It’s time to wake up, wedding pros.
It’s 2021 and our industry is still stuck in an unoriginal, inauthentic, exclusive rut. We've excluded couples of color, LGBT+ couples, interracial couples, interfaith couples, plus-size couples, disabled couples, and others for too long, and it's time to make a change.
The best place to make that change? Your website. It’s the digital home of your business, your number one sales tool, and the last stop a couple makes before hiring you.
To make your website more inclusive, you’ll need to follow these three, easy steps. Just kidding—these steps aren’t “easy.” But they are simple. And they’re changes that will absolutely help you attract and book more diverse couples (and all-around good humans) this year and beyond.
Step 1: Kick Tokenism to the Curb
Making your website more inclusive begins with an authentic intent. You should be doing this work because you genuinely love, love, and want to help couples of all stripes celebrate their special moments, no matter what that looks like to them. There is no room for tokenism (the practice of only making a symbolic effort toward equality), in our industry.
Step 2: Update Your Words & Images
I define inclusive language as written, spoken, and visual communication that acknowledges and respects human diversity. That means, to make your website more inclusive in 2021, you’ll need to address both words and images.
The words and images you should change will likely surround these categories:
- Sexual orientation
- Race and ethnicity
- Parental status
- Socioeconomic status
- Military status
There are many identities beyond this list, but these are the most applicable to the wedding industry and the most universal (for example, geography is another category but I couldn’t advise you on what to say without knowing the specific market you serve).
On to the actual work: changing the words and images you use. I recommend going category by category, rather than website page by website page, to make these changes.
Replace terms like bride and groom with person, couple, fianceé, or partner. Ask yourself, “What gender roles or stereotypes am I reinforcing?” as you read your copy. Update your images to portray a variety of genders.
Replace phrases like bride and groom or Mr. and Mrs. with couple, spouses, or partners. Ask yourself, “What experience do I have with LGBT+ weddings and how can I tell those stories?” when you evaluate your website copy. Update your images so they portray more than just straight relationships.
Race & Ethnicity
Replace terms like African American, Spanish, Mexican or Asian American with Black, Hispanic, Latinx, Asian, or people of color. Ask yourself, “What ethnicities are common in my area, and how can I include their unique traditions in my marketing?” as you re-read your website copy. Update your images to show a variety of couples, including couples of color and interracial couples.
Replace church with a place of worship. Replace priest or preacher with religious leader, officiant, or celebrant. Replace religious ceremony with civil ceremony or ritual. Ask yourself, “How can my writing include Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and other non-Christian wedding traditions? How can I include those who don’t want religion to be a part of their wedding?” Update your images to include iconic wedding traditions of different religions, such as the chuppah in Jewish weddings or the application of henna during Hindu weddings.
Replace handicapped and disability-first language like the deaf woman with disabled and person-first language like the woman who is deaf. Ask yourself, “What experience do I have serving the disabled community at weddings, and how can I portray that on my website?” as you review your copy. Update your images to include those with disabilities.
Replace terms like fat with plus-size, full-figured, curvy, husky, or big and tall. Consider also adding phrases like size-inclusive and body positive. Ask yourself, “How can I make people with larger bodies, smaller bodies, taller bodies, shorter bodies, etc. feel accommodated on their wedding day” as you re-read your website copy. Update your images to show couples beyond a size 2.
Remove references to first wedding, first marriage, never done this before or only doing this once. Ask yourself, “Am I making assumptions about how old my couples are and/or how many times they’ve been married?” as you rework your website copy. Update your images to include couples who are older than their 20s.
Replace references to mom and dad with parents, guardians, or family. Ask yourself, “How do I make my couples’ children a special part of their wedding day?” as you work through the copy. Update your images to include families, such as a happy couple with their children or parents on the wedding day.
Replace poor, frugal, low-budget, or backyard with practical, budget-conscious, economical, or thrifty. Ask yourself, “Which of my offers has the most value? How can I direct low-budget couples toward my services?” as you read your website copy. Update your images to include simpler, more economical weddings.
Replace terms like ARMY brat with from a military family, active duty military, or members of the armed forces. Ask yourself, “What experience do I have working at military weddings and how can I tell these stories on my website?” as you read your copy. Update your images to include shots from military weddings.
Step 3: Accept Your Responsibility To Be an Agent of Change
The number one quality you need to be an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion is bravery. Which, as an entrepreneur, I know you have because it takes a heck of a lot of guts to go out on your own and start a business.
Privilege is power, and each of us has some privilege. It’s your responsibility to use your power for good, and that means making an effort to be an agent of change and transform the wedding industry into a kinder, more welcoming, more inclusive place. Be the change.