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Wedding Suppliers: How to be a better ally to LGBTQ+ couples

Celebrants, photographers, venue staff, florists... Listen up! If you're a wedding supplier and you'd like to work with the LGBTQ+ community, here are some very simple dos and don'ts to ensure you're the best ally you can be. Come along, don't show your arse.

With my specialism in LGBTQ+ weddings, you wouldn't believe how many times I've heard my couples sadly (or angrily) talk about a weird comment their venue made, the way their florist put their foot in it, a registrar who couldn't stop tripping up over "Mrs and Mrs"... It's honestly exhausting.

A wedding day is meant to be the most glorious, happy and affirming day of someone's life – or at least in the top ten – but wedding suppliers letting down their couples is a totally avoidable element that can be at best awkward and at worst ruining.

So let's get our shit together, folks. It's up to all of us to be the most supportive, welcoming, and thoughtful suppliers we can possibly be. Zero points for writing "love is love" on your Instagram, maximum points for doing the actual work.

1. Let's start with an easy one: add a pronouns field to your contact form and double-check

When a couple reaches out to you to enquire about your service, they'll likely go through your web form. It's so easy to add an extra field requesting their pronouns – and this is a strong signal to an LGBTQ+ couple that you're going to be someone they want to work with.

Additionally, fight your own discomfort and double check. If you didn't take down the couple's pronouns or you're not 100% sure (i.e. you've heard them say their pronouns in conversation) – you can just ask! It's not offensive to ask, I promise.

Just in case you're new to this lark, pronouns are the "she" "him" "they" parts of a sentence that you use to refer to someone when you're not using their name.

2. Don't assume men and women getting married are straight

Men and women getting married might not be straight. One or both of them could be bisexual, pansexual, transgender, genderqueer... Casually referring to man/woman partnerships as "straight" partnerships can really erase members of the LGBTQ+ community – and feel like total poop.

3. Don't use "same-sex" unless your couple explicitly choose this language

Just by looking at people, you don't know for sure that they're a "same-sex" couple, or having a "same-sex" marriage. One or both of them could be transgender, non-binary, genderqueer etc. Don't assume people's sex or gender by how they look.

Plus – I am a cisgender woman, as is my girlfriend, but if someone said we were having a "same-sex marriage", it wouldn't be inaccurate but it would be icky as hell. Just think, would you ever say a man and a woman getting married were having an "opposite-sex marriage"? No, of course you wouldn't. So don't be weird.

4. Similarly, don't call the couple "lesbians" or "gay" unless they choose this language

Two women getting married might not be lesbians. Two men getting married might not be gay. They could be bisexual, pansexual, or anything else for that matter. From personal experience, bisexual women being called "lesbians" in relation to how their relationship 'looks' is horribly common and again, very invalidating as an experience. Let's not do that, legends.

You could simply ask how your couple wish to be referred. For example I always ask my couples: "When I'm talking about your wedding on my Instagram, is there a particular word that feels great for you to be described as, like 'gay', 'lesbian', 'queer', 'LGBTQ'? Or would you like me not to use any of those words?"

This goes for all sorts of typical wedding terminology – "bride", "groom", "husband", "wife" etc. If you're using this language with your couple, be sure that it's the language that they're comfortable and happy with. That goes for everyone, not just the queers!

5. Watch out for gendered language and terminology

This is one for the wedding guests as well as just the couple – leave phrases like "ladies and gentlemen" at the door and swap it for "hello everyone", "our wonderful guests", "may I have everyone's attention", "[name of couple]'s loved ones"... It's not difficult, you can do this babe.

The other classic thing I see time and time again is the lazy language used around weddings, even when it's so apparent it's not appropriate. The Bridal Suite, Groomsmen, Bridesmaids, Flower Girls, Page Boys... sigh. If your couple features no bride why are you calling part of your venue 'the bridal suite'? It's so easy to slip into these traditions but we gotta work harder.

6. Don't make jokes at our expense

One of my couples recently asked me to be their MC on the big day, as well as their celebrant, because the MC that the venue provided made a homophobic joke during their tour of the venue. Literally, what the fucking fuck? This shouldn't be something any of us need to say, but even "banter" and comments you think are light-hearted and jokey are not appropriate when you have built zero rapport, trust or friendship with us.

This person had said that when they're MCing, they would introduce the couple to their guests with a comment along the lines of "So where did you ditch your husbands?" because they're two women getting married. At best, a deeply unoriginal joke intended to win a few sparse chuckles with their guests; at worst, a humiliating comment that would have totally soured an otherwise magical day for my couple. Get in the sea, dude.

7. Don't fetishise us and don't be cringe

It's harder to pinpoint precisely what you should and shouldn't be doing on this one, but wheeeew we can smell it a country mile off. It's things like "Oh I LOVE gay weddings, they're the most fun!!" or "I love working with two brides, it's double the glamour!" or "I went to a lesbian wedding once, it was so interesting" or "My cousin is gay!".

All things that don't sound inherently bad or horrible, sure. But you can bet your bottom dollar an LGBTQ+ person hears this and dies just a tiny bit inside. You're showing us you're not 100% comfortable with us because you're not being relaxed or, dare I say it, normal with us. You wouldn't rush to explain your credentials to a straight couple, so just unclench and breathe out and treat us like you'd treat anyone else.

8. And finally – remember how profound and momentous this is for us, and don't forget the fight isn't over yet

“Equal” marriage has only been legal for a decade: our weddings are so radical and special, and that requires extra care, sensitivity and tact. Remember, for many of us, we never imagined we'd have a day like this. We didn't think our relationships would ever get this recognition and treatment. We can't quite believe this is really happening – because for the longest time, we weren't allowed to.

And the fight isn't over yet, not by a long stretch. Non-binary people still need to declare themselves as a man or woman to get legally married - grim! - and many LGBTQ+ people don't have any family support as they take this leap. So don’t get complacent or assume marriages are fully equal just yet.

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