Supporting Inclusivity and Diversity in the Wedding Industry

Make your wedding business even more welcoming to all couples with our guide, filled with insights and practical tips.

By The Zola for Vendors Team

Rotating gif of couples' wedding photos that reads "renewing our vows"
Photo by Zola

No two weddings look the same and no two couples are the same. That’s what makes the work we all do so special. We celebrate and appreciate all those differences while always remembering the one thing that is the same — how each couple wants to be treated. Equally, with respect and compassion, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, or anything else that makes them who they are.

Celebrating love every day is a joy and a privilege. And it’s never been more important. With anti-LGBTQ+ legislation gaining momentum across the country, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, we all need to show up as an authentic ally and advocate every day for equality and inclusivity in the wedding industry.

This guide is designed to provide insights and practical tips to help make that happen, created in partnership with the experts at Open to All, a nonprofit nondiscrimination program that believes everyone should be welcome and works with nonprofit and corporate partners like Zola to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

Why this matters

The wedding industry is rooted in tradition. But that doesn’t mean it should be stuck in the past. We see today’s couples breaking gendered and heteronormative stereotypes, picking and choosing the traditions that they find meaningful to create a wedding that reflects themselves and their values. We need to evolve with them. Together we can truly celebrate the uniqueness of every couple’s love story and wedding vision by creating an environment where everyone feels listened to, respected, accepted, supported, and valued.

Here are some of the questions we get asked most often by wedding vendors.

I want to make sure all couples feel comfortable working with me and my business. What are the best ways to achieve this?

Listing on Zola is a great place to start. Because every Zola vendor commits to our Vendor Vows, couples already know and trust your business to be inclusive and that you’re proud to work with couples of all backgrounds. Here’s what else to think about:

  1. What’s the first impression you’re making? Long before you speak to a couple, they might have found your listing, website, or portfolio. Will they see themselves in the images and examples of your work? Will they read testimonials from couples they feel an affinity with?
  2. Then, think about the language you’re using. Are you speaking inclusively? Do you speak about “brides and grooms” or “partners”? Are you making assumptions about who your potential couples are and their roles?
  3. Consider sharing your pronouns (such as he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.). By proactively sharing them (in person, on your email signature, on social media), you create a welcoming space that acknowledges and respects the diversity of gender identities.
  4. Establish partnerships with our inclusive vendors. Actively seek out other inclusive wedding professionals, including LGBTQ+-owned businesses, vendors from different cultural backgrounds, and those who specialize in unique ceremonies or traditions. By working together, you can create an inclusive network that supports and lifts up all couples, ensuring a joyful wedding experience.

How can I make sure I’m presenting myself as an authentic ally?

Listen to your couples. Ask them questions rather than making assumptions. And don’t be afraid to share your own experiences, whether personal or from LGBTQ+ weddings you’ve been proud to be a part of. And remember to visibly support LGBTQ+ couples all year round, not just during Pride month.

Open to All also has tools and training available for your business.

What are some useful resources for staying on top of LGTBQ+ issues?

Some of our favorite wedding-related blogs with an LGTBQ+ focus are Equally Wed, Love Inc, and Dancing With Her. For a broader look at LGTBQ+ issues and culture, try Autostraddle, Out, or The Advocate. For political developments and advocacy, keep an eye on GLAAD, ACLU, and the Human Rights Campaign.

Explore CenterLink to find an LGTBQ+ community center in your local area.

And if you’re keen to be more actively involved in changing the wedding industry for the better, Altered has some great resources, as does the Equality Institute.

Remember to keep an eye on our Expert Advice section on Zola.com for tips and trends, including recent articles on how LGTBQ+ couples are reinventing wedding traditions and a guide to gender-neutral wedding attire.

What are words and cliches I should avoid?

Weddings are always better when everyone feels welcome. Many words associated with weddings are rooted in gender and heteronormative assumptions and stereotypes. From the obvious (“Bridezillas”) to the subtle (“fiancé”), there are words the industry should try to avoid to help create that safe and inclusive space.

Whenever you’re working with a client, remember that you’re addressing couples, not individuals (they’re both on the wedding planning journey, after all!). If you start by meeting with one partner, avoid making assumptions at the other half of the couple or referring to them with a specific gender identity. Here are some alternatives to consider:

Instead of:

  • Bachelor/bachelorette party
  • Bridal party
  • Bridal shower
  • Fiancé/Fiancée
  • Holy matrimony
  • Tying the knot, getting hitched, making an honest man/woman
  • Man and wife, bride and groom

Try:

  • Bach party
  • Wedding party
  • Wedding shower
  • Partner/spouse-to-be/S.O.
  • Wedding ceremony
  • Getting married
  • The happy couple, newlyweds

For more on gender-neutral language, take a look at this Zola article.

How should I handle potential negative attention to my business?

It’s important to remember that you’re in the powerful majority; the vast majority of business owners in our industry do strive to treat all couples with dignity and respect, and understand that excluding couples because of who they are is harmful. And nationally, the majority of Americans support marriage equality for all couples and oppose discrimination. In working together, we can ensure that everyone feels included in weddings. However, we also understand that while being an ally opens your business up to everyone, it’s possible some people won’t support your actions. Here are some tips:

  1. Stay true to your values: Grounding yourself in your beliefs will provide a strong foundation for your response. Remember that the negative attention may be coming from a vocal minority, and it's crucial not to let their negativity undermine your dedication to supporting all couples.
  2. Choose your battles: Not all negative attention deserves a response. If the comments or actions are overtly hateful or harmful, it may be best to disengage and focus on providing support to those who appreciate what you’re doing.
  3. Respond with empathy and respect: If you decide to respond, avoid getting defensive or engaging in heated arguments. Instead, acknowledge the person's concerns or comments and explain your commitment to inclusivity and emphasize that your intentions are rooted in love, acceptance, and equal treatment.
  4. Highlight positive experiences: Share stories and testimonials from same-sex couples who loved working with you. By showcasing these positive experiences, you can counteract negative attention and demonstrate the impact of your inclusive practices.
  5. Seek support: Reach out to your supportive community, including other vendors, clients, and organizations that champion inclusivity. Share your experiences and seek advice or encouragement. Allies can provide reassurance and help amplify your message, strengthening your position against negative attention.

How does Zola support inclusivity?

Celebrating diversity has always been part of our DNA. Zola was founded to shake up the wedding industry, to better represent all beautiful couples, and to allow couples to get married the way they want.

This year marks our ten year anniversary as a company. We understand that these same ten years have been a rollercoaster for the LGBTQ+ community. We cheered eight years ago when Obergefell v. Hodges meant states were required to license and recognize marriage for same-sex couples, and watched in horror as legal challenges were mounted. We will continue to speak loudly and proudly regarding our commitment to celebrate all couples and the love they share, every day.

It’s a joy and privilege to build inclusive products, and to uphold the very same Vows that we ask our Zola Vendors say “I do” to in joining our platform. We could not be more proud to celebrate and support all of our couples along their wedding journey, and have curated a community of tens of thousands of vendors who feel the same.

Together, we wholeheartedly reaffirm that we will always:

  • Lead with zero tolerance for discrimination
  • Support every couple’s right to an equal and joyful wedding planning journey, and delight in the opportunity to be part of it
  • Treat every couple, vendor, and community member with the love and respect they deserve regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, how they choose to present, or any other beautiful difference
  • Celebrate all couples and the love they share, every day

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