions is the only way that change can happen and is something we as a team value. Even members of the LGBTQ+ community get it wrong sometimes (myself included), and it is all about listening to the views and opinions of those we are seeking to support in order to create a better experience for them.
It is very early days for me as an Equality Advocate / Consultant and I am learning all the time how best I can use my role to promote equality and inclusivity. We have lots of exciting plans and projects in the pipeline (which I will save for a future post) and I am looking forward to playing a bigger role in supporting all couples to have the wedding they deserve.
To find out more about LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings, please visit the website by clicking HERE.