Let's put an end to exclusionary language and sexist vendors in the wedding industry

February 6 | Guest post by Lindsey Huddleston

In response to last week's post, Lindsey of DandyLion EventsThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them rages against the wedding industry's exclusionary ways, and gives us tips on how YOU can help put an end to sexist vendors.

please dont feed the groom
…or look at the groom, or talk to the groom, or give him any attention at all. (Thanks to allyson_rosen for uploading this to the Pool.

Man, if you want to get my panties in a wad, let's talk about the EXTREME sexism in the the wedding industry. All sorts of vendors make gender stereotypes — brides do these things, grooms roll eyeballs and/or have no opinion. So grooms are slated into either a) thinking the opinions of their partner are stupid/insignificant/overblown, or b) they just don't care at all. AS IF!

Just because one partner is more involved in the planning than the other doesn't mean they don't care or are taking it lightly. Even that isn't true — you both have priorities as individuals, and as a couple, for your wedding day. So many times, vendors fall into the "this is how all brides/grooms act, this is what the plan and the packages always are…" Why do people do this? And then label it EXPERIENCE? Infuriating.

My general thoughts and feelings are, and always will be, that any language that is exclusionary should be shunned. Wedding vendors should refer to clients as a unit without gender identification. Two main reasons as I see it:

  1. Two people are getting married, one person isn't marrying themselves.
  2. Not all couples are composed of one male and one female.

Why can't we wedding professionals refer to our clients as clients, our couples, our newlyweds, partners, betrothed, whatever? Both partners will participate on some level — usually one more than the other — but that doesn't discount their partnership in making decisions and participation in the creation of their marriage.

So, here are some suggestions for ways to talk to vendors:

Begin early. Include your partner in all communications as much as possible: in person, via email, conference calls, Skype together, whatever it takes. You are planning a wedding together; you are marrying each other.

Have a way for vendors to reach both of you. Email, cell phone, texting privileges, etc. If they only have one person to communicate with, then that's what will happen.

Talk early and often about your priorities as individuals and as a couple. Obviously your level of care and attention will wane or grow with what you care about the most. (Duh, just like everything else in life. I'm thinking of Biology class in particular here.) Know what your partner wants to help with, what is most important, and where you have free rein. Make compromises. Stand your ground on your Most Important Priorities together.

This will help you work as a unit, even if you have to work independently of one another. Say you can't go to a site visit but your partner can — your partner will have full knowledge and be able to speak for both of you, united. This is not the same as one person doing all the work, because communicating on this level in advance is a TON of work.

Don't work with people who don't acknowledge your future spouse. It's that easy. General rule of thumb, in life and in your wedding planning: give your money to people you like. Duh.

Introduce all parties. It's simple, but this helps your vendors so much! Who are these people here with you? Is it your mom, best friend's mom, maternal grandmother? We want to know who they are and how they're important to you. Don't work with people who assume. Their assumptions only worsen over time, and they may assume they know what's best for you without consulting you. This = BAD!

There are inclusive resources and a growing number of groom-only resources available. Just like everything else you find here on Offbeat Bride — find your group and stick with them.

So couples planning weddings are already working against so many other things, like familial expectations and budget concerns. Planning in general is fucking stressful. Do not let sexist vendors be one of your issues.

  1. And then there's always the passive-aggressive route.
    Pointedly ask Partner their opinion when Vendor asks YOU. Encourage Partner to ask questions, and maintain eye contact with Vendor.
    And if all else fails, and Vendor is the only vendor you can work with, stop Vendor. Tell Vendor that Partner is a part of this, and that Partner cares about the outcome. Tell Vendor that Partner is present and you need Vendor to acknowledge Partner.

    8 agree
  2. Agreed! Thanks for sharing! I once read that 9 out of 10 grooms care about their wedding plans and want a say but most just don't know how to participate. Since learning that, I have really enjoyed working with grooms and seeing them come out of their shell. They have proved to be invaluable to the wedding plans.

    2 agree
  3. Great and apt post! It's especially frustrating because a lot of "wedding professional experts" will tell vendors to market directly to the bride, and, instead of using inclusive language (the couple, etc), will simply use "the bride" to refer to the entity of two people being married. It's not true for every couple, it's sexist, and, for those couples who ARE a bride and a groom, it excludes 50% of the entity that is being married! Ugh!

    1 agrees
  4. As a recently-married lesbian and wedding photographer, this is a topic close to my heart. We couldn't find many photographers in our area (despite Portland's oversaturation with photogs) who showed nontraditional couples in their portfolios or used gender-neutral language on their websites or in their contracts. (I, of course, do both — but I wasn't about to shoot my own wedding.)

    Also, in MANY cases it's the groom who contacts me first, not the bride. I suspect this is true for many other wedding vendors and I can't understand why it hasn't occurred to everyone to drop the notion that there's always a bride running the show.

    I recommend asking your like-minded friends for their referrals and recommendations as you seek out vendors who aren't blindly trundling along the old-fashioned groove of the bride-centric, groom-ignoring, gender-specific orientation.

    Cheers!

    Jen

    4 agree
    • Wow, my experience is the exact opposite! I do decor rentals, and I think I have had ONE groom contact me in any way shape or form. Otherwise, it has been exclusively women, usually the bride, often the mom who talk to me about what they are looking for, etc.

      Not sure why it is. I don't THINK I market specifically to the bride, and I am open to renting to whomever wants my stuff, no matter what their gender or sexual orientation. Maybe I need to have a look through my site and see if I am accidentally excluding people by my word usage.

      2 agree
  5. What a timely post! I started a lending library for wedding decor here in Portland a few months ago which is geared towards the DIY "bride". I was just contacted by a couple who wasn't sure if I was okay with lending as they are both male. I never thought for a moment that my wording of "bride" would sound inclusive to male/female couples. It definitely made me think about the wording all throughout my site and how I need to change it. Because you're right, it's not JUST the bride that does the planning. It's a term that was/is used very loosely. I have some work to do, but I was very appreciative that it was brought to my attention. I am all for marriage equality and I had never even thought of how labels are used before that email!

    10 agree
    • you just totally made this whole thing worth it, and my life, thank you for your openness <3

      5 agree
  6. Such an awesome post! Thank you! Now off to go check my website to make sure I'm not an offender… :)

    2 agree
  7. Notice this time of year all the ads for *bridal* shows?? I saw one advertising a man cave. WTH?!? Really? Because if a guy goes to the darn "Bridal" show, he just wants to run straight to get drunk instead of helping make decisions/be a couple or let's not even go to the fact that there are gay male couples who are planning their wedding. Barf.

    Honestly, a great thing to do is setup a gmail account with both your names, like "kellyandnatalie@gmail.com" and have that be your wedding email address. Then it helps the couple feel more like a team and vendors will feel that too- a ton of my couple's do it.

    2 agree
    • That's exactly what we've done: gmail address for us both, with access from both of our smartphones…. All vendors always addressed to us both.

      1 agrees
  8. And just to get it out there before anyone asks, from my FAQ:

    Why is your site called Offbeat Bride? Why exclude men?

    Well, the simplest answer is that the website is named after my book, Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides, which was published by a women's press.

    6 agree
  9. I am quickly finding out that a wedding just does not involve two people. Only two people have total veto rights. When it comes to planing it what matters to whom. My FH really does not care about the flowers or the dresses. He does care about the food and alcohol than I do. My mother is a florist. Flowers mean more to her than to my FH or me. Vendors need to figure out that it might not be the bride that you should be marketing to.

    2 agree
    • that's true! all decision makers need to be involved. thankfully most of our clients are paying for things themselves, so the people getting married are also the ones signing the checks.

      1 agrees
  10. Since attending my first vendor show several months ago, I keep finding myself on more and more marketing email lists. Some of the messages I've gotten have been blatantly sexist, with statements like "and we know how all women love shopping, am I right?"

    I outright spamfiltered a few because there's no way I'm giving them money with that kind of attitude. From here on out, I'll be contacting these vendors to let them know that their sexism is why I won't be using their services and cut contact.

    2 agree
  11. Thanks, Lindsey (and Kendall, the author of last week's post). I have never felt as marginalized as when I got married – from the friends and family who congratulated my fiancee and not me (a few even stepping between us and turning their back to me) to the hall rental manager who only acknowleged me for the credit card and my co-signature on the rental agrement. All the while, I was told over and over again it was the bride's special day, not mine.

    Some grooms just want to stand up, say their vows, and get to the reception. If that works for the couple, then fine. But I would bet more grooms would have more to contribute if they were treated like a partner rather than just one of the bride's accessories.

    12 agree
  12. It is totally true that mainstream culture stresses "bride" and dumb gender stereotypes. I personally never had my nails and such done, and my spouse has more shoes than me…. At the same time, I'd like to emphasis the importance of signing e-mails with the names of both partners. Almost half e-mail me and leave out the name of the groom–or the name of Partner B– almost until the point of booking. I think lots of folks like using "fiance" or the like, but it's not very helpful to vendors.

    1 agrees
  13. The truth of the matter is that in mainstream culture (which is definitely a lot more people), the bride is the one who ultimately makes the decisions and vendors will defer to her. I don't agree with this, which is why I'm on Offbeat Bride. When my husband and I were planning our wedding, I had told him in the very beginning that it would be impossible for me to do it all and I expected him to be involved and "do things". He handled dealing with our venue/caterer and booking the hotel block all by himself. He said that it did seem like they were initially taken aback that it was the groom who reached out to them but they wound up being wonderful vendors who never ever treated him like he didn't matter. I guess we lucked out that we dealt with real professionals.

    2 agree
  14. I remember when my cousin got married, she was about ready to tear her hair out in frustration from all the vendors who refused to acknowledge her FH. Luckily, they were able to speak up and get his voice heard, but it shouldn't be an uphill battle.

    So far, my FH and I haven't run into this, but we've also chosen a "divide and conquer" method when it comes to wedding planning. We chose the venue together, but for the rest… We each have aspects of the wedding that we're responsible for organizing (one of us is putting together the music playlist, the other is looking into food, etc). Once either of us gets some ideas put together or some contacts/vendor info, we consult the other for input, suggestions, and final approval. It seems to be working well so far, but because of this, most vendors end up meeting only one of us (except perhaps a final meeting with both of us to finalize things). I guess that's one way to buck the system!

    3 agree
  15. FUCK YES! My partner and I REFUSE to work with anyone who uses sexist language. If you ask me about the "groom," I will seriously PUT YOU IN YOUR PLACE! If vendors want to cash in on the booming same-sex wedding industry, they need to buck up and used gender neutral pronouns and NOT make assumptions.

    2 agree
  16. Working as a florist in Santa Fe has really brought this home to me. When I first started about a year ago I was appalled by a. the way my coworkers were treating dudes in consultations, and b. the way the women were treating their own men. "Oh, he looks so miserable! What a good boy for showing up! You just be quiet, now, we'll take care of everything. (LOL GUYS R DUMB.)" I'd probably be looking pretty pained at that point, too. Needless to say, Words were had with coworkers, who were generally astonished to hear that men MIGHT SOMETIMES have a desire to be acknowledged as intelligent human beings.

    Fortunately it's caught on pretty well, much to the guys'(and my) relief. Turns out, a lot of men have excellent eyes for floral design, and most of them really enjoy it once they have a better understanding of how it works. (How novel, right?)

    1 agrees
  17. My FH and I have been lucky in finding vendors that readily accept and acknowledge that we are planning our wedding and making choices as an equal pair.
    However, our main trouble is that while shopping for supplies/attire etc I am usually ignored and not given service while FH is readily offered assistance.
    Though I am almost 30 I could pass for 18 in a second, and though FH is several years younger, his wonderful beard leads people to take him as a serious adult shopper while treating me like a teen out playing pretend. I have been ignored, dismissed and insulted when trying to buy jewelry, shoes, wedding bands and wedding decor because people thought I was a teenager. It's a messed up world when a bearded man gets more assistance looking at heals then me. I am all for brides and grooms (or same sex couples) being given equal respect but don't forget also not to judge people on any other preconcieved notions. A customer is a customer, and all should be shown equal respect regardless of all variables.

    1 agrees
      • I'm quite revealed that, despite early indications and a bit of googling it doesn't mean "Familial hypercholesterolaemia". Apparently it's "future husband".

        1 agrees
  18. Hi, I'm just loving this webstie, as an almost married person xD I'd like to know if there's any Groom's guide/site to indicate to my fiancée, he seems a little shy on taking positions and giving opinios, kind of lost, because in his family there isn't this "tradition" of asking opinions xD he's liking to help but I just know he's lost, so do I. And every site I find, here in Brazil at least, is made for bride's problems =/
    Thanks for sharing these articles and ideas <3

    1 agrees
  19. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

    Sincerely,
    A Groom That Cares

    2 agree
  20. Our wedding venue sold/gave my information to a bunch of their "preferred vendors." We weren't interested in any of their services but this didn't stop the barrage of calls, emails and junk mail.

    Thinking a call was a potential employer, I picked up when a florist called me. Before I could finish saying hello, I was interrupted with a high pitched, super-duper enthusiastic, "Is this the briiiiiiiiiiiiiiide?". Her voice reached pitches only a dog could hear by the middle of the word "bride". I said no and hung up. Not only was my fiance entirely unimportant to her but I was totally encompassed by a noun instead of a name. We didn't want a florist to begin with, but if we had, it wouldn't be her.

    1 agrees
  21. Thank you for this post! This stuff was fingernails-on-a-blackboard annoying to me when we were planning our wedding, and now that I work with weddings myself I make it a point to always use inclusive language. When I talk about the people who commission my work I refer to them as couples or clients (or families–I make chuppahs and sometimes it's parents who commission the work), not "brides and grooms." The last thing I want is for anyone to come to my site and feel invisible or excluded. Not just same-sex couples but anyone–why leave room for doubt in a potential client's mind about whether you'd welcome them?

    Weirdly, I had an upsetting experience with this exact thing when I was first starting out. I was going to be featured in a daily email wedding guide, which was huge for me as a startup, and I was so thrilled–right up until it came out, then I was just dismayed. They'd put me in the one "groom-centric" section of the email, the theme of which was basically "the groom is an infant and his mother is horrible." A tuxedo shop was described as a place for "mama's boy" to "grow up" with a new suit; my work was described as a bone to throw your mother-in-law to distract her from meddling with your wedding plans "and be done with it." It was this awful trifecta of sexism, infantilization and negativity–and that was my first press exposure! Everything I hated when I was planning my own wedding, distilled into one offensive paragraph with a link to my web site, ugh. It's been years and it still smarts.

    1 agrees

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