Updated: Mar 9, 2022
There are so many factors that a couple takes into consideration when choosing a wedding vendor. Price, location, personality, and the type of services offered may be among the first things that come to mind. But for many couples, a decision will be made long before they even get to these details.
What a couple sees on your website shapes their first impression of you. And if something turns them off right away, or they feel excluded or othered, the odds of them reaching out for a consultation decrease dramatically. After all, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, it's not what you do that matters, but how you make them feel.
That's why it's increasingly important to ensure your website and marketing materials are focused on inclusivity. And one of the easiest, quickest things you can do to become a more inclusive business today is to use gender-neutral language.
When we start working with new clients here at Wedding Tech BFF, we always look at their website to get a feel for what kind of wedding pro they are. When we see heavily gendered websites, we try to mention places that inclusivity could benefit their business.
Keep reading to find out how it could help you too!
What is gender-neutral language?
Gendered language is a complicated topic. Lots of things that we take for granted in speech and writing are unfortunately not very inclusive. But before we look at what we can change, let's define a few of the potentially unfamiliar terms we'll be discussing throughout this post:
Gender Identity Terms
Cisgender (or "cis"): people who identify as the same gender that they were assigned at birth. For example, if you were assigned female at birth and still identify as female, you are cisgender. Cisgender people almost exclusively use he/him or she/her pronouns.
Transgender (or "trans"): people who identify as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. For example, if you were assigned female at birth and now identify as male, you are transgender. Most transgender people use he/him or she/her pronouns.
Non-binary: people who identify as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth, but more specifically as a gender that isn't male or female. Non-binary people frequently use they/them pronouns instead of he/him or she/her, but they may have other ones as well.
Sexual Orientation Terms
Heterosexual/straight: people who are attracted to a different gender from their own.
Homosexual/gay/lesbian: people who are attracted to the same gender as their own. Note: some people may also be attracted to two or more genders, non-binary genders, or no gender at all (and yes, even people getting married may identify this way).
Queer: an umbrella term that can be applied to all sexual and gender identities other than straight and cisgender. Note: while this umbrella term can generally be applied to the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, some individuals prefer not to identify as queer, while others prefer it exclusively.
LGBTQ+ (or LGBTQIA+): this is an acronym that aims to encompass all sexual and gender identities other than straight and cisgender.
Most language will cater to cisgender and straight people. This can leave people that exist outside of those identities feeling left out or unwanted. That is what we mean when we say gendered language.
In the wedding world, gendered-language comes in two main forms: bride-centrism and cis/straight bias. Auditing your business website for these two concepts can open it up to more diverse couples.
Why is this important? More and more non-cis, non-straight couples are getting married. If you don't make those people feel welcome, you could lose an entire population as potential clients. Let's look at why people care about inclusivity measures such as gender-neutral language.
it's not just about the bride
See that picture? There's two people in it: a bride and a groom. In fact, most of your couples probably look like that. So why would you only talk about the bride? Wedding vendors that do this are what we refer to as "bride-centric."
It's easy to forget that grooms are involved in the planning process too. And when they aren't, there's a good chance that they'd love to be, but they just don't feel welcome to contribute with all the bride-centric language and imagery being put out there by the wedding industry.
You can encourage participation from both members of the couple not just by engaging with both of them, but by making sure that your website, all of your marketing materials, and your communications with your couples show that you care about grooms, too.
There might not be a bride at all
This shouldn't be shocking at this point, but not every wedding has a bride. Marriages can be between men or non-binary people, with women being completely absent. Even if there is a woman or women in the couple, they may identify as or feel more closely aligned with a title other than "bride." The same goes for men and the term "groom".
Assuming that all couples include a cisgender male groom and a cisgender female bride is what we call a cis/straight bias, and while it's incredibly common, it can be an agonizing experience for couples.
Imagine for a moment that you're a bride-less couple searching for a wedding vendor online...would you be turned off if all you saw were straight couples and everything you read was about working specifically with brides?
You can gain instant brownie points from these prospective clients by acknowledging that couples like them exist.
We're not saying to get rid of bride mentions or pictures entirely. Just diversify your language and imagery to make your business a welcoming place for anyone you may work with.
what should i change?
We know, that's a lot. The wedding industry is very bride-centric and straight-dominated, so it's not surprising that there are so many things that it affects.
You can make small changes to your website and branding that can make big impacts on the people who consider you as a vendor.
Instead of talking about working with brides, talk about working with couples.
Get rid of binary terms such as "he/she," "him/her," and "his/her," and replace them with "they," "them," and "their."
Include images from queer weddings you've worked on in your gallery.
Mention explicitly somewhere on your website that you proudly work with LGBTQ+ couples.
Include your pronouns in your About page, your email signature, and anywhere else.
Change "bride and groom" on your forms to "Partner A and Partner B." Once you start working with a couple, you can find out what terms they are most comfortable with and use those instead of Partner A and Partner B as you move forward working together!
Change gendered terms in your timeline and checklist: bride and groom, men's/women's attire, bridal bouquet, groom's cake, groom's dinner, bridesmaids and groomsmen (we like attendants), etc.
If you own a venue, consider renaming "Bride and Groom Suites" to "Getting Ready Suites," or even give them fun names that match your brand! Things like "Lakeside Room" for a venue on a lake, "Oceanview Room" for a beach venue, etc.
If you're a vendor that caters more towards brides or grooms specifically (i.e. beauty, dresses, tuxedo rentals), consider offering discounted packages for couples where two brides or two grooms might be using your services.
Removing gendered terminology and increasing representation won't just make your leads feel more welcome; it can be the difference between choosing you or another wedding vendor. Plus, they will have another fantastic thing to recommend you for!
Consider making some of these adjustments to create a more inclusive environment. You might not be able to change the entire wedding world, but you can make a difference for your own clients.
About the Author
Madelyn came to Wedding Tech BFF because she loves helping people better their lives through technology. If there's a website, app, or platform she doesn't know already, just give her 10 minutes and she'll know how to make it work for you and your business! When she's not being a Wedding Tech BFF, she's probably begging her cat for attention or writing young-adult romance novels!
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