By Bernadette Smith, founder of the Gay Wedding Institute
Steps to take to better serve the LGBT market
Nationwide marriage equality brings tremendous opportunity for your catering business. The financial opportunity is obvious, but perhaps more exciting, same-sex weddings and LGBT events may bring new energy and a fresh perspective to your business. If you’re interested in shifting your perspective to best market and cater to same-sex couples, consider these five tips:
Update your marketing materials (including your website), contact form, wedding planner worksheet/timeline and contract to remove the terms “bride and groom,” and substitute gender-neutral alternatives throughout. If you are the exclusive caterer at, or own, any venues, make the changes there as well.
Talk to your team to ensure that all your freelance captains, servers, bartenders, bar-backs and more are completely comfortable with working a same-sex wedding or LGBT event. If there is any hesitation, create an internal policy for how a staff member can “opt-out” of that particular job. It’s important for morale to give your team members that option.
Review all of your marketing images on your website, in brochures and in social media. Are all of the photos in your portfolio of only brides and grooms paired together? Find photos that are more inclusive and use some of those instead, such as the bride by herself or the groom by himself, which are more ambiguous. If you don’t have any same-sex wedding images, consider stock images purchased through gayweddinginstitute.com/stock-photos. For a free download featuring social media tips to attract more LGBT weddings, visit gayweddinginstitute.com/5.
Get rid of any expectation of weddings as usual! Remember, same-sex couples may be less traditional than even your non-traditional straight couples. Weddings have traditionally been based on gender roles, and same-sex couples often don’t adhere to those roles, which means that we often get extra-creative with our weddings! You’ll notice many same-sex couples choose to reinvent traditions or skip them altogether.
Update your preferred vendor list to vet vendors to ensure they are LGBT-friendly. Remember that about 40% of Americans don’t support marriage equality. Have short, but genuine, conversations with these vendors so you are confident they will treat your clients with respect. Consider this your new LGBT wedding referral list (and it may be the same list for all your weddings). It’s important to realize that there are laws that may affect same-sex couples in your area. For example, in 29 states, LGBT individuals could still be denied wedding services, like that of a photographer or DJ, simply on the basis of their sexuality. You are your client’s advocate, so ensure you are aware of the challenges they may face while wedding planning.
For more information on the Gay Wedding Institute Certification Course, the Gay Wedding Glossary or any of our other work, check out gayweddinginstitute.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernadette Smith is founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. 14 Stories, the nation’s leading same-sex wedding planning company, has produced hundreds of gay and lesbian weddings with couples from around the world. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Her expertise has been sought after by the Today show, National Public Radio, the BBC, The New York Times and CNN, among many other media outlets. She is also a WeddingWire education contributor.