The Business of Gay Weddings

Business-of-Gay-Weddings-Cover-332x500Overview: 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

Read the full entry in Wikipedia

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

Bernadette Smith
Bernadette Smith

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.

Pink

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.

The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals (Amazon Books)

 

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Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Soulful Weddings

In the last week, I’ve read so much maddening drivel about wedding planning, it has caused me to simply stop and consider the entire purpose of the wedding day. The decision making process of brides, and the motivation, standards, and perspective of wedding vendors,  are all to help produce the most meaningful event, for all who take part.

In his famous graduation speech at Stanford University, Steve Jobs noted that “You cannot connect the dots going forward, you can only connect them in retrospect.” I believe it is true; without the benefit of rose-colored glasses, one can look back at a wedding and realistically assess how things turned out. What worked well, what worked better than expected, and ‘what was I thinking when I made THAT choice?”

weddings with soulIt seems that the prevailing winds in the wedding industry run to the extreme.

  • How can I save money? aka DIY
  • How can I design the most opulent event, with no monetary bounds?

Better questions are:

  • How do I want my family guests to feel during the wedding and reception?
  • What do I want people (include myself and my spouse) to recall in 25 years?
  • How will I enjoy the day, and what will I remember fondly, years later?
stern-grove-club-house, San Francisco
Stern Grove Club House, San Francisco

Generally speaking, couples who ask better questions, achieve better results. It is generally not about money… though having more money doesn’t hurt. However, any number of fiascos I’ve witnessed were caused by making things unnecessarily complex. Those situations sprout from failing to have sufficient management to handle the outsized opulence.

And other receptions glow in their simplicity. There’s a park near San Francisco State University named Stern Grove. It is a soothing setting for smaller weddings. It has volume restrictions… it’s not right for everyone. You are with nature, and it is peaceful. And for one particular wedding couple, it was ideal.

Though I was there to play dance music, I’ll always remember a tenor sax whispering ‘Body & Soul’ as the bride walked down the aisle. The wistful tones floated through the air, so tenderly, one could almost see them.

And then there was the ring bearer, the bride and groom’s 3-legged dog, Bosco. He had a small pillow secured to has back, and he ambled down the aisle on cue, stopping at the altar. Bosco was a part of their new family, and had to be included. I thought it strange, when they first suggested it, but had the good sense to listen and understand the wisdom of their choice.

A 3-legged dog as the ring bearer is not particularly elegant, but the choice has soul. Creating a remembrance for those friends and family who have left this earth tends to be painful, but it has soul and is meaningful. A wedding cake, fashioned to look like Yankee Stadium, because the bride and groom are avid fans is a choice reflecting the wedding couple. It is creative and has soul.

Brides often speak with conflicting meaning. They speak about the latest trends, and then about wanting their wedding to be unique. It’s hard to have it both ways. Most every wedding professional, from the venue to a dove release, believes their part in the wedding is somehow the linchpin and most memorable element. Everyone should take pride in their work and serve as part of the wedding team, regardless of their contribution.

In reality, this complex production, the wedding and reception, is both planned and spontaneous. It is hard to predict what will stand out in one’s mind, a year from now or 25 years from now.

So, in considering the soul of a wedding, I think we may have it backwards. The most important part of the day is the ceremony. And I suggest that the ceremony take place, last, not first.

As the bride and groom walk from the altar and are showered with rice or rose petals, those moments and seconds… the expressions on their faces will be the apex of the day. Putting the focus where it belongs, on the bride and groom. Now THAT would be soulful.

You see, at the end of the event, a wedding doesn’t wear a price tag. No one cares whether the bride and groom are of modest means or wildly wealthy. If there is an emotional connection with them, and their are meaningful moments of magic, then all is right with the world.

Soulful Weddings… not just memorable, but burned into one’s very being.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon 
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Always done it this way

black-bear-breakfast1Black Bear Diner is one of my favorite breakfast places. I had a morning meal there, last Friday. It’s a relatively small chain of restaurants (62 locations) and feels like a local establishment.

Everyone is courteous. Staff members recognize you upon arrival. The waitresses know your ‘usual,’ and refills your coffee cup without being asked. The portions are generous and prices are moderate.

What’s not to like? Well, look closely at the picture. It’s the wimpy, wilted lettuce, underneath the orange slice. Friday, I ordered multi-grain pancakes with strawberries and sugar-free syrup (it’s a diabetic thing). The garnish is a fresh orange slice on a wimpy, slice of wilted lettuce.

I understand a leaf of lettuce with a burger and fries. What is leaf of lettuce doing on the underside of an orange slice, with pancakes? I mean really. It’s incongruous, it’s bizarre. It’s contrary. And it’s not even a fresh, crisp lettuce leaf. It’s wimpy and wilted. I have now taken to asking the waitress-of-the-day (Friday it was Deane) to banish such wimpy, wilted lettuce from my plate.

The truly humorous thing is asking, “So tell me, what’s the history of putting a wimpy, wilted leaf of lettuce under every garnish?” the answer is something akin to “I don’t really know. We’ve always done it this way.”

In this case, the wimpy, wilted lettuce is not going to stop me from patronizing the Black Bear Diner, but it raised a different, perhaps bigger question, in my mind.. What does the “wimpy-wilted-lettuce factor” have to do with Wedding Marketing in your business and mine? What little thing are we doing that annoy prospects and customers and could be changed, simply, without a cost factor or great effort? What are you doing ‘because you’ve always done it that way?’

  • Are you a photographer or videographer who drops your gear, just anywhere, at the reception, without regard to safety or aesthetics?
  • Are you a musician or DJ who is sloppy about taping down wires? Do you use grey duct tape, when black stage tape would make a better appearance?
  • Are you a baker or florist who delivers their creations dressed in a t-shirt and ragged jeans? How about a custom company polo short (with logo), and khakis, instead?
  • Does your website have photos that take 3 minutes to load because they were processed five years ago? Are your testimonials from 1999?
  • Do you do a good job for the client, but seldom properly acknowledge a referral?
  • Do you only call clients and peers to ask for something or to vent? How about calling just to see how they’re doing, and not to ask for anything?

It’s no secret that the wedding industry is highly competitive. Distinguish yourself by doing little things well. What’s your wimpy-wilted-lettuce factor? Identify and fix it. No fanfare.

And another thing… I never mix my soul food with caviar pie! Andy Ebon The Wedding Marketing Blog

PS: If you live in the Western United States, go visit a Black Bear Diner near you. And if you see wimpy, wilted lettuce, point it out. And tell them, Andy from Las Vegas said, “Get it outta here”.

black bear diner

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon 
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

 

Time Travel

time travelTime Travel – It’s somewhat confusing, though it happens twice a year. Saturday night, we lose an hour. At 2am, we move our clocks forward an hour, ending Daylight Savings Time for this year.

An hour of sleep is lost. Some of us will be disoriented. It often takes a few days for our internal clocks to get caught up.

Don’t worry, you’ll get there.

Spring Forward, Fall Back. You’re good until November 2nd.

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Andy Ebon 
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog