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

Guest post by Lindsey Huddleston
please dont feed the groom

Man, if you want to get my panties in a wad, let's talk about the EXTREME sexism in 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.

Comments on Let’s put an end to exclusionary language and sexist vendors in the wedding industry

  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.

  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.

  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!

  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

    • 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.

  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!

  6. 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 “[email protected]” 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.

    • 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    • 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.

  9. 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.

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