The New Art of Capturing Love: A Book Review

Capturing LoveThe New Art of Capturing Love represents itself as The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. That is true, but the book is far more all-encompassing. Certainly, it is written, in large part, through the eyes of a wedding photographer and all interesting possibilities in LGBTQ weddings.

The Co-Authors are:

Kathryn Hamm, President of GayWeddings.com, the pioneering online wedding boutique and resource for same-sex couples. Kathryn also serves as a member of the WeddingWire Education Team.

Thea Dodds is an award-winning photographer and Founder of Authentic Eye Photography.

The overall tone of ‘Capturing Love’ is warm, thoughtful, and illuminating. While the world of heterosexual weddings, including various religions, cultures, and ethnicities, have roots and practices dating back thousands of years. The presence of same-sex marriage, from a legal standpoint (in the United States), is a product of the new millenium. In a flurry of legal proceedings during recent months,

Same-sex marriage is legal in a majority of U.S. states and recognized by the United States federal government. Same-sex marriage is legal in 32 states, the District of Columbia, and ten Native American tribal jurisdictions.”

Source: Wikipedia

Both, in words and pictures, the authors share the nuances, challenges, options, and potential land-mines faced by wedding couples and wedding professionals surrounding them. As expressed by the authors, you will feel the many points of view, converging on the event.

Assume Nothing: There is nothing boilerplate about a LGBTQ wedding. Even the most seasoned wedding professional, reading this book, will think, “Wow, I never considered that!”

Some examples cited include:

  • PDA – Public Display of Affection – Is the wedding couple comfortable with PDA? Have they ever kissed in public? Will they be comfortable with it?
  • Family Acceptance – What are the parental politics? Are they accepting or not-so-much? How about other family members?
  • Wedding Attire – These decisions are as varied as can be. Explore softly, listen intently, understand.
  • Rapport between the wedding couple and wedding professionals is paramount.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Kathryn Hamm and I are both part of the WeddingWire Education Team. As of this writing, we’ve been part of four out of five WeddingWire World conferences. Kathryn has a gentle way of addressing tricky issues, without making people feel uncomfortable.

And sometimes, she is direct. At our second WeddingWire World in Washington, D.C., Kathryn pulled me aside and said, “There’s something I need you to do for me… (without missing a beat) Stop saying Bride and Groom, and begin saying, Wedding Couple.”

The de-programming of 35+ years in the conventional wedding industry was going to take some time. I realized, immediately, this was good advice, and it wasn’t about being politically correct. It was about being inclusive. Now, when I complete a presentation, I flashback to remember how many times I got it right, self-corrected myself, or missed the brass ring. I’ve shown a lot of improvement 🙂

Understanding What is New to Us

Every wedding professional should read ‘Capturing Love’, not just for business reasons, but to see the world, more clearly, through the eyes of others. That is the meaning of empathy, and it’s a powerful thing.

I’d tell you more, but absorbing the narrative and images are a personal growth experience. Enjoy it at your own pace.

Andy Ebon

 

 

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

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

Weddings Unveiled Magazine snubs photographer’s image

Observation and Opinion from Andy Ebon, The Wedding Marketing Blog, about Weddings Unveiled Magazine.

“Marketing includes everything that touches the customer, or the customer sees.”

That reference was the opening thought in a wedding marketing blog post from about a year and a half ago. That post was a vignette about customer service… bad customer service.

Tonight, I followed a link on my Facebook news feed, titled: An Open Letter to Weddings Unveiled Magazine. The letter was published in a blog post by Anne Almasy, a wedding photographer who services ‘Atlanta & Beyond.’ She describes her experience with Weddings Unveiled Magazine in painful and thoughtful detail. She writes calmly and with quiet emotion.. Her words compelled me to share my thoughts.

Anne Almasy is something rare: A new advertiser for a print publication

… or was… Let me summarize, comment, and encourage you to read her post, in its entirety.

In short, she sent a loving photograph of a wedding couple, gazing into each other’s eyes, at close range, the bride’s hand touching a shoulder. Anne chose the photo for her ad, because in her words, “It says home, it says joy.”

The publication rejected the ad because ‘it did not reflect their personal beliefs.’ Did I mention that the happy newlyweds were a same-sex couple?

Apparently, the requirement that the wedding couple be heterosexual was not clear in the Weddings Unveiled Media Kit (pdf). I couldn’t find the requirement. I’m guessing Anne couldn’t find it either.

“As an industry marketing professional and thought leader, I’m both disappointed and angered. I have lived long enough to observe and experience cultural evolution in many forms. I can see incremental progress, but am pained by the pace of change.”

I don’t know Anne Almasy or her body of work in wedding photography; however, today, she has my utmost respect and admiration. The publication asked her if she might provide an alternate photograph to be used for the advertisement. She stood her ground… and took a pass.

Anne’s story is not complicated, and it demonstrates even in a progressive industry, such as the wedding industry, there are people and businesses living in the dark ages.

My opinion – as restrained as it can be…

People don’t choose to be homosexual, any more than they choose to be black, white, brown or any other race. It is clear, in the United States and elsewhere, that understanding, acceptance and legalization of gay marriages is growing, steadily.

To Weddings Unveiled Magazine, I whisper this…

“Deal with it! LGBTQ couples should be able celebrate their love, as others do… with joy and happiness. The wedding day should be captured in photography and video, as every wedding couple documents their experience, with family and friends. If you believe, as a media organization, that dictating the photographer’s choices of an image is somehow going to change the biology and love on our planet, you are delusional.

You may have noticed, we live in a public, social media world. And there should be a marketing message in that.”

Please click on this image to visit Anne Almasy's blog post and view an enlargement of this image.
Please click on this image to visit Anne Almasy’s blog post and view an enlargement of this image.

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Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert

Same-Sex Marriages

NEWS, ANALYSIS and OPINION:

Same-Sex MarriagesYesterday, New York State passed legislation to become the sixth state legalizing same-sex marriages. Barring a successful court challenge, New  York will begin issuing licenses in just 30 days. The issue of same-sex marriage is a cultural and individual rights subject. The debate has had overlay of religious practices and a myriad of other points of view. In this post, I will set all of that aside, and address the philosophical foundation for marketing engagement of LGBTQ business, in what promises to be a growing market.

Wedding Industry Analysis

Depending on where you live, and your circle of business and personal activity, the various strains of the gay community range from being mainstream to seemingly non-existent. They are never really non-existent, just living below the radar in some places. During my 26-year disc jockey career, most of my time was in the San Francisco Bay Area. From a community standpoint, neighborhoods such as The Castro District, were/are an anchor for diversity. Beyond that, gay members of the community were/are present in every area of business and government. Being engaged with members of the gay community was a part of everyday life.

I did a lot of DJ work at one particular bed and breakfast, The Alamo Square Inn, owned and operated by Wayne Corn and his life partner, Klaus. Wayne operated the inn and booked weddings and other special events. Klaus ran the kitchen and catering operation.

One day, Wayne called me with a proposed booking, but was unusually cautious. He wanted to make certain I ‘was comfortable with this particular audience.’ He went on to explain it was a graduation party of gay and lesbian ministers. Indeed, that sounded like a fringe group, and it sounded like a blast. I told him I appreciated his sensitivity, but it sounded like big fun to me… and it turned out to be just that.

Understanding The Niche

Before any business sees a windfall of dollar signs, it is important to realize that one will be working with a cultural niche. Not unlike religious or ethnic subsets, you can’t just put up a sign that says gay-friendly business, anymore than you can say ‘we specialize in Indian weddings‘ or ‘Bar Mitzvahs welcome’.

Knowing the nuances of doing business with members of the gay community, is just as it is important as understanding the idiosyncrasies of a Bar Mitzvah mother.

Business owners must not only educate themselves, but take the temperature of employees… get their buy in, and coach them, too. Comfort level and understanding will, in large part, determine whether your business is suited for, and hired for same-sex weddings.

Gay and Lesbian people are just folks

From a human and business standpoint, they just want to be understood, served, and appreciated, like anyone else. For some businesses, there will be a steep learning curve. For others, barely any at all. And when you make the connection, it’s gratifying, fun, and adds to the bottom line.

Culture First; Business Second

The United States is a highly diverse country. Often, we celebrate it well. Some segments of our population are not as worldly and comfortable. Much like the civil rights movement of the 1960’s was uncomfortable for large segments of the population (and still is for some), this country is going to pass through another cultural adjustment period. Lest we forget, it was less than 100 years ago that women were ‘given’ the right to vote. My message is simple.

“Embrace the LGBT community, its culture, and individual people… and business will follow. It’s the natural course of events, and it’s quite exciting.”

With love, respect, and congratulations! 

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Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog