News, Analysis, Opinion – The Wedding Marketing Blog
Globally, the first laws enabling same-sex marriages passed in The Netherlands, on April 1, 2001. Since then, country after country, state after state (in the United States) have followed suit. Each country, state, province, and locale has its own history, tradition, acceptance, and tendencies.
In the last couple of years, wedding industry professionals have begun to talk more openly about the opportunities, challenges, and cultural confusion in the new world of same-sex (and LGBT, generally) weddings.
It’s not as simple as posting a rainbow
Whether a business is gay-owned or gay-friendly, an announcement that one is accepting to same-sex weddings is no guarantee of acceptance or automatic riches. Whether the goal of serving a newly-minted niche is pure of heart, a financial opportunity, or both, in many cases, there hurdles to jump.
Understandably, gay couples who have been together for extended periods of time will feel blue skies have appeared. However, choosing not to wait for legalization, many same-sex couples elected not to wait, and chose to have commitment ceremonies and celebrations. Others, feel urgency to get married, quickly, before a legal skirmish turns the clock back.
Whether or not an emotional response to legalization will result in full-scale weddings and receptions or private weddings, with a few close friends and family, is still to early to predict. It’s an evolutionary process.
What Same-Sex Couples Want
In the main, I’ve observed some consistent desires.
- To be treated without grand distinction from their heterosexual friends, by family, friends, and wedding professionals.
- To feel comfortable with wedding professionals and vice versa.
- A business owner may have the right background and experiences to embrace same-sex weddings, now. That does not mean their employees have the appropriate context to work with the new customers.
- Gay-friendly businesses and gay-owned businesses, alike, may not receive universal praise for enlarging their customer base. A few gay wedding planners have explained to me their ‘straight’ clientele, while comfortable with them (as individuals), was not as comfortable with their new-found clientele.
How big is the LGBT population in the U.S.?
In the United States, according to exit polling on 2008 Election Day for the 2008 presidential election, 4% of the national electorate self-identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, the same percentage as in 2004. According to the 2000 United States Census there were about 601,209 same-sex unmarried partner households.
With a market or less than 5% of the United States population, marketing to this specific community is challenging.
- Do businesses market to LGBT couples through traditional bridal shows, websites, publication, and media?
- There have already been alternative shows, websites, publications and other media come into the marketplace. Will there be large enough LGBT demand to make, and keep, those businesses viable?
- Will individual websites be able to navigate marketing to both straight and LGBT audiences, concurrently?
Lack of Tradition
Straight couples have experienced endless wedding traditions… with variances by region, religion, and other factors. Ceremonies and celebrations of couples of different religions and/or races have found ways to enjoy their love celebration, through evolutionary acceptance. Sadly, it’s still not unusual for traditionalists within their own families to resist participation in the wedding or reception, sometimes rejecting the future spouse or couple, entirely.
The LGBT community does not have a legacy of wedding traditions. Only now, is it developing. In my opinion, this is both good and challenging. To a great degree, couples can write their own rules, without the same peer or family pressure to do things a certain way.
When people spend a lifetime, feeling somewhat different, or being treated differently than others, the new era of wedding tradition and comfort levels is not a direct path. It’s evolutionary, at best, and unpredictable, at its most challenging.
Your experiences and comments are important
I am curious to know what early experiences you have had… good, bad, interesting, enlightening, etc, If you would be kind enough to take a few minutes and contribute a story, it would be of great service. Please attribute your geographic area, and share what you have learned,
Indeed, this is a wedding marketing blog. And part of marketing is understanding how we communicate outwardly, business to business, and business to consumer. I’m not expecting any magic answers, but am hoping for insights as laws, traditions, and fellow human beings continue in their development of new norms.
Thank you in advance for participating in sharing…
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The Wedding Marketing Blog