A TQIA+ Focused Guide to Wedding Planning

Wedding planning is typically challenging for all couples, but it can be even more so for TQIA+ couples. This expert guide is dedicated to helping TQIA+ nearlyweds plan each special day from “yes” to “I do.”

By Rachel Varina

A TQIA+ Focused Guide to Wedding Planning
Photo by Katherine Rose Photography

Weddings are a time for joy and acceptance, and we want all couples to feel valued, seen, and supported. That’s why we set out to create a wedding planning guide specifically for TQIA+ couples. Because for you, saying “I do” might come with a few more hurdles and moving pieces, but together, we can help ensure your day is the one you’ve always dreamed of.

But first, let’s break down what, exactly, it means to be a part of the TQIA+ community. “TQIA+ stands for transgender, queer, intersex, asexual/agender/aromantic, and the plus stands for essentially any other non-cisgender and/or non-heterosexual identity,” explains LGBTQ+ inclusivity educator and wedding officiant, Carly Miller (they/them). Some people in this community are non-binary, aren’t the gender they were assigned at birth, or aren’t heterosexual but don’t consider themselves lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Wedding planning is typically challenging for all couples, but it can be even more so for TQIA+ couples. This is because much of the wedding industry still relies on the binary of “male” or “female,” even when working with queer couples, notes Gabrielle Lentell-Nash (she/her), a wedding and event producer and the co-creator of With Pride Weddings, an LGBTQIA+ weddings and events service. “Many suppliers don’t yet know how to interact with a TQIA+ person looking to celebrate their love,” adds With Pride Weddings’ other co-creator, event and wedding producer Shannen Lentell-Nash (they/them).

Even though TQIA+ weddings are nothing new, a worthy space has yet to be carved out for these couples in the modern wedding market. In fact, “TQIA+ people looking to celebrate their love will still experience marginalization, even by those in the wedding world [who] reach out to the LGBTQIA+ community,” warns Gabrielle. From language choices to understanding vendors, it can feel overwhelming trying to create a day worthy of your love story if you’re a TQIA+ couple. But don’t stress! This handy wedding planning guide can help TQIA+ couples as they plan their special days from “yes” to “I do.”

How is TQIA+ Different From LGBTQIA+?

TQIA+ individuals fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, and they’re all part of the same community in the large-scale sense. “Every letter refers to a group of people who are not exclusively heterosexual and cisgender,” explains Miller.

Breaking down the first half of the acronym, “LGB” refers to lesbian, gay, and bisexual, which are all sexual orientations that refer to someone’s attraction. On the other hand, transgender, for example, is a gender identity that means someone's gender identity differs from the gender they were assigned at birth. “This is about who you are, not who you're attracted to,” Miller says.

While the wedding industry has started to shift and welcome gay and lesbian couples, it still often falls short by way of TQIA+ couples. “There’s still a structural understanding of a wedding that has broadened to include two cis-gender men or two cis-gender women marrying one another,” notes Gabrielle, but not so much for non-binary, queer, and trans individuals or couples. “Many seasoned wedding professionals assume since they're inclusive of (cis) gay and lesbian couples, they don't need to do any continuing work or education on transgender or queer identities and thus end up misgendering folks or making other harmful assumptions,” Miller adds.

That said, the whole community deserves more by way of visibility in the wedding world and beyond, and oftentimes there’s overlap in identities—someone’s not restricted to just one letter to describe their lived-in experience. For example, a person who’s transexual (T) might also identify as lesbian (L), says Gabrielle, while the term “queer” (Q) can be used to encapsulate a multitude of sexual orientations and gender identities in the LGBTQIA+.

Spring Elopement in the Almond Blossoms Katherine Rose Photography Photo Credit // Katherine Rose Photography

How TQIA+ Couples Can Establish Their Preferred Wedding Language

While making your pronouns clear in day-to-day life is becoming more customary thanks to their inclusion in social media bios and email signatures, figuring out how to inform all of your guests about your preferred wedding language is a little bit different. Some—such as parents’ friends—might not be online whereas others—like old pals—could have fallen behind on updates.

The good news is, there’s an easy way to clear up any confusion: with your wedding website! All of the experts agree this is the perfect place to inform your guests about your pronouns and selected terms. That’s exactly what Gabrielle and Shannen did when planning their own June 2022 wedding. “I knew Zola was where I wanted to host my wedding website,” Gabrielle says. “The opportunity to edit for clarity until we felt like we had clearly and accurately gotten our points across was an incredible tool. It also puts the burden on your guests to accept the responsibility of respecting you [and your preferred wedding language/pronouns] on your wedding day.”

You can do this by simply stating your pronouns and preferred wedding terms on the homepage of your site, or you can do a whole Q&A/FAQ section outlining things like fashion choices, wedding language, and even some educational resources. To add to that, Miller says you can also include your wedding party’s pronouns on your website, encourage guests to introduce themselves with their names and pronouns at the event, and/or add your pronouns to your invitations.

While it’s never the responsibility of an LGBTQIA+ individual to take on the burden of educating others, your guests will appreciate being informed about your wedding language preferences to ensure they honor and validate you on your big day and beyond.

TQIA+ Wedding Terms

One aspect that makes selecting terms challenging is simply that non-binary wedding language still isn’t as mainstream as the traditional, gendered terms. Words like “bride” and “groom” and still the go-tos, even for many LBG couples, which leaves TQIA+ couples and guests wondering what type of wedding language is best. The choice is highly personal and will vary drastically depending on the couple. “You do not have to follow any trend, tick any box, or rely on any language that doesn’t represent who you are as individuals or as partners in a relationship,” Shannen says.

Some TQIA+ couples will still prefer to use “bride” or “groom,” which is absolutely fine if that’s what feels best for them. If not, don’t worry! There are plenty of other title options for your special day. If you’re in need of some inspiration, here are a few of our favorite gender-neutral wedding terms to consider:

  • Nearlywed(s)
  • Newlywed(s)
  • Partner(s)
  • Marriers
  • Significant Other(s)
  • Spouse(s)
  • Spouse/Partner for Life
  • To-Be-Wed(s):
  • Couple:
  • Fiance:
  • Broom/Gride
  • Other-Half/Better-Half:
  • Soulmate:
  • Bachelorx:
  • Mx.

Before you write “broom” all over someone’s wedding card as a guest, Miller stresses that you should never assume anyone wants to use any specific term to describe themselves at their nuptials. “Some people may just prefer being called by their name and not a title.” If someone’s pronouns/preferred language isn’t listed clearly on their website or social media, or they haven’t explicitly told you, simply ask respectfully.

Moving forward, it’s also a good idea to introduce yourself with your name pronouns when meeting new people. This makes establishing preferred language more commonplace and a safer option for TQIA+ individuals.

How to Find TQIA+ and Ally Vendors

One of the best ways to ensure you have an understanding wedding team is to hire the right vendors. Miller admits it can be difficult to find pros who understand and celebrate trans and queer identities, but they’re definitely out there, and social media is a great place to start. As you’re scrolling, Shannen says you should look out for real wedding photos of other queer couples and posts about Pride outside of the month of June. You’ll also want to take a peek at their website, Miller adds, where vendors will ideally feature diverse couples and inclusive language.

If you’re still unclear after your detective work—or if you just want to ensure you’re on the same page—you can always ask vendors about their experience with TQIA+ weddings. Only do this if you feel comfortable, though. You should never put yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe. Ultimately, you deserve a vendor team you feel connected to and respected by, and if those needs aren’t being met (or don’t seem like they will), the vendor in question likely isn’t a good fit.

Luckily, Zola is a great resource for TQIA+ couples embarking on their vendor search. Every vendor in Zola’s marketplace is required to agree to our “Vendor Pledge.” This states that the vendor “respects every couple’s right to marry” and will treat every couple equally “regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, or budget.” While follow-up questions regarding vendors’ experience working with TQIA+ couples are advised, using Zola’s tools is a great foundation for finding allied experts.

Katherine Rose Photography Photo Credit // Katherine Rose Photography

Additional Wedding Planning Tips for TQIA+ Couples

As you’re engaging in your vendor search, planning your wedding schedule, picking your day-of looks, and finalizing your guest list, here are a few more planning components to consider that’ll make your wedding day perfect:

Focus on What Matters to You

The biggest piece of advice for all to-be-wed couples planning their special days is to consider what makes them happy, not what others think. Between budgets and schedules and potentially, family members who don’t quite understand, juggling every component is exhausting. So take a step back, and think about what you really want out of your wedding—in addition to the whole “getting married” thing. Is it a big party with everyone you know? An intimate elopement with your partner and your pets? Do you need there to be an exceptional DJ or is it not a party without that giant wedding cake?

Shannen suggests spending some time dreaming about your wedding together to pinpoint what, exactly, matters to the two of you. Once you’ve figured out those must-have components, bring in wedding professionals who understand your vision and can not only turn them into reality, but will support you throughout the process as well. Feeling validated as the nearlyweds is essential, so ensuring your vendors support your vision, your vibe, your must-haves, and your relationship will make the rest of the process go much smoother and be way more enjoyable.

Rethink Traditions

Many couples are revamping the way they view traditions, so don’t be afraid to keep—or nix—any or all of the customary wedding to-dos. “Nonbinary people and trans people don’t owe the wedding world rejection or assimilation,” Shannen says. You’re allowed to keep, rework, or skip any traditions you’d like. “Do the breaking of the glass, smush cake in each other's faces, toss garter belts or bouquets no matter your gender, have parent dances, whatever makes you happy,” Miller suggests. “And if what makes you happy is to have a totally non-traditional wedding, do that instead!”

On that note, don’t think the traditions are only centered around the wedding day. If you’ve always wanted a pre-wedding shindig, host a bachelorx party (or bachelor/bachelorette party, if either of those terms feels more appropriate). Have a wedding shower. Take part in all or none of the traditional wedding milestones, but make the decision that feels right for you.

“A tradition observed is not inherently a bad thing, but any tradition that exists in direct opposition to your very valid identity should be reconsidered,” Shannen says. “So many queer people feel they’re betraying the community by wanting something that represents straight marriage—it’s just marriage.”

If you’re trying to think of ways to revamp traditions, here are a few fun, expert-recommended suggestions:

  • Walk down the aisle by yourself.
  • Walk down the aisle as a couple.
  • Walk down the aisle with your pets.
  • Carry a Pride flag instead of flowers.
  • Carry a candle or lantern instead of flowers.
  • Carry something meaningful to your relationship, like a special book, crystals, or a memento instead of flowers.
  • Have a first dance with your Maid/Mate of Honor or Best Man/Mate in lieu of a traditional parent dance.
  • Have a first dance with your siblings.
  • Dance with each other’s parents.
  • Toss a tie, headband, or boutonnière instead of a garter/bouquet.
  • Feed yourselves cake, but do it blindfolded.
  • Get ready for the big day together.

Make Your Day Your Own

As the celebration landscape continues to evolve, weddings have become increasingly more tailored. And now, weddings are a beautiful way to showcase your identities as individuals and as a couple. So go on, make the day as flamboyant or understated as you want.

“You're valid as a TQIA+ person getting married regardless of if you have traditional ‘pride’ decorations or not,” Miller stresses, so don’t feel like you have to have rainbows everywhere. But if that’s your vibe—go for it! “A ‘proud’ wedding is one that reflects you as individuals looking to celebrate your love,” Gabrielle adds. “If you’re taking someone’s hand and declaring how enthusiastically you love them, then that is a Pride-related wedding, regardless of the color palette.”

Beyond the colors you choose to deck your day out in, lean into whatever elements bring you joy. This could mean using books as table numbers, cutting the cake with a lightsaber, having tea lights covering every surface, or dancing down the aisle, Office style. “Celebrate whatever queer, geeky, nerdy, offbeat, or traditional parts you want,” enthuses Miller.

A Message For TQIA+ Couples Dealing With Lack of Support

While every couple deserves the utmost respect and support surrounding their big days, there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure TQIA+ couples receive the same understanding and care as straight couples on their wedding days.

First, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s okay if someone’s lack of respect feels disheartening. “You don’t have to feel guilty for letting it hurt,” Shannen says. “It’s also not your responsibility to change for them or to change what you want for them.” You’re under no obligation to invite anyone to your wedding or a pre-wedding event who doesn’t respect you, your identity, or your marriage. If your boundaries are overstepped, you’re well within your right to rescind an invitation or even block people from social media—no matter your relation—with or without explanation at any point.

We hope to continue to see change, and we vow to always do better for our LGBTQIA+ couples. Ultimately no matter who you marry, what matters most is that the person you love is there, by your side, ready to take on the world together. “As long as you surround yourself with people who share your values and your vision then it will be a safe journey,” says Shannen. “It won’t be easy—wedding planning often isn’t—but it will be safe.”

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