Let's face it - wedding traditions are steeped in heteronormativity, with a wide range of gender-related rituals based upon hundreds of years of beliefs around what a couple is 'supposed' to look like. These rituals and beliefs may not suit you as a couple or the guests you're inviting, and taking small steps to make your celebration more inclusive can allow you to shake off any traditions that don't suit you and can make all the difference to how comfortable everyone feels on the day.
Creating an inclusive wedding is a great way of allowing yourselves and everyone on your guest list to authentically express themselves and feel accommodated. This in turn will help everyone feel more comfortable, and create a relaxed and welcoming environment!
1. Make up your wedding party of whoever the hell you like
Gone are the days where 'brides' would only have women in their wedding party and 'grooms' would only have men. Just pick your favourite people, regardless of gender.
2. Refer to your wedding party in inclusive terms
Traditionally, the wedding party has been split into two sides with one for the bride and one for the groom. Instead of designating 'bridesmaids' and 'groomsmen', consider referring to your wedding party as just that - your wedding party. Ditching the gendered language makes things tons more inclusive for all couples, whether they include a bride, groom, both or neither, and can make the members of your wedding party feel more included too.
3. Use real names on wedding invites
Skip the titles (e.g. Miss, Mr, etc.) when sending out wedding correspondence or putting name cards on the table, and instead just write each person's preferred name.
4. Be flexible towards plus-ones
Another way of making all of your guests feel welcome and included is to allow plus ones for all guests, whether they appear to be in a relationship or not. Whilst this may not be financially viable for you, if you are able to, this sends out a strong message that all partners are valid whether they are romantic or not. This may be especially important to guests who identify as ace and/or aromantic and who therefore may not identify with the idea of a 'traditional couple'.
5. Ditch gender-separated pre-wedding events
There isn't really any good reason for pre-wedding events to be separated by gender, and I think the traditional idea of stag and hen dos is becoming less and less appealing to modern couples. Rather than separating your events by gender, invite who's most important to you. You might also want to consider having a joint pre-wedding celebration, as this can be a great way for guests to get to know each other ahead of the big day itself (plus an excuse for an extra party!).
6. Use suppliers that show they align with your values
Wedding planning can be a lengthy business, and you're likely to spend a fair bit of time chatting to your suppliers throughout the process. They're also going to be providing some of the most important parts of your day, so it's important that your suppliers align with your values and understand your vision and perspective. Consider suppliers that are actively LGBTQ+ inclusive, or can prove that they have experience with (and preferably a passion for) inclusive weddings. You might also want to look for venues with non-gendered bathrooms. There are lots of directories out there that can help you to find inclusive suppliers, such as GWedding Directory and Equally Wed.
7. Keep an eye out for 'bridal bias'
You'll notice that when it comes to weddings, there's a huge emphasis on all things 'bridal'. The 'bridal suite', the 'bridal party', etc. Not all weddings have a bride, leaving these outdated terms redundant and alienating. This emphasis on all things 'bridal' also suggests that the burden of the wedding planning should fall largely to the bride! I think anyone who has planned a wedding will agree that fair division of labour makes for a much happier experience and that the idea of the bride being responsible for all major decision making and planning should, quite frankly, get in the bin.
8. Allow your wedding party to wear what they feel comfortable in
The notion that 'women want to wear dresses and men want to wear suits' is outdated to say the least, and many people regardless of gender are embracing much more flexible ways of dressing. This isn't to say that you should ditch a formal style for your wedding party (unless you want to, of course) but by allowing each member of the wedding party to choose an outfit that they feel most comfortable in, you'll find that everyone is a lot happier on the day! Be flexible, and don't make assumptions about what people will want to wear.
9. Consider your use of flowers
If flowers are a key part of your wedding day, why limit who gets to carry them? Make the most of the colour and freshness they bring to your day and consider both partners carrying bouquets, as well as flowers for all members of the wedding party.
10. Shake up the aisle walk
There are tons of options when it comes to walking down the aisle, so think outside the box and do what feels right for you! There's no reason why both partners shouldn't get their moment in the limelight, so consider a double aisle walk to give both their special moment. You could also walk down the aisle together, alone, with your kids, other family members, or with your dog... get creative!
11. Dance with whoever you want
The traditional expectation is that the bride has a 'father-daughter' dance before the couple's first dance, signifying the passing of 'ownership' of the bride from the father to the husband. If, like me, you find this concept a bit gagworthy, allow yourself the freedom to dance with whoever you want. You might decide that dancing with a parent of the opposite sex is exactly what you want, in which case- crack on! You might prefer to dance with your other parent, a sibling or friend, or maybe ditch the dance altogether.
12. Add pronouns to your guests' place cards
Ensuring that all guests are addressed by the correct pronouns is an important and easy way to show inclusivity and respect for people's identities. One way of doing this is to ask all guests to specify their pronouns in advance so that you can add them to their place cards. This is a really thoughtful touch that makes guests feel more comfortable and accepted, whilst also helping guests who don't know each other to address each other correctly with ease.
13. Keep entertainment gender-inclusive
If you're having a DJ as part of your entertainment, or anyone who will be addressing you and your guests (e.g. a toastmaster, comedian, musicians, etc.) request that they use gender-inclusive language. Some examples of this are using 'couples' or 'partners' instead of 'husbands' and 'wives' or 'ladies and gentlemen'. It's also extremely common to hear lines such as "let me see all the women/girls/ladies on the dancefloor for this one" (usually for some deeply heteronormative floorfiller) which can not only be deeply cringe-worthy and often tainted with misogyny, but exclusive too. If avoiding these kinds of moments is important to you and your guests, having a quick conversation with an open and understanding vendor can easily avoid any awkward situations.
14. Choose an inclusive photographer
Your wedding photos are the part of your day that will last forever, and it's really important that you work with someone who puts you at ease and understands the dynamic between you as a couple. Inclusive or LGBTQ+ specialist photographers will be experienced in working with a diverse range of couples, and are far less likely to try and enforce gendered posing or encourage awkward setups that don't fit you as a couple.
If you're looking for an inclusive, understanding and open-minded photographer, you've come to the right place! You can check out a couple of the LGBTQ+ weddings I've photographed here and here. If you want to have a chat about me photographing your big day, or you want some info about other inclusive vendors (sharing is caring and I'm here to support all inclusive suppliers!), then drop me a message!