If you’re ready to start planning your big day, finding the right wedding vendors is one of the keys to a smooth event. Whether you’re an engaged LGBTQIA+ couple or an ally, many couples find it important only to hire vendors who share their morals — and it’s a great way to support local LGBTQIA+ business owners. When a wedding is all about love, those running the show should support all people, regardless of their gender and sexual identity. No matter how you slice it, planning the big day is a stressful endeavor, so putting filters on who you will hire makes it more difficult. Luckily though, there are strategies that will help you narrow your search. Here, a guide on finding and hiring LGBTQIA+ vendors for your wedding:
Don’t be afraid to ask
The easiest way to weed through the duds? By getting to the point and asking if they support LGBTQIA+ couples, says Keith Willard, a gay man with a transgender woman as his lead event logistics partner for his sound business, Keith Willard Events. “It’s better to ask in person so I can see their reaction firsthand,” she says. “It’s politically correct to say that we are supportive, but their facial reaction will often give away what they truly think.”
Pay attention to their on and offline language
Be mindful of their word choice. This can be online or in-person, but it’s easy to scroll through their website and social media platforms to see how they discuss couples. “Some giveaways that they are not fully inclusive is if they refer to it as a bridal party instead of a wedding party. Or if they speak only to brides when addressing customers,” says Conley Morris, a wedding and event planner of Urban Allure Events. “Make sure they’re using gender-neutral language in their contract, emails, and over presence.”
Beyond language, a vendor’s photo choices can be telling, too. If their site features exclusively straight couples, and there’s no mention of LGBTQ couples anywhere, it should be a red flag, says Grace Lee, the founder of Birdy Grey. “Social media is a place where vendors can easily make it known that they know love is love,” she continues. “It’s easy, even in the ultra-gendered wedding business, to share stories of queer love on Instagram or TikTok. This is pretty much the bare minimum. Businesses that care about working with diverse couples will make that known on their social media. Vendors who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community will often include that right out of the gate, whether in their Instagram bios or about pages.”
Ask your current vendors
When you decide to make any significant expense — from buying a house and a car to booking a vacation or your wedding must-haves — asking for recommendations is critical. Once you find one affirming vendor, turn to their advice to discover others, recommends Maureen Cotton, a bisexual, coach, and officiant. “Sometimes, couples don’t realize that we all know each other in the wedding industry, and anyone can tap into a whole network. They know more about fellow vendors than may be present on a vendor’s website,” she continues. “This also gives you the chance to have a frank conversation about the level of inclusivity you desire for a specific vendor.
Hire a queer planner
Kick off the planning process by hiring a queer planner. As LGBTQIA+ planner John Campbell puts it: “We’re familiar with our market and the vendors who work in it and can guide couples to vendors who are both supportive and a good fit for them personally. As advocates for all of our couples, we’re only bringing them vendors who want to celebrate their love.”
And hey, even if a planner isn’t within your budget, Campbell suggests reaching out to some local planners to see if they’re willing to send you a few LGBTQIA-friendly vendors to contact.
Turn to these websites
If you are struggling to find inclusive vendors, it can also be helpful to turn to websites that do some of the research and scouting on your behalf, recommends Monika Kreinberg, the president of Furever Us. Examples include EquallyWed.com, which Kreinberg describes as an online wedding magazine geared towards LGBTQIA+ weddings. “They strive to provide inclusive vendors and include real weddings and planning tools,” she adds. Other websites include EngagedWeddings.com, Pridezillas.com, and LGTBWeddings.com, specializing in gay-friendly wedding vendors.
“Larger companies such as ‘The Knot‘ clearly indicate those that consider themselves LGBTQIA+ friendly vendors,” she continues. “Out Magazine’ has a wedding section with famous LGBTQIA+ weddings for couples with a little bit more budget. Many inclusive photographers are tagged and can be good referrals to start contacting.”