Pro Tip: Ditching “Bride” And Embracing “Engaged Couples”

Kathryn Hamm at WeddingWire WorldFifteen years ago, when our company founder, Gretchen Hamm, set off to find suppliers for our groundbreaking online boutique, she encountered lots of blank stares and bemused looks, with a sprinkling of big grins and open hearts.

At the time, few realized that there were same-sex couples looking for wedding products and services. Her job? Attempting to convince them to join her in her effort to help LGBT couples plan their weddings and find gay-friendly services. She made great headway and many friends, and often found herself receiving invitations to the weddings of the couples she had helped because they so appreciated her service and support.

These days, however, wedding professionals have gotten the message.

As marriage equality makes its way across the United States, more wedding professionals than ever not only want to work with same-sex couples, they also want to figure out how to better serve them.

The starting place when I speak with them about best practices? A conversation about language.

Ditch ‘Bride’ and Embrace ‘Engaged Couples’

Washingtonian Bride & Groom CoverThe first and most important message I can offer to the wedding industry as a whole: it’s time to ditch the language of speaking to the bride as the only wedding client there is to be found. At conferences and in collegial conversations, this is who professionals talk about: the bride, the bride, the bride. The habit is so deeply engrained, that I’ve even encountered professionals who have spoken at length with me about the emerging same-sex wedding market and the LGBTQ community, and I’ve addressed this bad habit directly and still, they talk to me about brides. With one photographer in particular, each ensuing time he referenced “the bride,” I would light-heartedly interrupt him mid-thought by saying “hashtag and groom” (#andgroom) and wait for him to continue.

Old habits die hard, but the reality is that it takes two people to exchange vows and make a life-long commitment to one another, so let’s begin by recognizing the role that the engaged couple plays in planning a wedding and making decisions as the client. Not only will the couple appreciate it, but any groom — straight or gay — who has felt neglected and ignored in the conversation will appreciate it, too.

Second, now that we’ve updated our thinking and language to be inclusive of the couple, rather than just a bride, it’s important for professionals to expand their thinking to be inclusive of all couples. That means that it’s time to think about the prospective client as a bride-groom pairing, a bride-bride pairing and a groom-groom pairing. It’s also worth noting that there are probably a few couples out there who would prefer to ditch the concept, labels, and traditions of brides and grooms altogether, but let’s at least start by remembering that, when we are talking about modern weddings and modern couples, we are generally talking about all three of these pairings.

From there, wedding professionals need to scour their advertisements, marketing materials and websites looking for published examples of the old bad habit and ditch “bride” for more inclusive terms.

A Cheat Sheet For Best Practices

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is: “What exactly are those terms we should use?” Generally speaking, I advise that one substitute the words “brides and grooms” or “engaged couples” for “bride,” and to replace the word “bridal” with “wedding” (although I will say that, if you are talking about a ‘bridal shop’ that specializes only in wedding dresses for brides, then that terminology is fine; bridal shop owners will just need to keep in mind that they might be working with straight or lesbian brides!).

Below, reprinted by permission from The New Art of Capturing Love from Amphoto Books (2014), is an example of recommended terms one can use. Feel free to play with those terms to make them your own and, even better yet, when you are working with a couple, find out what language they are using when talking about themselves and their weddings.

Best Practices For Same-Sex Couples

Updating the language of the wedding industry is long overdue, and, to do so, it will continue to require a conscientious practice by everyone — all professionals, professional organizations, workshop leaders, wedding websites, journalists and more — to break those old habits.

The upside? A more inclusive industry for all brides and grooms. As it should be.

Further Reading

Want more advice on best practices when it comes to terms for the LGBTQ community? Read: Putting The Q in LGBTQ.


Wedding innovator Kathryn Hamm (@madebykathryn) is co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014), an Education Expert for WeddingWire and Publisher of GayWeddings.com