It started off as a question asked during a venue tour and ended as something much more.
“About five years ago, a mother of a groom asked one of our sales managers in their first tour, ‘How will you refer to my sons during their planning process?’” says Margaret Brower, director of sales at The Grandview in Poughkeepsie, NY.
A simple, yet weighted question.
After months of planning and getting to know the couple’s families well, Brower asked the mother why she asked that question during their first visit. She says, “That mom wanted to be sure her sons were going to be getting married at a venue where they didn’t have to be on the defensive. … She explained that every tour they went on, the venues used the word ‘bridal’ – bridal show, bridal suite, bridal party – and in this wedding, there is no bride.”
That was an ‘Aha’ moment for Brower. “A lightbulb went off that we needed an education on being better at serving and representing ALL of our couples,” she says.
She realized, at the moment, how exclusive wedding industry standard language is to ‘brides’ and ‘grooms’. “As a company, we talked about that pointed question (that this mom asked) and the vulnerable place it came from. We made a conscious decision as a company to be leaders in the movement to change that,” says Brower.
Soon after, Brower, along with the general managers, sales staff, maître d’s, operations staff, and banquet managers at all Bonura Hospitality Group venues (The Grandview, Anthony’s Pier 9, The Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel, West Hills Country Club, Water Club Luxury Living, Shadows on the Hudson, Blu Pointe) and the Bonura Hospitality Group corporate office attended an all-day certification program conducted by Bernadette Smith, founder and president of the Gay Wedding Institute and 14 Stories.
What is the Gay Wedding Institute Certification Program?
Smith, who, coincidentally, is originally from the Hudson Valley, explains that the certification program is an intensive program designed to educate wedding industry professionals about the nuances of same-sex marriages.
In this program, Smith says, wedding industry professionals learn appropriate language and terminology, learn what wedding traditions same-sex couples prefer, learn how to rebrand their marketing materials and signage within their venue, get a detailed look at LGBTQ wedding data, trends, and are educated on laws and policies.
Brower says, “Bernadette’s certification course was motivating, captivating, and empowering.”
“The Bonura Hospitality Group are the only caterers and wedding professionals who are certified in our area,” says Brower. “It has actually made us better in so many areas because our training was not just about language. We dove into LGBT wedding data, trends, traditions, best practices in sales and marketing, cutting-edge information on laws and policies, and received resource material for future questions. We also learned about being an advocate for your client. That was my favorite section!”
What do vendors and venues having this certification mean for you, the engaged couple?
Before we discuss what the certification means to engaged couples, it’s important to look at some numbers. Between June 2013 – June 2016, 52% of LGBTQ couples were afraid of rejection based on sexual orientation/gender identity. Because of that, 86% found it very important that a vendor serves and supports LGBTQ weddings and 51% found it challenging to find themselves represented in wedding resources.* (Source: Gay Wedding Institute by 14 Stories)
For LGBTQ couples, working with a Gay Wedding Institute certified venue or vendor means that you get to work with venues and vendors where you are equally represented, that understand your unique vision for your wedding, and that can appropriately address your concerns.
Brower states that as a Gay Wedding Institute certified venue they changed a lot to better serve the LGBTQ community in the Hudson Valley. “With Bernadette’s guidance,” she says, “we made changes to our (marketing materials), making sure all of our packaging, websites, and brochures use inclusive language and represented all couples. … We also are making a conscious effort to work with vendors who are inclusive, themselves. You are only as strong as your associates.”
In addition, Brower says “At all of our facilities, we changed signage that once read ‘Bridal Suite’ to either ‘Suite’ or ‘Wedding Suite.’ Client info was changed from ‘Bride & Groom’ on our agreements to ‘Name & Name.’ We use the terms ‘Wedding Expo’ and ‘Wedding Show’ instead of ‘Bridal Show’.”
But being certified goes far beyond changing language. Brower says, “We are self-aware, and that doesn’t mean saying, ‘We do gay weddings.’ It’s actually far from that. It’s saying we love weddings, all weddings, no matter who you are marrying, and we will make that experience special for anyone who walks through our doors.”
How can you get certified or find out what venues or vendors are certified?
14 Stories, the country’s first firm specializing in planning legal same-sex weddings, launched the Gay Wedding Institute in 2009, as a way to help wedding industry professionals become fully inclusive of all couples, including LGBTQ couples. If you are an engaged couple looking to find certified vendors or venues, or are a wedding industry professional and would like more information about the Gay Wedding Institute or information on how you can be certified, please visit Gay Wedding Institute by 14 Stories
Featured photo credit: J. Ferrara PhotographyRead More