Navigating your Way through Planning an LGBTQ Wedding

Jessica Bevan Photography

July 2, 2020

It's 2020 and so planning an LGBTQ wedding shouldn't be any different to planning a straight one. While there have been HUGE, incredible strides made all over the world in the last few years, parts of the wedding industry are still (STILL!) outdated and hetro-normative as fuck. Hayley of Wedding Business School has recently set up a FREE online course for wedding suppliers to help educate and improve the lack of inclusivity and diversity she's personally experienced. Today she's sharing some practical tips and advice on how you can best navigate your wedding planning when you are an LGBTQ couple, too. Hayley, we love you! Over to you...
It’s 2020 and so planning an LGBTQ wedding shouldn’t be any different to planning a straight one. While there have been HUGE, incredible strides made all over the world in the last few years, parts of the wedding industry are still (STILL!) outdated and hetro-normative as fuck. Hayley of Found her Flow has recently set up a FREE online course for wedding suppliers to help educate and improve the lack of inclusivity and diversity she’s personally experienced. Today she’s sharing some practical tips and advice on how you can best navigate your wedding planning when you are an LGBTQ couple, too. Hayley, we love you! Over to you…

Yay! You’re engaged! No doubt you’ve already started pinning inspo to your Pinterest board, started discussing who would make a great ‘I Do’ crew and thinking about venues. You may have both already faced some ‘opinions’ from family and friends on what they feel you should do for your wedding day. As an LGBTQ couple planning your wedding, you may notice as you go along that things are a little different for you both. Now, of course, it definitely shouldn’t be like this, but in a day and age when we still need Pride and LGBTQ awareness, things may be challenging sometimes. The great news is that you can definitely overcome any challenges with some prior contingency planning!

My wife and I got married last year and even though I’ve worked in the wedding industry for 13 years, I was still a little taken back, to put it mildly, at some of the challenges we faced… And I’m not even talking about the reaction to the relaxed ‘dress code’ we had either! We found ourselves regularly educating our family, guests and wedding suppliers on what we wanted and how to be fully inclusive. This took us back as you can imagine – who would have thought that in 2019, the wedding industry could still be so LGBTQ exclusive?

One of our bridesmaids bought us a pile of wedding magazines when we got engaged (not Rock n Roll Bride I must add!) As we sat down to go through them, I noticed a similar theme; none of them had any LGBTQ content whatsoever. How could I relate and plan my wedding using these magazines that were outdated in their view of modern day weddings? Blogs were a saving grace for us and showed us ‘real world’ weddings that were full of originality, inclusivity and diversity, rather than the well staged photo shoots featuring the same ‘Mr and Mrs’ narrative.

The wedding industry is slowly changing and becoming more inclusive and diverse, but there is still work to be done. Wedding suppliers are in the business of love and so should act without guidelines. Your guests may take a bit more nurturing and educating to become fully inclusive and appropriate. Inclusivity is a journey, not a destination. The biggest piece of advice I could give you is to have a friendly chat and educate them. They may not intentionally mean to be exclusive and just need a little nudge in the right direction towards inclusivity. 

Here’s some tips on how to navigate your way through planning your wedding as an LGBTQ couple:

Choosing the Right Wedding Crew

Your wedding party should have your back and they should also be ready to reinforce your wishes for your special day. Whether that is on the lead up to the day with a tricky mother in law to be or on the actual day when a rogue uncle launches into his opinion on Pride… Choose people who are there ready to encourage what you want, diffuse any potential challenges you both could do without and most of all, be totally inclusive to both your needs. Ensuring that your wedding crew know you both inside out and what you want is also key so they can then step in when necessary and advocate for you when you’re busy.

Finding your Suppliers

One of the most exciting parts of the wedding is to start choosing your suppliers to bring your Pinterest boards to life. You probably already have a good idea of whether your suppliers are inclusive or not by having a good scroll of their social feeds. Have a look at the images that they post and the language that they use. If there is no imagery of LGBTQ marriages and the language used is exclusive then these may be red flags. Some wedding suppliers may mention that they are LGBTQ-friendly or use badges/graphic to demonstrate this. Yes, in an ideal world they wouldn’t have to explicitly say or show that they are but all the time there is adversity, there is reassurance in the obvious. 

Communicating your Preferences

Your wedding should be an extension of your personalities, so it’s important that you communicate exactly what you both want. Don’t allow anyone to make assumptions – have open communication and tell your suppliers and your guests what you want. This includes use of particular pronouns, your preferred pre-fixes or even just a general note to your guests with your wedding day wishes. Be transparent and clear with your wedding venue and wedding suppliers too. Sometimes, suppliers would rather not ask in case they offend you so don’t be afraid to send them a little friendly note.

Dealing with Adversity

In an ideal world, you will have the most perfect wedding day without any adversity or challenges. However, it is a good idea to have a plan of action just in case. For our wedding, we had suppliers send us forms with ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ on (some alternatives would be to have them say ‘couple’s names’, ‘your name’ and ‘partner’s name’ or ‘partner 1’ and ‘partner 2’) and also our registrar announced us as ‘Mr and Mrs’! We acted first on these to ‘nip them in the bud’ and educate on inclusivity. However, the ceremony challenge took us by surprise but the venue acted fast on it and arranged for LGBTQ training for the registrars. 

On the Day Dealings 

You cannot plan what is going to happen on your wedding day in any situation, but you can prep and be ready. This is where your I Do crew comes into action to firefight any on-the-day challenges that you both may face. A great wedding party will scoop you up, sweep away any hiccups and ideally, keep you both from ever knowing! The main thing to remember is that it is both of your wedding day and it’s you two who count. It’s a celebration of your love and that’s all that matters.

There are no guidelines or rules for your wedding day. If you do not wish to call it a wedding – that’s fine. If you would rather not call either of you a bride or a groom, that is also fine. It’s up to you to plan and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Design your wedding day the way you want it to be and most of all… Strut your way down your ceremony walk with pride!!

About Hayley

Hayley is the Director of Found her Flow, an online course and coaching platform for wedding suppliers looking to grow their businesses. Utilising her 13 years experience in the wedding industry, she uses her multiple business success to help wedding business owners increase their bookings and profits. An LGBTQ bride herself having married her wife in 2019, Hayley has created a free LGBTQ Awareness course for wedding suppliers. Recognising the lack of inclusivity and diversity in the wedding industry that she experienced when planning her own wedding, the course was created to help wedding suppliers become more LGBTQ inclusive.

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23 comments

  1. Sophie

    This is a great post. I wish I’d read it a few months ago! I’m a confident person and can happily make speeches to hundreds of people but the thought of standing in front of people durning such an intimate moment filled me with terror- I pushed it to the back of my mind. I would have happily eloped but my husband really wanted his family and friends involved.

    My biggest mistake was that I had been so relaxed in the run up to the event that when nerves started to bite the week before I didn’t talk about it – I’d got a reputation for being an uber relaxed bride and felt I had to live up to it!

    Things that helped calm my nerves in the run up were:
    Knowing we were doing the wedding party photos before hand – we married at 4, photos were at 1, then we went our separate ways till the ceremony. This got me over the thought that everyone was looking at my husband for his big reaction.

    Having ushers and BM’s (6 pairs) walk in before me took a lot of the focus off me.

    When I arrived the registrar saw how nervous I was (I was hyperventilating!) and arranged for us to sit, rather than stand during the ceremony – we still stood for vows but by then I had calmed down a lot!

    We had a very funny reading, read by a very funny friend early in the ceremony and this broke the ice. Once everyone was laughing it felt like they were in side.

    My final thought: I walked down the aisle alone (didn’t like the idea of anyone ‘giving me’ to someone else) as I was panicking before hand my MoH and bridesman offered to escort me on either arm- this calmed me down completely- as the music started to play I pushed them ahead and realised I could do it!

    I loved the day and I’m so glad we didn’t elope! Don’t ignore how you feel, tell people about it so they can help.

  2. Helen

    If I could add to the great advice given…. On the iPod playlist thing – some friends of ours had an iPod disco and everyone danced the night away. It was so successful that we’re doing the same at our wedding in August. You know your friends, what songs will get them up and dancing (you can’t beat a bit of Wham in my opinion)? Can you prime a couple of outgoing friends to start the dancing if people aren’t getting the idea? We are excited about making our playlists so that we can include songs we’ve danced to with particular groups of friends over the years. Now, even if we had a sudden influx of money and could afford a band, I’m not sure we would change our plans. Anyway, if people see you enjoying the music you’ve chosen at your wedding, they’ll be happy because you are. I hope you have a fab wedding. x

  3. sarah shell

    Oh this is perfect! One of the reasons I’ve avoid the M-word so far is crippling social anxiety. This is a lovely post, and gives me hope that I may manage it one day…22 years and counting…..

  4. Sophie

    Oh and to add to Helen’s point. Pick a great opening song for the play list and at least two ‘everyone on the dance floor’ follow ups. We did have a DJ as we needed the speakers but honestly no one would have notice dif it had been an ipod (which is the sign of a brilliant DJ in my opinion- he didn’t talk over songs!) We werent fussed about a first dance but did it as a sure fire way of getting everyone dancing. We picked a 58 second song as the first dance and followed it by Higher and Higer, by Oatis Redding and then I gotta feeling by the black eyed peas. Everyone danced and stayed dancing all night!

    Put someone in charge of the last dance too! My favorite moment of the whole day was the last dance- we had the cheesy but awesome, Never forget by Take That. Everyone formed a huge circle on the dance floor and our friend ended up doing dance offs in the middle – it wasn’t planned, it just happened, and it was wonderful!

  5. Alice

    This is a great post – I’m getting married next year and I’m already worried about having all of the attention on me, I’ve always hated hosting Birthday parties for the same reason! I feel like people assume that Brides love the attention that comes with getting married and this isn’t always true. However we’re keeping our wedding small – no more that 50 people – and having a very laid back, barn location.

  6. Sarah

    Yep, I struggled with all these problems when planning my wedding. Instead of making a “big bridal entrance” we had an informal cocktail hour before the ceremony, so I could talk to the guests and relax a little. I also took an hour after the reception to “decompress” alone in our hotel room, before I went back out for more socializing. 🙂

  7. Pasquel

    We dealt with this by arranging the reception room without a head table so that we weren’t sat up at the front, it meant having to stand up and go up to give speeches but at least we could relax in between and not feel completely ‘on show’ all afternoon. Also my husband is pretty shy and wasn’t overly keen on having all eyes on us for the first dance – so we chose a short song and gave out sparklers – kept everyone distracted and looked pretty! We also took song requests before making a playlist to ensure some bums on the dance floor afterwards!

  8. Kath

    Interesting post, I am quite introverted but I don’t think the reality of being centre of attention will hit me until the big day. As said in the post, it’s not all about the bride, I have a big family and I know people look forward to weddings as a chance to catch up with other family members as much as anything else. The main thing I think will worry me is walking down the aisle where people are definitely focussing their attention. However my philosophy in life is it’s ok to have fears, but don’t let fears stop you from doing things you want, so on the day I’ll just have to face it, although I’m sure I will be clinging on to my dad’s arm as I’m walking down the aisle. I think I’ll just try and focus on my husband-to-be during the ceremony and try not to think about all the people watching.

  9. Rebecca

    I LOVE THIS POST!!! I am definitely taking advice from this!

    It is something that worries me about mingling and having all eyes on me even though I helped compare my best friends wedding reception (about 6 weeks after the wedding, no one says you have to have it on the same day either) I was focussing attention away from myself and giving her and her new husband the chance to enjoy their night without having the DJ mess it up or someone decide they would start to tell their utterly embarrassing anecdotes about the couple/groom/bride etc.

    My tips:
    Ask a trusted friend to be the compare (one who has a loud, clear voice)
    Make it a relaxed day with no speeches (make up short written declarations about each other and by family/friends also to hang about the place) and give an order of the day prior to the whole shebang.
    Don’t wear a very tight corset or something restrictive, a purple bride/groom is never a good start to a marriage.

  10. This is great… We’re clearly getting something right going by your advice… No top table; rather ‘hosted’ tables by members of the bridal party – might cause some arguments but we’re trying to move beyond that… Small-ish guest numbers (56) and an Orcadian Strip The Willow (ceilidh) as 1st dance – as lead couple. Do what makes you happy… If I’ve taken anything from this process, other than the fact by Mr The has an unrivalled ability to make everything seem fine – it’s that! L x

  11. This is great… We’re clearly getting something right going by your advice in this article … No top table; instead having ‘hosted’ tables by members of the bridal party – might cause some arguments but we’re trying to move beyond that… Small-ish guest numbers (56) and an Orcadian Strip The Willow (ceilidh) as 1st dance – as lead couple. Do what makes you happy… If I’ve taken anything from this process, other than the fact by Mr T has an unrivalled ability to make everything seem fine – it’s that! L x

  12. Jess

    Although I’m much better at social situations these days I’m definitely still an introvert and all those things people say about it being “my” day and “being the only woman anyone is talking about for the right reasons” fills me with… well, contempt more than dread actually 😛
    I’m planning for us not to have an aisle either, being 32 and having lived with my fiance for 2 1/2 years already and having not lived with my father since I was 3 years old, the symbolism of walking down the aisle seems pretty irrelevant, so my fiance and I will be walking in together from the side and I’m getting my Dad to be one of the witnesses on the register so he still knows it’s important to me for him to have a part in the wedding. I think we might not bother with speeches either but I’m leaving that up to those who would be giving them.

  13. We created a crossword for our guests to complete between the wedding breakfast and the evening do, with the prize of a bottle of fizz for the winner (we drew one of the correct entries at random during the evening ‘do’). This was a great way of keeping everyone occupied whilst we disappeared off for a bit of us time (Hubby and I are both natural introverts) so we could recharge and ensure we enjoyed the evening do. It was also a good way of getting groups of people who didn’t necessarily know each other too well talking.

    Our venue also had a lot of small rooms that we could use, so we could talk to a small group of guests in a more intimate environment rather than getting spooked out by having people around us the whole time. This was great for our guests who perhaps wanted a bit of time to themselves away from the hub hub of the wedding too.

    It’s your day. Do it you way and don’t let anyone try to persuade you differently 🙂

  14. Such a sweet article and a great response, Kat. I am in 100% agreement with Sophie that you “Don’t ignore how you feel, tell people about it so they can help.”

    Bringing a day-of coordinator into the mix can provide an objective, yet sensitive, professional who can provide the best support system. It’s our job to make it a stress free and joyous day for our bride and groom!

  15. Heather

    This is a great post. My fiance and I were going to have a small wedding (around 25 people) as we are both kinda introverts. That proved to be even too much for us so we changed it. We are now getting married with our children there (who are 18 and 19) and our parents. That is it! We are just going out for dinner after. Later this summer, we are going to have a kick-ass BBQ on our brand new deck we are building this summer! We feel no pressure this way which is great!! It will be a casual BBQ and we will be surrounded by the people we love. How could it get any better than that?

  16. Fiona Smith

    We are walking to the wedding together and walking into the church and down the aisle arm in arm. After all, we are going into the marriage together so it seems the best way for us to get it started! We have requested that people put one song that would get them dancing on their RSVP and we will use them to make up the playlist, remember music is what makes people dance not the equipment it is coming out of. All will be lovely on the day as long as you remember to look to your partner for support and keep making eye contact with him, the rest will sort itself x

  17. I am an introvert and I can say that that’s some pretty great advice especially coming from someone who is not an introvert. I understand why she’s dreading her wedding day, Us introverts tends to get anxious in social events because we anticipate the attention of a lot of people but deep inside we are really excited about the actual event. If I may give my advice to her I’d say just focus on the fact that your fiancée, your family and basically everyone you love being there to celebrate this wonderful milestone in your life, Once you have that in mind everything else will seem easier to process.

    Regards,
    Tavia Cruz

  18. Eleanor

    I like this – I’m pretty extrovert but husband isn’t and I was worried how he would cope with our big day. One of the things we did was have a photographer who took really relaxed reportage photos so he didn’t have several hours of photos. In the end he had a lovely day having all his best friends and family in one place with him meant alot to him and a few drinks certainly helped. I also did most of the speech which took alot of pressure off him too x

  19. Kerry

    Great post! I’m getting married in September and already having sleepless nights about all the social stuff.
    Walking down the aisle was a particular worry until my friend suggested walking in to the first hymn. That way people are looking in their hymn books and not the bride and won’t notice you till you are past them.
    I’d love to elope but my partner wanted to share the day with friends and family.

  20. Julie

    On the iPod/music thing, get all your guests to choose 2 tunes they think will be dancefloor fillers or remind them of a memory with you as part of the RSVP. That way you will always have someone ‘own’ that song and encouraging others to dance to it & plenty of edge of the dancefloor/propping up the bar reminiscing chats & giggles. I’ve seen it work brilliantly for a 40th party, and makes folks feel ‘involved’ right from invite stage. (Ofcourse you can filter out all the ones with naff dance routines)

  21. I was so anxious about my wedding day, I didn’t think I could do it. However, I had clinical hypnotherapy to combat these worries on my wedding day – I was sceptical, but it worked amazingly. Happy to discuss if anyone wants more info x

  22. Victoria

    I’m getting married later this year- and this article has helped so much. I am looking forward to celebrating the coming together of both our families & the ceremony part is wee bit scary however I’m sure 30 minutes will fly by in a heartbeat. The thing that terrifies me the most is the thought of having to pose for photographers-it is tearing me up. I know I would regret not having a photographer however, the thought of overly posed photos feels me with dread- I’m the female Chandler Bing, there’s never a good photo. Eek!

  23. We’re not having a wedding day,but a wedding weekend…!!

    We’ve basically broken it down into manageable chunks, and chosen venues literally on our doorstep (in our small village).

    We’re having a party on Friday (5hours), recharging on Saturday, then an intimate ceremony and reception at our friends bistro on Sunday.

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