Though the wedding industry has always been seen as incredibly traditional, long gone are the days of simply saying bride and groom.
Words are powerful and language matters in so many aspects of our life but even more so when it comes to the evolving wedding industry. From your own website and marketing language to the words being written on your clients invitations, language is impactful and it easily sets the tone.
So what is Inclusive Language?
Inclusive language is defined as “language that avoids the use of certain expressions or words that might be considered to exclude particular groups of people.”
A wonderful article from our friends at Buffer also defined inclusive language well.
“Using inclusive language asks us, “To change deeply embedded habits. To consider the implications of words and phrases that have long gone unchallenged. To dig deep into empathy and imagine an experience not our own.” It takes courage and hard work to change the deeply ingrained ideals we were all raised on.”
Ok, so not sure what to do next? No worries, we’ve gathered some incredibly important and useful ways from our amazing friend and partner Kirsten Ott Palladino from Equally Wed. Kirsten says “For a wedding business to be authentically LGBTQ+ inclusive means that you have taken at least these measures to embrace all couples” These tips will ensure you include inclusive language in your business, within your events and establish an authentic and positive environment for all.
Inclusive language tips for your business
Step 1 | Remove gendered terms
Take a good hard look at your website, social media posts or just the general way you write emails. Chances are you’ve got a few holes in your communication. Wipe the slate clean and use gender-neutral language throughout your website and social media posts, i.e., couples or marriers instead of bride and groom. Keep in mind that not all LGBTQ+ marriers identify as a bride or a groom. So keep the gendered language out of the conversation until you know how your client(s) identifies.
Pro Tip: Don’t assume everyone coming to your website, social media or coming into contact with you is the same, identifies the same, or wants to be referred to/called the same. Not using certain terms may feel unnecessary but rest assured the respect you gain from your couples and the industry in general will be worth it.
Step 2 | Make a great first impression
Use gender-neutral language in your contracts, invoices, proposals, questionnaires etc. One example is to use couples instead of bride and groom. Other terms to consider include client, lovebird, partner or something specific to your brand.
Pro Tip: Remember that Rock Paper Coin is completely customizable so you can add, remove or change anything your brand sends out to ensure it’s inclusive!
Kirsten says, “When you approach the wedding industry with gendered terms (such as ‘bride’ and ‘groom’), you’re already projecting you have a narrower point of view in terms of what a wedding should or shouldn’t look like and who it does or doesn’t include.”
Step 3 | Communicate like a PRO!
You can’t just walk the walk on your digital business footprint you also have to talk the talk. Demonstrate inclusivity in communicating about the wedding day, such as calling the attendants the wedding party instead of the bridal party and referring to the getting-ready area as the “couple’s suite” or the “wedding suite” or “dressing rooms” instead of the “bridal suite.”
Bonus: Be a great leader and lead by example. The best part is seeing other vendors you work with start to pick up on your new language habits and do it as well!
Step 4 | Show your authentic self
Once you understand more about inclusive language and have put the work in, share your pronouns whenever possible, and ask others to tell you theirs. Put them in your signature, on your nametags, in your bios.
Tip from Kirsten: Though you might have been told that it’s “preferred pronouns,” that’s not accurate. The word “preferred” implies choice, and we don’t choose our gender identity. The best verbiage for your question is, “What pronouns do you use?” or “What are your pronouns?”
Step 5 | Let your work speak for itself
Show a variety of couples in your business’ imagery, not just cishet couples. Incorporate diversity in more ways than just sexual orientation and gender identity. Show people of all races, ethnicities, body shapes and sizes, and physical abilities.
Pro Tip: Cishet means cisgender and heterosexual. Cisgender is the opposite of transgender. Cisgender people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Step 6 | Expand your circle, grow your business
The goal of any business is to grow, but growing means more than just profit. Your business community speaks volumes about your future growth and if your inner circle is as far as that community goes, you’re missing out. Both in friendships and in future business. Expand your community and your clientele and celebrate LGBTQ+ couples and marriage equality with efforts that go beyond language.
Tip from Kirsten: Ensure all other vendors you recommend are LGBTQ+ inclusive, and work with vendors new to LGBTQ+ weddings to make sure the couple is treated with respect.
Step 7 | R E S P E C T
Train your entire staff to treat LGBTQ+ couples and event guests with dignity. Full stop. From the front of the house to the back of the house to second shooters to your valet team, no matter who is interacting with your clients and their guests, they all represent you, your company and your morals.
Business Tip: Discuss your inclusivity mission with everyone working for you. Don’t have one? Need more help? Equally Wed offers group and individual training that EVERYONE should take!
Step 8 | Let’s be authentic
Don’t tokenize LGBTQ+ people. If you’re going to do a styled shoot, use actual LGBTQ+ people. If you’re going to educate on LGBTQ+ inclusivity, bring in an actual LGBTQ+ person to do the educating. It’s inauthentic and insulting to the community to pretend to be something that you’re not or to elevate straight voices and faces over LGBTQ+ voices and faces.
Step 9 | Do the right thing and help be the change
Speak up for LGBTQ+ equality in private conversations. If someone makes a joke about LGBTQ+ people or says something incorrect, say something.
Step 10 | Let’s get started
The first step is knowing so now that you are armed with some powerful information, let’s get to work!
- Head to your website and review your wording. Go page by page and dive into how you explain your services and couples. Are you including or excluding? Can you do a better job of making everyone feel at home when they come to your digital door?
- Dive deep into your social channels and anywhere you have communication within the community. How are you speaking? Who are you (or aren’t you) welcoming into your space? Are you being authentic and honest within your business footprint?
- Educate yourself about the proper way to address your community, clients, friends and business partners. For example, replace certain terms like African American, Spanish and Mexican with Black, Hispanic and Latinx. Let’s not also forget this applies to religion as well. Refresh your terms by replacing the word priest or preacher with religious leader, officiant or celebrant.
This short list is just to get you started and we encourage you to do a deep dive into the many other terms that may directly associate within your business community!
Other terms to be aware of:
Disability – use Disabled
Fat/Large – use plus-size or full figured
Mom/Dad – use parents or guardians
Low Budget – use practical or budget-conscious
Bride/Groom – use couple, fiancee or partner
Talking about inclusivity isn’t always easy or natural but it’s vital to the health of this industry and your growing business. As someone who has picked a profession in the industry of love, it’s important to embody that LOVE FOR ALL mentality for your team, clients, and industry. Don’t you think? Together we can make wonderful changes towards a much brighter and healthier wedding industry, and we are cheering you on all the way as you do it!