I’m about to show my privilege for a moment, but…
Until I started wedding planning…
I never realized how wildly heteronormative and elitist the wedding industry is. I definitely noticed inklings of it as I was shopping for wedding cards for my not “bride and groom” friends, or whenever I’d saunter by the bridal mag section splattered with young, white, thin, attractive hetero couples. But it wasn’t until I started listening to wedding-planning podcasts, attending bridal (note, BRIDAL! not “groom-al” – is that a word?) expos, and joining wedding affinity groups that I realized how exclusive the industry really is.
To begin my rant re: inclusion, I have to first mention how increasingly expensive it is to have an (I’m air quoting so hard as I type this!) “traditional” wedding is. And for once, I’m not mentioning it from a place of its ridiculousness, but rather from a place of its privilege.
Only certain people are able to afford these wedding expectations.
And those of us that can – or even, can-ish – would increase our compassion and empathy if we’re able to recognize that privilege. Unlike other folks, it often means that either we have someone in our life that is either affluent-enough and/or cares about us enough to help us fund our wedding (not everyone has that), we have had enough income to be able to not only survive but save up some money for a wedding (not everyone has that), we have credit to take out loans to fund our wedding (not everyone has that) or a combo of all three.
It also means that we’re actually allowed to get married. While socially we’re making headway in that arena, I want to take a moment to remind you that there was once a time where couples of different races weren’t allowed to marry one another. Folks of different religions may still face battles if they want a religious ceremony! And until recently, same-sex couples were not given the right to marry. While many of these relationships have been legally given the green-light, they often still face stigma and persecution.
Keeping privilege in mind is one of the most helpful steps in making your wedding more inclusive to guests and loved ones. It provides you with the opportunity to reflect on how others who aren’t as privileged may feel “othered” in their experience of the current social construct of weddings. Here are some of the ways I’ve considered for making a wedding more inclusive:
I’ll start with the cards.
You can obviously buy a “bride and groom” card for a bride and groom couple, but you can also take it one step further and buy a non-gendered card that’s just as good! The more we buy non-gendered cards, the more card companies will take notice and make more non-gendered cards that can be used for anyone! (Because real talk, I also don’t want to have to buy the ONE “groom and groom” card from the store for my groom and groom friends JUST because it says “groom and groom.”)
Let’s talk addressing envelopes.
Like, I know there’s weird (read, outdated) traditions and etiquette rules, but addressing some cards as “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe” and others as “Mr. and Mr. John Doe”… wait, that doesn’t work, right? So why not just address them all by the two (or three!) names of the people you’re inviting. When you have one consistent rule, you don’t have to make an “alternate” rule for folks who don’t fit in. And alternate always feels like second-rate.
I vote give either everyone a plus one, no one a plus one, or base your decision on some criteria OTHER THAN relationship status. It gives me feels when I see folks deciding on plus one’s based on marriage or engagement. What about people that can’t get married (for reasons aforementioned above)? What about folks who are committed but don’t believe in marriage? Are their relationships less significant?
Consider your squad when planning festivities.
When it comes to the reception, bachelor/bachelorette (ugh! gendered language!) parties, showers, etc., keep in mind that some destinations are less friendly to folks of color or who identify as LGBT. I’d also like to bring up that the cost of such festivities could be more prohibitive to peeps than it is to you… don’t hold that against your friends!
Whether it’s for your guest list or your bridal party, consider how any requirements you outline may impact others. For example, bridesmaid dress shopping can be borderline-traumatic for women who live in bigger bodies – especially since the mainstream market doesn’t cater to bigger body shapes. And even if a dress comes in a bigger size, it doesn’t always mean it feels good or looks flattering. A black tie dress code may be similarly oppressive for folks who don’t have much of a disposable income to spend on formalwear.
Support vendors who value inclusivity.
Whether it’s photogs who feature photos of couples of diverse races, genders, ages and body sizes; caterers that consider food preferences; or wedding media outlets that center voices of marginalized populations – consider giving these people your money over vendors who don’t. They’re fighting the good fight!
There are obviously a ton more ways to increase inclusiveness in your wedding, what are your ideas? How are you all working toward having an inclusive wedding?
Colby Marie Z is a sex & relationship coach, educator, speaker and blogger based out of Providence, RI. She is a doctoral candidate in human sexuality, an avid (slash obnoxious) football fan, and has been proudly talking about sexual pleasure, confidence, and satisfaction for 10+ years. You can find out more about Colby at sexloveandallthefeels.com, or connect with her on Twitter or Instagram.