I want to start by saying that this blog may not be the most exciting for a couple planning their wedding. It will be educational and possibly filled with some heavy topics, but this is an important one that I feel compelled to write about today. See, as a wedding planner, I see the behind-the-scenes of a lot of businesses in the area. Many of them claim to be “inclusive” to the LGBTQ+ community, but one look at some simple documents that they provide their couples can tell you they’re not. You cannot be “inclusive” if you still use the terms “bride” and “groom” on your intake forms or contracts. Simple as that. And that’s just the starting point of interactions that couples have with wedding professionals. I hope this blog will inspire you on how to change your everyday life and that it is a valuable tool for educating other business owners in the wedding industry.
Who Are You To Speak On This Topic?
Before you go asking, “Who are you to speak on this topic? Aren’t you a straight, cis-gendered wedding planner?” Yep, I am. And I would never say that I am the perfect person for this topic. I am just sharing my experiences and the education that I have received on the topic. Because even I had to make changes. See even though I have two moms, marched in LGBTQ+ parades and protests, volunteered for GLSEN for three years……I naturally had a heteronormative mindset. When I started my company, my business was established and written with the idea that I was “inclusive” when in actuality I was just “accessible”. But I knew I wanted to be different, so I asked questions and educated myself, and made the changes necessary. And you can too.
What Is Heteronormativity?
So let’s go back to the main topic here, what is heteronormativity? By definition it is “of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.” (Merriam-Webster) Heteronormativity is where it is assumed and promoted that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation and that people fall into male and female roles.
In the wedding industry, there is this “Bride” obsession. Take a few moments and just search the internet. Look at big wedding planning sites, look at local wedding pros, read some wedding blogs, pick up a wedding planning magazine. How many times do you see a Bride and Groom before you saw an LGBTQ+ couple? What about Bridal Shows, Bridal Suites, Bridal showers, etc. People are raised to believe that a “Bride” has been dreaming about her wedding since birth. It is assumed that “the bride” is the one planning the wedding while “the groom” just shows up. As a wedding planner, I get calls and emails from companies all the time boasting about how many “brides” they have in attendance at their shows, or how many “brides” utilize their website or service.
But SPOILER ALERT, not every wedding has a “Bride and Groom”. Some have two brides. Some have two grooms. Some have weddings where the couple doesn’t want to use any of those terms. So how do you think they feel when they go to a wedding professional’s website and don’t see themselves represented? And not just once, but over and over again. Wedding planning is a special time that is celebrated, but how can you feel special and celebrated when you don’t feel included? Heteronormativity harms LGBTQ+ couples because it makes them feel invalid and unrecognized. And they deserve to be recognized and celebrated. They need to see themselves in blogs, on websites, in magazines. They need to know a wedding business is inclusive and when they read your intake form…..they know right then if you are or aren’t.
Bobbi Frohman Imaging & Design
How Do We Change That?
The very first thing you should do as a wedding business is to take a look at your website, questionnaires, intake forms, welcome packet, etc. Look at how you refer to services or items you sell. Every time I go to a venue and they show me the “bridal suite”, I cringe. Look for heteronormative terms and change them. Right now. This would be the best first step in removing heteronormativity from your wedding business.
Second, never assume titles. Instead, ask your couples what they would prefer for their pronouns or title. Or if a couple presents them without asking, make a note of it and use it. When a couple goes to my website and fills in my lead form, they are asked their names and preferred pronouns. When we have our consultation, they are asked what they want to be called. And anything is an option in my book. Bride, groom, merrier, nearlywed, their name, goddess…whatever! Ask what they prefer and then to only refer to them as that throughout the rest of the wedding planning process. Also, add your pronouns EVERYWHERE! Your website, your email signature, your social media. Something as simple as that can show that you recognize and are open to any and all pronouns.
I also want to mention the wedding party. Notice how I didn’t say “bridal party”? Tradition is out the window and a lot of couples are doing mixed-gender wedding parties. There may be a Man of Honor or a Best Woman or a Person of Honor. Before you start asking people to line up for the ceremony or for the introductions into the reception, be sure to ask each member of the wedding party what they would like to be referred to as.
Examples Of Inclusive Language
Here are just a few other options of ways to change your language to be inclusive:
- Bride/Groom: Partner, Merrier, Nearlywed, Celebrant, or Client
- Bride and Groom: The Couple, Clients, Nearlyweds, Merriers, Celebrants, Partners, The Brides (if there are two women), The Grooms (if there are two men)
- Bachelor & Bachelorette: Bach Party or Pre-Wedding Party
- Bridal Party: Wedding Party, Wedding Squad, Entourage, or Honor Attendants
- Bridal Suite: Wedding Suite, Green Room, Getting Ready Suite, Couple’s Suite, or Honeymoon Suite
- Bridal Portraits: Wedding Portraits, Pre-Wedding Portraits, or Formal Portraits
- Bridal Shower: Wedding Shower or Pre-wedding Party
- Bridal Show: Wedding Show
- Bridal Gown: Wedding Gown
- Bridal Bouquet: Bouquet
- Flower Girl: Flower Child, Flower Attendant
- Menswear: Formalwear, Attire, or Suits
Any Change Is A Change In The Right Direction
As I said before, when I started my company, I was not as inclusive as I thought I was. But I learned what I needed to change and you can too. You have been raised in a culture where heteronormativity was, well, the norm, so you have a lot to unpack and reverse. That is not something that happens overnight. But there are so many resources out there that can help. If I was to recommend any it would be Equally Wed Pro. They have a fantastic certification course for becoming LGBTQ+ inclusive.
Remember, as long as you are taking consistent steps to move away from heteronormative thinking, then you are taking steps in the right direction.
Photo by: Johnny Joo
When wedding planning, one of the biggest questions that will come up, mostly from others, will be “Are you having kids at the wedding?”. Let’s break it down this way, you’re going to fit into one of these two types of people:
ONE: Ah, the squeals and cries of delight as a child is twirled around the dance floor. That totally makes me smile.
TWO: If one more kid trips on my dress on this dance floor, or cries one more time, my head is going to explode. This is why I didn’t want kids at the wedding.
If you fall under group number ONE, please continue reading. If you fall under group number TWO, please stop reading and refer to my blog on how to properly tell your guests your wedding is adult only.
So now that I know I have the attention of the right couples, let’s move forward. While wedding planning, you have decided to have kids in attendance. Awesome. But you also know like most people do, that kids have the attention span of a gnat. (I am a mother myself so I can say that.) What do you do to ensure that they have a fun time, but so do their parents? You make them feel special and give them something to do.
11 Ways to Entertain Kids on Your Wedding Day
1. If you plan to use bubbles for your exit of the ceremony venue, or maybe as part of your grand exit, what better way to treat the kids right than by getting them bubble guns. Young kids already have a hard time blowing bubbles, and bubble solution is like a magnet to dress clothes on anyone under the age of 18 (or over for that matter). Contain the solution and make it easier for them. BONUS POINTS if you get the ones that light up.
2. If they are your children or close to you, have them help with the ceremony. Be it as an assistant usher, or a reading/poem. Just including them in the wedding ceremony gives them something to look forward to. That means they pay more attention. Not always, but it helps. Just remember that it will not go perfectly and you must have patience.
Photo: Johnny Joo
3. Have an activity table set off to the side for just the kids. Fill it full of crafts, coloring books, toys, and puzzles. Things that will keep them coming back for more. TIP: When it comes to the crafts ALWAYS use self-adhesive items, never glue. And NEVER small items that suck to clean up like glitter. You think bubble solution is bad, wait till little Bobby shows his mom his newly decorated tie with Elmers and glitter.
4. Don’t have room for a table? That’s ok. As you are shopping for your wedding items, keep an eye out for fun things they can do individually at their seat. Then you create a little box or bag that they can have at their table to entertain them in their seat.
5. If you have space at your venue, have a separate room for the kids to disappear to. Fill it with fun, games, and a movie. More importantly, have a babysitter that will be in the room so that parents won’t have to worry. It keeps them entertained and their parents can still kind of get a night off.
Photo: Amy Galon Photography
6. Desserts. What kid doesn’t love desserts, or more importantly frosting? I know my daughter could care less about the cake, all she wants is the frosting. So make it fun for the kids. Have an area set up when they can decorate their own cupcake. In fact, make your entire cupcake bar a DIY station, and then all of your wedding guests can have some fun. There is a local company that does this for you. Their name is Crave Custom Wedding Cakes. They do all the decorating, but your guests pick it all out, so this does cut down on any potential messes. TIP: If you make the bar yourself, put down a drop cloth – tape down the edges if necessary. It will make cleanup a lot easier on you or the staff you hired.
7. Here’s something that will serve multiple purposes: a favor and entertainment for your guests. What I’m talking about is a photo booth. There are so many different kinds out there now that they can fit within anyone’s budget. Keep it simple with some DIY or go all out and get a Mirror Me Photobooth. Wedding guests of all ages will appreciate the fun this can bring to your event. Plus, with everyone getting a print of their images, that covers your favors as well.
8. You’re more than likely going to have wedding toasts made by someone important to you. Maybe by a wedding party member, or a family member, either way, it’s pretty much going to happen. So instead of having the kids toast with their soda or water, give them something fun: Milk and cookies. Honestly, just give everyone milk and cookies. I like champagne, don’t get me wrong, but milk and cookies are so different and so fun, and who doesn’t like milk and cookies?! Plus starting dinner off with some dessert first…..um….ok.
9. Is your wedding outdoors? I know there is a small window in Ohio that we get amazing weather that’s also dry and warm, but if you plan it right, you can have a lot of fun planning an outdoor wedding. Make sure while you’re choosing between wedding cakes and linens, that you fit into your budget something for yard games. Again, not only is this for the kids but for the adults as well. TIP: Get a bounce house. They’re cheap to rent and have a huge impact and if you get a big enough one, adults can jump too. I recommend reaching out to Jump With Us. In fact, scrap you’re whole vision and just do a carnival-themed wedding and then give me a call so that I can be your wedding planner. I am so in!
10. Your bouquet toss. Kinda fun and also kinda archaic. I remember being a single lady at a wedding and being pushed onto the floor to catch the bouquet, and frankly, I found it embarrassing. It has honestly started to become a very old tradition, and not always done anymore. All that aside, whether you decide to through a bouquet or not, you should throw a candy bouquet for the kids. It’s like the wedding version of a pinata.
11. MY FAVORITE: Set up a photo scavenger hunt for the kids. Place a card at their seat and on it list items they must find at the wedding. If they have a phone, they can use that and have their parents send them to you. On the list should be pictures that you want of your wedding day. Things like: a couple dancing, your dinner, someone wearing blue, someone toasting, etc. It’s kind of fun to see what the kids capture and it’s always from their perspective. It really can get you some fun pictures too. Take it up a notch and if they complete the hunt have a prize they can win. I would certainly have someone else being in charge of the prizes though. Perhaps your Wedding Planner, DJ, or Bartenders could have the items they can get when they’re done.
Hopefully, that gives you a few ideas as to what you can provide for your young guests on your wedding day. As a wedding planner, I thank you for doing everything you can to help keep the children from destroying items you have rented. As a parent, thank you for giving me my sanity for the evening.
I will preach over and over again, that your guest’s experience should be a top priority when planning your wedding. There are many things you can do to help ensure they have a great time. From the smallest detail to the amazing entertainment you book, it all comes together to ensure a great time for your guests at your wedding. One of the best ways to ensure a great time, and keep your guests energized throughout the evening, is by offering late-night snacks.
Here are my favorite Top 8 Late Night Wedding Snacks:
Build-Your-Own Nacho Bar
Like many good things in life, this one can get a little messy. Get a small plate with chips already laid out, and then have bowls full of various toppings. Make sure to have all the favorites, like pickled jalapenos, ground beef (or ground turkey), queso cheese, cilantro, and pico de gallo.
Alone or added on with your nacho bar, tacos are always a big hit. And it’s super easy to make high-quality ones, and with multiple filling options—anything from shredded beef, roast pork, cheese, avocado, and so on.
Cookies, brownies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, tarts, there are so many yummy options that come in mini sizes. What else could you ever ask for? I’ll leave it at that.
Another versatile option, and an all-around favorite, are burger sliders. You can have vegan, vegetarian, and meat-eating options so everyone is satisfied and represented.
Can you really go wrong with a classic? It’s cheesy and filled with carbs to soak up the alcohol, and if they take a piece to go it’s always good cold in the morning.
Gourmet French Fry (or Tot) Bar
Getting potatoes of various colors and then making fries out of them might be the next big thing for food spreads. When a bunch of different colors is represented, the result is dazzling and beautiful, and very much unlike what we’re used to with standard fries.
Soft Pretzel Bar
Salted or without, and complete with dips of all flavors. Again, carbs are great to soak up the alcohol and there is just something about a nice warm, soft pretzel that not only boosts your energy to keep dancing….but makes you happy inside.
Anything That Can Be Miniaturized or Handheld
Think mini chicken and waffles, grilled cheese and tomato soup in a shot glass, Asian steamed buns, ice cream sundaes, mac and cheese…….seriously, the possibilities are endless. You just want to make sure that it is something that people can eat easily, with little mess and if possible one-handed while they are dancing the night away with a drink in the other hand.
You have graciously accepted the honor of standing in front of a crowd while all of the attention is on two people getting married – you are now a member of a wedding party, the honor attendants, entourage, groupies, whatever you want to call yourselves. Congratulations! Before I get into the main points I must first call out to those who bestowed upon you this honor.
These amazing people who you have asked to stand with you are some of your nearest and dearest. They are standing with you for a reason. They are important to you and it means the world to have them stand with you. If what I have just said is not true, then you have chosen people because you have to (aka relatives or you were in their wedding – which is a whole different situation) or you need to rethink why you chose your attendants.
These people are friends or family and have accepted your request to be a part of your big day. They did not sign up to help with every little thing that has to do with your wedding, like gluing 638 rhinestones onto every candle holder to represent how many days you’ve been together. They didn’t sign up to be required to listen to your every decision and/or issue while planning your wedding. They did not sign up to be treated like hired help, because they are not being paid. They signed up to be a part of your day, will do everything in their power to help when they can, plan and attend some pre-wedding parties, buy an outfit they can afford, walk 20 steps and stand still, smile at a photographer and keep you fed and hydrated all day. Other than that, you can expect nothing more. So what I am about to tell these honored attendants is not just good for them to know, but good for you to hear. That way you know what to expect of them and won’t be disappointed if nothing else happens. Now let’s begin with things you must and must not do as a member of this elite club.
WHAT YOU MUST DO
- Buy or rent your wedding attire. Look, buying a dress or renting a tux can be expensive, so make sure you let your couple know ahead of time if you will have any financial issues with this. That way they can make the decision to help cover the cost or choose someone else (which I hope they don’t do). The price of the attire should be within reason, meaning based on your age, employment status, etc. If it is not within reason for you, talk with your couple and see what can be worked out.
- Attend the wedding and the reception. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people show up extra late or leave early that are in the wedding party. It even happened to yours truly, but we won’t go there. Unless there is an emergency or an unavoidable issue, you need to be at the ceremony and the reception on time, and for the entire time.
- Do not get drunk before the ceremony. And keep them from getting drunk too. Nothing holds up a wedding more than a liquored-up wedding party. They show up late, they don’t listen to instructions, they throw up on the alter…..it’s just bad. Drinking is going to happen, but do it in moderation. Once they say “I Do” then keep it flowing and have fun, but stay sober enough to be able to get through the entire reason for the day.
- Help plan and pay for pre-wedding parties. In general the maid/matron/man/person of honor is in charge of the pre-wedding parties (aka showers and bach parties), and the rest of the attendants chip in financially and with ideas. Even helping organize, prepare, and execute the events. Sometimes parents will offer to chip in or host showers. This should not be expected, but they should not be left out once planning starts. All this being said, if you cannot financially help with the festivities, make it known ASAP and help in other ways. Offer up your house, assemble all the favors, clean up when all is said and done. There are many ways to contribute if you cannot spend money. But if you are of a stable job, this is something you must be prepared for. And to those at the head of planning the parties, set a budget and stick to it.
- Help with setup. Now in an ideal world, every couple would hire a wedding planner (**cough cough** ME) or at least someone to set up their venues so that their friends and family don’t have to help. But it’s also not in everyone’s budget. So if your couple does not have a planner, and they ask for your help to set things up at the venues, help them. It’s a big undertaking and they will need all the hands they can get.
- Attend pre-wedding festivities. Now sometimes everyone’s lives do not correlate well together and schedules do not mesh. There are for sure legitimate reasons why some people may not be able to attend one of the pre-wedding parties, but do your best to be there. And if you can’t, at least still help with putting it together. Even if you live in another state you can send a check to the host and a gift to the couple, it’s called Amazon.
- Listen. Sometimes your couple is going to get stressed out while planning this wedding. IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN. So although I said earlier that you didn’t sign up to hear every little issue, you did sign up to be a friend during this time. Sit on the phone and just listen. Even if you have no clue how to help, be an ear to bitch to and go on your merry way.
- Make sure your couple is hydrated and fed all day. The wedding day will go by so fast, and they will be pushed and pulled in so many directions that sometimes they will not remember to drink or eat…..especially in the morning. It is your job to make sure they are taking care of themselves because they have a long day to get through.
Photo by: Johnny Joo
WHAT WOULD BE NICE FOR YOU TO DO
- Go shopping for THE dress. Now of course this is one of those things where schedules will not always align, especially the more people that are being asked to come. So if your schedule doesn’t match the appointment times, it’s ok. Dress shopping can be both fun and disappointing. Bridal dress sizes are all wonky and shopping for this outfit can have a lot of weight to it, so emotions run high. Be there for support in her decision.
- Help pick out your outfits. So do you have to? No. But if you don’t then you have no say in the end with what you are wearing. Plain and simple. Voice your opinion and wear something flattering. Stay home and wear the neon pink sequined dress with the giant bow on your butt. Your choice.
- Pay for your “extras” aka hair, makeup, shoes, jewelry, etc. Now here’s where I also say, don’t pay for your hair and makeup. The thing is, if you can financially afford it, then pay for it. If you cannot afford it then let your couple know. If they are REQUIRING you to have your hair and makeup done and you can’t afford it, then they should be paying for it. But do your best to get it done because you will look like the odd one out if everyone is all done up professionally and you did it yourself. Trust me, you CAN tell.
- Help with some of the wedding tasks. Depending on your couple there will either be minimal tasks to be done, or there will be so much DIY your fingers will no longer feel the pain of a glue gun anymore. Be ready and willing to help your couple assemble some wedding items: favors, invitations, centerpieces, etc. Make sure you make it clear from the beginning what you are able and willing to help create. Also, your couple knows you, so if they don’t ask you to help because they know you are not crafty-capable, don’t take offense. Not everyone wants glue fingerprints and glitter all over their escort cards. Be honest with yourself and put down the glue gun.
- Give a toast. Now in general it is a traditional and normal request to ask the people of honor to speak at the wedding reception. So if you are in that position be prepared for it and don’t say no. If you are any other member of the party you may be asked as well, sometimes even to speak at the rehearsal dinner. Just be honest with your couple if you feel you can do it or not.
WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T DO
- DO NOT ACCEPT THE ROLE IF YOU ARE NOT 100% INVESTED. Look, in the end, you have the right to be treated with kindness and as a human being. We all know there are some couples that feel they are entitled to more than they should be. That’s the nicest way I can put it. BUT you have agreed to be a part of this momentous occasion that comes with stress, high emotions, menial tasks, and a lot of working parts that need to come together. Sometimes it will get the best of them, and as a friend who is important enough to be standing by their side as they declare their lifelong commitment to each other……bite your tongue, smile and nod, glue the rhinestone……deal with it.
Photo by: Grace Hannah Photography
As I wrote this blog I was trying to think of a title. I like to keep things funny and lighthearted and I hope I did the job because it brought you here to read it. See, I laugh every time someone is confused by the term “STD” while planning their wedding. I’m sure you can guess why I’ve gotten many funny looks. When some people hear me talk about STDs they stop and think, is she seriously talking about what I think she’s talking about? No, I am not. See in the wedding world “STD” stands for “Save-the-Date”. You know those pre-invitations you send out 6-8 months BEFORE your wedding date.
That’s just one example of terms that people are confused by when planning their wedding. You have entered into a world that is unknown to you and filled with terms and concepts that are foreign. What I wanted to provide for you is a list of terms you may hear me mention or even your other wedding professionals. Not everything is included here, as I went with the more common words and acronyms that people question. But if there is something you would like explained, please comment and I will add it to the list.
I will say, that because I talk about weddings a lot it is hard for me to not use some of these terms. But if we are ever talking and I confuse you, please ask me to explain. And if you understand a different term better, let me know and I will do my best to adjust my vocab to help. Wedding planning is confusing enough sometimes, I don’t want to confuse you more.
Rising Ashes Designs
Wedding Planning Terms
Attrition/Contracted – This is the rate that refers to the percentage of rooms that must be filled in order to avoid paying a penalty. (Courtesy blocks there are no fees for unbooked rooms)
Belly Band – The paper wrap that goes around your invitations.
Gobo – a metal disc place in front of a light to create a design/monogram on the floor or wall.
Swag – Floral Arch Arrangement
Bouts – Boutonniere
Shot List – List of desired photos or videos you would like to be captured.
Drop Linens – Place linens on the table
High Top/Bistro Table/Tall Boy – Cocktail table
Charger Plates – The fancy plates that keep the setting and go under the meal plates.
Place Setting – This is the complete set of dishes, glassware, and utensils provided for a single guest.
Bistro Lighting – String lights with large bulbs
Escort Cards – These are the cards that tell guests where their table is and tells the caterer the meal they ordered.
Place Card – These are the cards that direct guests not only to their table but to the exact seat they will sit in. Very formal dinner.
Room Flip – This is when a room is transformed from one setting to another. Most commonly done for a ceremony flipped to the reception while guests go to a separate room for cocktail hour.
Strike/Breakdown – Cleanup of the event
Wedding Planning Acronyms
STD – Save-the-Date
NAB – Non-alcoholic Beverage
BEO – A Banquet Event Order is a contract that lists all of the important details of an event. BEOs are used at most hotels and event facilities to help ensure everything is outlined and agreed on
RFP – Request for a Proposal
MUA – Makeup Artist
HAMU – Hair & Makeup
HA – Honor Attendant
MOB/FOB/MOG/FOG – Mother of Bride/Father of Bride/Mother of Groom/Father of Groom
MOH – Maid/Matron/Man of Honor
BM/BW – Best Man/Best Woman