Overview: The cultural issue of Marriage Equality is a rapidly evolving topic in the United States, and the world. This post is a review of the book, The Business of Gay Weddings by Bernadette Coveney-Smith.
About the author: Bernadette is founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute and author of two other books on same-sex weddings. 14 Stories has offices in Boston and New York, since 2004, has produced hundreds of gay and lesbian weddings at top venues with couples from around the world.
Reviewer perspective: Growing up in the 60’s, heading into college in the 70’s was an interesting time. I ran smack into the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam. And then, on June 28, 1969, The Stonewall Riots took place; in my home town of New York City.
“The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against apolice raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are widely considered to represent the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States“
Americans live in a big country, and sometimes proximity to social unrest and news events are inexorably tied to geography. After attending college in Arizona, I moved to San Francisco. Less than two years after the move to the Bay Area, Mayor George Moscone and Board of Supervisor Member, Harvey Milk, were assassinated in San Francisco City Hall by former Board of Supervisor Member, Dan White.
In the context of the San Francisco assassinations, it became immediately clear to me that political and social climate had been electrified by events, just as in The Stonewall Riots.
And in my fledgling mobile disc jockey business, I would soon become more fully acquainted with all corners of our diverse community. Thought it is only recently California fully embraced marriage equality, my outlook was shaped in the mid to late 70’s, and stands today.
A 25-year residency in Greater San Francisco afforded me many experiences, and some perspective, but does not qualify me in the cultural and social nuances of LGBTQ weddings. For that, we have Bernadette’s book.
Educating the Wedding Professional
As an educator, I often find people looking for THE ANSWER. You won’t find simple answers, here. What you will read from Bernadette is well-thought-out, organized, and neatly presented guidelines, recommendations, customs, and suggestions on handling simple situations, complex ones, and everything in-between.
For example, there are many examples of dialogues between a wedding planner and an engaged couple. Through these well crafted examples, both good and bad, it becomes easy to see what approach is likely to be well-received, and how another is certain to offend. And, of course, with all the permutations of people and personalities, the most important skill is listening, because not all reactions will be the same.
Statistics are Changing, Rapidly
Though just published in 2013, even foundation statistics have been quickly eclipsed. A statement such as: What states have approved same-sex marriages? is significantly different than when New York State approved its same-sex marriage bill, June 24, 2011.
Bernadette gives the statistical information as it was, upon the book’s publication date. Wikipedia shall pick up the slack on the numbers.
It’s About Protocol, People and their Feelings
In painstaking detail, Chapter 2 presents us with a glossary of familiar words, defined precisely. This section is supplemented by a discussion of subcultures and a discussion of stereotypes. More exactly, the danger of assuming stereotypes.
On Page 42, Bernadette narrates six stages of Cultural Competency in the arena of gay marriage; ranging from the unfamiliar to ‘Cultural Proficiency.’ It’s a variation on the 4 Stages of Learning; something I learned in formal sales training. Both these sequences start with awkward or incompetent, and end with proficiency that becomes reflexive, over time. Knowing what to do, and doing it, become inseparable after enough improvements and repetition.
Marketing to Same-Sex Couples
Chapter 9 addresses a range of issues, framed as: Marketing: The Key To Everything. The guidance offered, provides superb guidelines. But, take each step carefully, and with considered thought.
In current news
Friday, Wisconsin was the latest state to strike down laws limited or prohibiting same-sex marriage.
In a coincidence of good timing, today, a good friend of mine, KC Kokoruz, a bridal show producer, was hosting The Badger State Bridal Expo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And the media came out… three TV crews, no less. They spoke with exhibitors, brides, and their entourages. But it was KC who had the mic, before the assembled crowd. He cited a line spoken by Pink, quoted in Bernadette’s book. Paraphrasing….
“It will a be great day when we no longer refer to a gay or lesbian wedding, but simply as a wedding.” … and those in attendance erupted in cheers and applause.
The Business of Gay Weddings is a must-have, not simply for Wedding Planners, but required reading for every employee of every company with plans to serve the LGBTQ communities. It’s both foundation and nuances. It’s both practical and tender.
Let’s face it… ‘We don’t know, what we don’t know.’ and understanding, not just reading, is an important step in reaching the level of Cultural Proficiency, necessary, to produce a wedding without bursting any bubbles along the way.
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