Being an LGBTQ+ friendly
by Hank Paul
It's been 5 years since the Marriage Equality act was legalised in Australia, so it's important for the wedding industry to catch up and understand what it takes to be LGBTQ+ friendly and LGBTQ+ inclusive. By understanding these two terms, and what makes them different, you can make start making changes to show your support for the Queer community.
"When it comes to affirming LGBTQ+ love, wedding professionals are on the front line." - Hank Paul
What does LGBTQ+ friendly mean?
Being an LGBTQ+ Friendly business is a self-identifying label. Most business owners choose this label because they are personally supportive of the Queer community; they agree that love is love, and might even consider themselves an ally.
It requires very little effort to be LGBTQ+ Friendly. In fact, I'd say the only requirement to being an LGBTQ+ Friendly wedding vendor is that you happily and willingly accept LGBTQ+ couples to book your services. You won't turn anyone away, and there are no conditions to how you will work with them (e.g. don't tag us in your Instagram photos)
Friendly or inclusive?
In contrast to the passive support that is required to self-identify as LGBTQ+ friendly, being LGBTQ+ inclusive is the proactive, externalisation of your support for Queer people.
In short, being LGBTQ+ inclusive is about what you do, not just what you think.
In order to be an LGBTQ+ inclusive wedding vendor, you need to go above and beyond that just being ‘friendly’. It's about understanding what it takes to create a safe and welcoming business for Queer couples where they know they can be their authentic selves without judgement or discrimination. This requires having a deep and nuanced understanding of Queer identities, as well as a comprehensive inclusion strategy in your business.
Why should wedding vendors be LGBTQ+ inclusive, not just friendly?
Some wedding professionals take an egalitarian approach to how they treat their clients. They aspire to treat everyone the exact same way because they believe it is the fair and right thing to do. However for too long, the wedding industry (and society at large) has been geared towards straight, cisgender (a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth) couples. This is what we call ‘heteronormativity’. This means that queer couples are often left out, unseen, and underrepresented.
As a historically marginalised group, LGBTQ+ people experience overwhelming rates of discrimination, exclusion and mental health challenges. So it’s really important for allies to understand the positive role they can play in re-writing the narrative. When it comes to affirming LGBTQ+ love, wedding professionals are on the front line.
Want to be more inclusive? Start here.
If you are ready to start making some changes in order to ‘inclusify’ your wedding business, here are some tips:
Accept that you will make mistakes. It's very normal to accidentally say the wrong thing, or mess up from time to time. But fear of making any mistakes is the main reason people don't take any action in the first place.
Start with an inclusion statement. Solidify exactly what you want to communicate to the world, and then communicate it. Include the statement in your website footer, tell your clients when they enquire, and make it explicitly clear that you welcome LGBTQ+ couples.
Making LGBTQ+ couples feel welcome is a team effort. From wait staff to social media managers, every team member and contractor has a role to play in creating an inclusive culture.
Examine your website and marketing materials for exclusive language and adjust accordingly. For example, swapping "bride and groom" for "couple" wherever possible.
Be open to feedback from LGBTQ+ couples about their experiences with your business and what you can do to improve going forward. Quick note: LGBTQ+ people don't owe you their feedback. It's not the responsibility of your Queer clients to educate you or fix your business. But if they choose to offer some feedback, be ready to listen and act.
Keep learning! Allyship is a journey, not a destination. As culture shifts, and societal understanding increases, there is always more to learn and be aware of when it comes to LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion. Staying engaged with LGBTQ+ advocates online will help you stay up to date.
Making your wedding business more inclusive doesn't just benefit your customers, it benefits you as well. By taking steps to become more LGBTQ+ friendly, you can show that your business is committed to progress and inclusivity. In turn, this will help you attract more customers and stand out in a competitive marketplace. So what are you waiting for? Start working on making your wedding business more LGBTQ+ inclusive today!
Hank is a distinguished wedding photographer, writer and LGBTQ+ advocate. Winner of Out For Australia's 30 Under 30 Award, a finalist for ACON's 2022 Honour Awards and host of the ground-breaking podcast First Look: How Marriage Equality is transforming the wedding industry.
Hank offers consulting, online training and resources to empower other wedding professionals to be allies and equality champions for LGBTQ+ couples getting married. Visit www.hankpaul.co for more information, or follow @hankpaul.co on Instagram.