The wedding industry is a highly traditional and gendered field. We're so accustomed to saying bride and groom, he and she, because for so long people in the LGBTQ+ community weren’t allowed to get married. Language is a reflection of beliefs, values, society, and time periods. It's often used to erase and exclude those identities that don’t fit society's traditional mold. As we progress, language has to change with us to welcome and show all of our couples that we genuinely care about them and their experience. Words are powerful and impactful. It’s best to not assume that your clients are all the same. Using gender-inclusive pronouns and language allows you to encourage and embrace diversity and the intersection of identities. This kind of respect will make an enormous difference for your clients. As a wedding pro, you’re a proponent of love. That’s why you do what you do. So let's talk about different ways that you can start using inclusive language to provide happy and positive environments for all of your couples.
What's inclusive language and why does it matter?
Aiming for visual, written, and verbal communication that does not use words, expressions, assumptions, or stereotyped labels that exclude groups of people.
If the talk of inclusive language makes you uncomfortable, that's totally normal and okay. Sit with that uncomfortability and think about why and where it comes from. If you feel defensive, take time to think introspectively and gain self-knowledge. We all have biases. It’s a matter of being aware of them and not allowing them to harm or exclude others. Read this with an open mind and humility. Some of us have never been excluded and have never even realized the impact that language has because it has never directly affected us personally.
It may feel silly, trivial, unnecessary, or just like extra work for you, but it can go such a long way and you can make a difference in your industry and the world.
Courtney Seiter from Buffer puts it perfectly: 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.
We can do better! If you don’t know, ask. There's no shame in not knowing. We're all learning together. Simply by being mindful and intentional we can transform our wedding business practices to be safe and inclusive of everyone.
Drop Gendered Terms in Business Communications
All of the Aisle Planner tools are easily editable so you can make these changes!
- Daily Conversations
- Social Media
- Intake forms
- Business Cards
Equally Wed shares, “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.”
For questionnaires, create a standard, non-gendered form for all couples. Start with “Partner A” and “Partner B” until you ask what they'd like to be called.
Other Gendered Terminology That Can Be Replaced
- Bride and Groom, Husband and Wife < Individual Names or Partner A/Partner B, Spouse or Partner
- Bridesmaids, Groomsmen, Bridal Party < Wedding Party
- Bachelorette/Bachelor Party < Bach Party
- Maid/Matron of Honor, Best Man < Person of Honor
- Flower Girl < Flower Child
- Ring Bearer < Junior Attendant
You can do your best to use inclusive language and still make mistakes and still offend people. The journey to being open-minded and inclusive of all identities is a long one that's so worth it. What’s important is that you keep trying and are making an honest effort to make the wedding industry and the world a kinder, more understanding, and welcoming place. You have the ability to bridge that gap!
Hero photo courtesy Joshua Aull