How to Find Wedding Vendors That Celebrate Inclusion

Jove Meyer didn’t think he would become an activist when he started his career as a wedding planner 15 years ago. But in 2012, while he was at a church in New York for a wedding he had planned, the pastor approached him a few minutes before the ceremony and told him, “You’re not welcome here.”

So he left and cried on the stoop outside the church.

“I was like, ‘What is going on?’” said Mr. Meyer, who is based in Brooklyn. “It hit me like a rock. I was planning weddings — something that I myself couldn’t participate in.” Mr. Meyer, who is gay, was unable to marry at the time because same-sex unions were not yet legal nationwide.

Since then, he has been advocating inclusivity in the wedding industry at events and on broadcast shows, pushing for wedding vendors to be more welcoming to all couples. He also created an ally pledge that he asks every vendor to sign before they start working together.

In light of recent incidents involving L.G.B.T.Q. rights and discrimination, Mr. Meyer said, many queer couples are conducting research in order to find inclusive vendors.

On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in 303 Creative L.L.C. v. Elenis that a Christian web designer in Colorado had a First Amendment right to refuse to create wedding websites for same-sex couples based on her religious beliefs.

Ainsley Blattel, the brand and marketing director at Modern Rebel, a wedding planning company that specializes in nontraditional weddings, said the Supreme Court case “reiterates the need for queer people to have vendors who fully celebrate and support them, and make them feel safe throughout the process of planning a celebration of their partnership.”

For couples looking to work with vendors that share similar values and support people of all backgrounds, there is a flourishing network of inclusive vendors and professionals in the wedding industry, said Mx. Blattel, who uses the gender-neutral honorific and they/them pronouns.

Wedding professionals and other experts shared advice on how to find inclusive wedding vendors.

Work With Small Businesses

For Mr. Meyer, working with small businesses that are owned and operated by women, people of color and L.G.B.T.Q. people is a priority.

“As a gay man, I know how hard it was for me to get work and to be accepted and to be taken seriously,” he said. “We want to put our money where our mouth is.”

As an example, Mr. Meyer said, he works with a caterer that is owned by a queer woman and has a trans employee. He said the trans employee had experienced difficulties finding a job because of their gender identity.

“By hiring queer-owned businesses, you’re investing in the community as well,” Mr. Meyer said. “And there’s a trickle-down effect that is spreading work and power via money to people who don’t always get that opportunity.”

Vendor directories on websites such as Equally Wed, Offbeat Wed and Black Gay Weddings may be a convenient place to find inclusive vendors. Using search terms like “gay wedding planner,” “Black florist” or “queer florist or ally” can also be helpful.

Check the Language on Websites

Another way to gauge whether vendors are open to working with all couples is to pay attention to any assumptions that they make in their language, Mx. Blattel said. For example, they said, “does their website only refer to their clients as bride and groom? Are they calling it a ‘bridal suite’?”

The pronouns that a vendor uses on its website may also be an indicator of whether it works with queer couples in particular, said Kirsten Palladino, the co-founder and editorial director of Equally Wed. “If they say ‘he or she’ and they’re not saying ‘he, she or they’ or just ‘they’ collectively, that’s something to watch because they either aren’t comfortable or just are not thinking about the gender-diverse population within our community,” she said.

Another green flag is if a vendor includes pronouns in an email signature and asks for couples’ pronouns, too, Ms. Palladino said. She also recommends asking venues if they have gender-neutral bathrooms, even if it is just a single-stall room.

Inclusive language helps people feel respected and welcome — it’s the reason Ariel Meadow Stallings rebranded her website from Offbeat Bride to Offbeat Wed in 2022. The name change cost her business tens of thousands of dollars, she said, but it was worth it. “Part of my personal values is growing and changing as the culture that I’m serving grows and changes,” Ms. Stallings said.

Search on Social Media

Mx. Blattel recommends taking a look at the photos that vendors post on their social media accounts to determine what kinds of couples they tend to work with.

“Are they posting photos of queer folks all year round, or is it just in June,” during Pride Month? Mx. Blattel said. “Even with queer folks, oftentimes you end up seeing white, thin, able-bodied folks who are queer as opposed to the beautiful and vast diversity of bodies that exist in the L.G.B.T.Q. community.”

Vendors that advertise on L.G.B.T.Q. wedding websites or those tailored toward Black, Indigenous and other people of color may also be solid choices, since they are demonstrating an interest in investing in marginalized communities, Ms. Palladino said.

Ask Tough Questions

Consider reading online reviews from couples of who have worked with a vendor so that “you can read firsthand what their experience was like working with this person,” Mx. Blattel said. If you’re unable to find reviews, Mx. Blattel said, ask vendors if they can connect you with previous clients. You can also ask vendors if they work with couples who share your and your partner’s identities, and if so, how often.

Many vendors may also be unaware of the nuances of language, or they may not be used to having conversations about inclusivity, Ms. Stallings said. That’s not necessarily a red flag.

A willingness to accept feedback, listen to concerns, answer questions and evolve is important, she said. “That’s actually a really wonderful way to test your vendor — understanding how they navigate challenging conversations early on about inclusivity and identity,” she said.

Be Upfront About Your Needs

Couples should consider being open about their own identities with vendors if they are comfortable doing so, Mx. Blattel said. They can let their vendors know directly that they would like to work only with businesses that are inclusive. “They can say: ‘It’s important for us to work with people who are championing our rights, our equality. So we just want to be certain that you are supportive,’” Mr. Meyer said.

They should also be clear about the type of support they are looking for. For example, if guests need any disability accommodations, couples should communicate those requests to vendors beforehand. Such requests can include notifying caterers about allergies or requiring seats that accommodate people with larger bodies, said Elysia Everett Burns, the founder of Friendly Like Me, an app that helps people find restaurants, venues and other businesses that meet specific access needs.

In the United States, 27 percent of adults have some form of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “People tell us that if they’re not certain that they’re going to be accommodated, if any doubt exists at all, they’re not going,” Ms. Burns said.

“After you’ve booked with someone, be specific about what you need from that vendor,” Mx. Blattel said. “This is something that you absolutely can and should talk to your vendor team about, because they are your champions throughout this process.”

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