Today’s couples plan their weddings on social media. They look for inspiration, answers to burning questions, and for leads to help them find the creative professionals they will ultimately hire to bring their dreams to life.
Your social media identity is determined by your content and your commentary. It is often the first encounter a prospective client has with your brand. Visual social media content includes photos and videos of your work from inspiration shoots to real weddings to the work of colleagues you admire and share. If you welcome and serve a diverse population of couples regardless of race, size, orientation, your images will reflect that authentically and attract more of the same.
Inclusivity isn’t only about language or images, it is a mindset that is engrained in you — an eagerness to work with all couples because doing so matches your values. You don’t see a plus-size bride, you see a beaming woman who is a knockout in her Ines Di Santo dress. You don’t see a same-sex couple, you see two women in love and the excitement on their faces in the photo when they slip into the gorgeous gowns that you sold them.
When inclusivity is a value you embrace every day, it effortlessly shines through in your visual content on social media.
Greed is an enemy to authentic inclusivity. If you only add images of different types of couples so you can grow a new revenue stream, and not because you truly accept the values of a niche market, it will show. Your efforts to attract certain clients will be transparent and will more likely drive them away.
Inclusivity Isn’t Tokenism
Tokenism is marketing to specialty subgroups without being genuine by using a limited number of couples from a subgroup to represent a larger trend. You are guilty of tokenism when you luck into serving two brides, for example, and you use their images everywhere to attempt to give the impression that you work with same-gender couples all the time.
Being truly equality-minded means that your inclusivity is evidenced throughout everything you do — your marketing verbiage, your social media presence, your communication with couples. If you throw up a photo of a same-sex couple simply for the sake of appearing like you are open to working with them, but your staff asks every new consult what her “future husband’s” name is during a fitting, you are guilty of tokenism.
Nurture an Inclusive Culture
There can be growing pains when you try to become more inclusive. Many wedding professionals make assumptions and end up putting their feet in their mouths. Assuming that all prospects are cisgender in hetero relationships has been a common mistake for years. The gender and orientation spectrums are fluid, so you can’t put anyone in a box. You have to approach every new client consultation as an opportunity to learn more. Practice using open-ended questions and building on information that your clients provide you.
Accepting all couples regardless of the race, gender, orientation, size or other characteristics is one (noble and desirable) thing. Claiming elements of the minority culture as your own is considered appropriation because it represents an imbalance. A straight wedding professional can alienate a LGBTQ couple by saying something like, “oh, I have a cousin who is gay – I love gay weddings!” This doesn’t make you more relatable, instead it confirms that you are singularly focused on how different your prospect or client is.
Instead of forcing the relationship, practice the art of listening. Ask questions that are designed to help you learn as much about the unique needs of every client as you can, a good habit to have with any couple regardless of race, orientation, etc. Craft questions that avoid presumptuous language and never assume you know how someone feels simply because you know one of their characteristics. All people are complex and multi-layered. Serve the person, not the stereotype.
Do Stay Current with Trends
While you don’t want to pigeon-hole your clients, you should actively stay informed about trends that might help them make choices or personalize their celebrations, and promote this through visual content via your social media.
Demonstrating in your posts that two women, for example might choose to wear two dresses, a dress and a wedding suit, a dress and a tuxedo, two tuxedos or any combination that fits their unique personalities and identities gives your audience options. Also, providing training to your staff in guiding transgender brides in choosing silhouettes and styles that complement their bodies allows them to provide knowledgeable guidance and superior service that will naturally attract future clients looking for the same level of understanding.
The key to authentically promoting your inclusivity through your visual social media content is to be genuine and knowledgeable. Couples of all types will recognize your effort and reward you with their trust and their most important days.
Brittny Drye is the founder and editor-in-chief of Love Inc., one of the leading equality-minded wedding blog and digital publication. Her inclusive efforts have been celebrated by the New York Times, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, Refinery29, NY Daily News, Cosmopolitan, and more. She serves on the 2018-19 North American Advisory Board for the International Academy of Wedding & Events.