If you have spent even a limited amount of time in the wedding industry, you have likely picked up on the heteronormative language that is deeply ingrained in the day-to-day. This language is outdated, and hurtful to those in non-hetero relationships. It's time for the wedding industry to be inclusive of all couples in love. It's time for a wedding language re-dux.
Let’s start with intention
Long before you can think about switching up language, you need to think about the intention behind it. A wedding planner that changes their language but does not quite understand the issues facing LGBTQ2S+ couples has done nothing to make a positive change.
Let’s start by acknowledging that the wedding industry sits high atop patriarchal and heteronormative traditions. When vendors greet groups with, “Who’s the bride?” they are excluding any couple without a woman and are making assumptions about gender identity. Furthermore, they are assuming that the bride’s voice is the only important one.
While consulting with members of the LGBTQ2S+ community for this article it came up from two lesbian couples that when they told vendors they were both getting married on the same day, vendors would exclaim “Oh my! A double wedding!” This statement expresses that they believe it is more likely that a double wedding would occur than two women who are happily in love would marry each other. (For the record, I am certain there are more Lesbian weddings in a year than double weddings.)
To cultivate inclusiveness in the wedding industry we need the active participation of both vendors and heterosexual couples. Together both of these groups can use their status to make the wedding industry a celebratory and inclusive space for all couples in love.
When wedding vendors are getting to know their clients they ask a variety of questions ranging from wedding specific to personal. This helps vendors deliver the best possible service for each specific couple. While asking these questions and getting to know the couple, vendors can make assumptions about the couple that can isolate them. Instead of assuming gender or sexual orientation, employment, or anything else; ask broad and general questions that do not assume anything about the couple. Let the couple narrow in on the details and disclose what they are comfortable discussing with you.
With that said, the list of language re-dux below is intended to support those who are looking for help to change their language. Not as a band-aid to cover up the issue of inclusiveness. Language can be the beginning, and a wonderful beginning.
Say This Not That
“Name of Partner(s)” instead of “Name of Bride/Name of Groom”
Often on vendor submission forms, couples are asked to include “Name of Bride” and “Name of Groom”. This is a simple fix; change both to “Name of Partner(s)”. This way you are not assuming gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Spouse-to-be” instead of “Husband/Bride-to-be”
This one isn’t just for wedding vendors. Once you’re engaged, suddenly people you barely know start asking you about your wedding and your future spouse. When talking to engaged folks it’s always a better idea to use the word “spouse” instead of making assumptions about gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Attendants” instead of “Bridesmaids/Groomsmen”
This one is fun and easy! Vendors should defer to the term “Attendants” but couples can play with this in some fun way: Crew, Squad, Pals, Buds, Team. A quick reminder that using the term “tribe” is not appropriate here. The only exception is for folks who come from the Indigenous or African communities who can claim the term however they please.
“Wedding Show” instead of “Bridal Show”
Throughout planning, couples encounter vendors that are overtly bride-centric. This is an issue if there is no bride, but also an issue if there is a hetero couple where the groom is interested in being highly involved. Calling these a “Wedding Show“ makes the title inclusive. We could write an entire dissertation on the issues of inclusivity with wedding shows, but that is for another day!
“Ask the couple...” instead of “Ask the bride…”
No matter what you know about the gender identity or sexual orientation of the couple, make both of them feel included in the decision making until they ask you to do otherwise. Let’s forever banish the statement “All that matters is that the bride is happy!”
“Pre-Wedding Celebrations” instead of “Stag/Stagette Night, Hen Party, or Bachelor/Bachelorette Party”
These can all be called “Pre-Wedding Celebrations” until the couple decides to call them something different.
Vendors, Drop the Heteronormativity from Your Company Names
Many wedding vendors like to come up with company names that are cheeky or reference wedding traditions or sayings. Before you register your company with a name of this type (for example, ANYTHING that includes the word “bride”), think about if the name is inclusive of all couples in love and allowing both partners to have an active voice in planning.
I would like to specially thank all the LGBTQ2S+ friends, colleagues and clients who helped with this article. My fee from this article will be donated to a local leadership camp for LGBTQ2S+ youth, Camp fYrefly.
Maggie Barton Baird is the Owner and Lead Planner of MB&COMPANY, which is devoted to crafting unique gatherings, and celebrating alternative styles. We are dedicated to making the wedding industry a happier and healthier place for all couples in love. Let's leave it better than we found it!