Should I Tag or Separate LGBT When I Blog?

I've seen some questions come up from mainstream (that is, non-LGBT) wedding bloggers about whether or not they should have a separate section on their blog for LGBT weddings. This is a great question because now that there is nationwide marriage equality, a wedding truly is a wedding and same-sex couples should not get special treatment, only equal treatment. 

That said, I do believe that same-sex couples are actively looking to see images of other same-sex couples. They want to be inspired by people like them. They're following along on Pinterest, Instagram, and yes, your blogs, but they want to see themselves represented. They don't want to feel invisible. To help this process, I'd suggest that you use a tag for LGBT weddings or same-sex weddings on your blog. Simply adding a tag to all of your same-sex wedding content will let same-sex couples be able to more easily find images that represent them and look like them. We are not going to feel marginalized by a tag like we would by a separate section simply for LGBT weddings. A tag would make it easier for us to find other inspiration, and would not keep us separate from the rest of the crowd. Not to mention, it should help with your SEO.

Think of it as offering assistance rather than marginalizing. A simple tweak like that and also editing all of the language and editorial content on your website so that it's not straight-focused (aka heteronormative) will also go a long way in helping LGBT couples feel safe and welcome in the mainstream wedding world. The ultimate goal is integration and it starts by being inclusive of all couples. 

Episcopal Churches to Allow Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies

Previously, each Episcopal diocese made their own rules about whether same-sex couples could marry in that diocese's churches. For awhile there weren't very many that allowed it. It's gradually changed and Wednesday the entire Episcopal church approved the inclusion of same-sex marriage ceremonies. The change goes into effect in November.

The church also approved two new liturgies, one for same-sex and one for opposite-sex marriages. They also removed language indicating that marriage is between one man and one woman.

This is huge progress for the church which is considered by many to the closest to Catholicism. 

Keep in mind that the rules which may apply regarding all couples marrying would still apply here - for example, couples would likely need to be members of the church, participate in pre-marital counseling and more. 

This is incredible news in a week of amazing news...the world is changing in some great ways, folks!

Is Marriage Equality Approved in Mexico?

June has been a very moved month when it comes to the activism of human rights throughout the world and Mexico was not the exception. Friday 12th, June, the Supreme Court of the Nation surprised the whole country declaring that: “Homosexual couples are in the same situation as the heterosexual couples, in such a way that it is totally unjustified its exclusion of marriage

Given this statement, there were rumors and doubts about the scope of this ruling, that is why we went with the Graduate Francisco Robledo, Lawyer and Activist in favor of the human rights of the collective LGBT in Mexico and director of Marriages LGBT.com legal services firm specializing in advising and marriage procedures in Mexico.

Robledo tells us that this ruling, of the Supreme Court basically declares unconstitutional all those state civil codes that limit the marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Certainly equal marriage –yet- is not fully regulated in the states but with this resolution all legal arguments are demolished with which the state governments had prevented same-sex couples could marry freely in any civil registry office, but this definitely does not mean that there are already changes in the state laws, procedures, regulations and formats actually, as to celebrate such marriages freely.

In this new context, points Robledo, couples must still file an injunction, which is already a fact that will automatically win as it is formulated and appropriate, and then they will be able to ask for the marriage in the court where they are judicially demanding their right. But equally the intervention of a lawyer or firm is required to help them in the process. Therefore, cases will continue to be served individually.

In Francisco Robledo´s opinion, even though couples would still have to consider the path of an injunction in their states or translate to Mexico City, Quintana Roo or Coahuila states to make their procedure personally and without any additional procedures, the road becomes increasingly freer than before, reducing exponentially the time these protections will be resolved.

With this new legal situation, this July 1st The Guerrero State decided to stick to the decision of the Supreme Court and accept equal marriage in all offices of the Civil Registry even when the state laws have not yet changed, to this, the Governor of Guerrero, Rogelio Ortega, said "Loving is a right of all human beings" this is why the change started in all of its formats and they are organizing the First Massive Equality Marriage in a known beach of Acapulco for this July 10th

From the Gay Wedding Institute ® we vote so that this new legal framework facilitates the procedures within the Mexican State to normalize the marriage procedures for all couples and make it a starting point for a more inclusive and just society for all its citizens.

Special Thanks to Francisco Robledo and MatrimoniosLGBT.com

The Most Popular Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony Reading

I can promise you that you'll be hearing the following words in thousands of same-sex marriage ceremonies to come:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

Those words were written by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his majority ruling affirming the right of same-sex couples to legally marry in the United States. For years, we've been seeing an excerpt from the Goodridge ruling (in Massachusetts) as a big part of same-sex marriage ceremonies, but I believe that ruling, written by Justice Margaret Marshall, will be usurped by this from Justice Kennedy.

Same-sex couples commonly make some reference to marriage equality (or previously, the lack thereof), in their ceremonies. It puts their marriage in context and lets the guests know that they do not take their rights to marry for granted. Watch out for this for years to come.

¿Está aprobado el Matrimonio Igualitario en todo México?

El mes de Junio ha sido un mes bastante movido en cuanto al activismo de derechos humanos en el mundo y México no fue la excepción. El día viernes 12 de Junio la Suprema Corte de la Nación sorprendió a todo el país declarando que: “Las parejas homosexuales se encuentran en una situación equivalente a las parejas heterosexuales, de tal manera que es totalmente injustificada su exclusión del matrimonio

Ante tal pronunciamiento, surgieron los rumores y dudas acerca del alcance de este dictamen, por lo que acudimos con el Licenciado Francisco Robledo, Abogado y Activista pro derechos humanos del colectivo LGBT en México y director de Matrimonios LGBT.com despacho de servicios jurídicos especializado en el asesoramiento y trámites matrimoniales en México.

El Lic. Robledo nos comenta que en dicha resolución, la Suprema Corte declara básicamente inconstitucionales todos aquellos códigos civiles estatales que limitan al matrimonio como la unión de un hombre y una mujer.

Ciertamente el Matrimonio igualitario –aún- no está totalmente normado en los estados pero con esta resolución se derriban todas las argucias legales con las cuales los gobiernos estatales habían impedido que las parejas del mismo género se pudieran casar libremente en cualquier oficina del registro civil, pero esto definitivamente no significa que ya haya habido cambios en las leyes estatales, sus procedimientos, reglamentos y formatos para de hecho, ya poder celebrar matrimonios entre este tipo de parejas libremente.

En este nuevo marco, señala el Lic. Robledo, las parejas aún deberán interponer un juicio de amparo, el cual ya es un hecho que ganarán de manera automática en cuanto éste se formule y proceda, y entonces podrán solicitar el matrimonio en el juzgado de la ciudad donde estén exigiendo judicialmente su derecho. Pero de igual forma se requerirá la intervención de algún abogado o despacho que les apoye en el trámite para poderlo realizar. Por lo tanto, los casos seguirán siendo atendidos uno a uno.

En la opinión del Lic. Francisco Robledo, aunque las parejas aún deberán considerar la vía del Juicio de Amparo en sus estados o trasladarse al Distrito Federal, Quintana Roo o Coahuila para hacer su trámite de manera personal y sin trámites judiciales adicionales, el camino se torna cada vez más libre que antes, reduciéndose exponencialmente el tiempo en que se resolverán estos amparos.

Ante esta nueva situación jurídica, el día 1ero de Julio el Estado de Guerrero decidió apegarse a la resolución de la Suprema Corte y acoger el Matrimonio igualitario en todas sus oficinas de Registro Civil aun cuando las leyes estatales no han cambiado, ante esto el Gobernador de Guerrero Rogelio Ortega ha dicho que "Amar es un derecho de todos los seres humanos" por lo cual comenzó el cambio en sus formatos administrativos del Registro Civil y están organizando el Primer Matrimonio igualitario masivo en una conocida playa del puerto de Acapulco para este 10 de Julio.

Desde el Gay Wedding Institute ® hacemos votos porque este nuevo marco jurídico facilite los procedimientos dentro del Estado Mexicano para normalizar los trámites matrimoniales para todas las parejas y que sea un punto de partida para una sociedad más incluyente y justa para todos sus ciudadanos.

Gracias al Lic. Francisco Robledo y a MatrimoniosLGBT.com por su valiosa información y orientación.

Full Marriage Equality Comes to All 50 States

This morning the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) finally ruled in cases which were challenging state bans on marriage equality. They said that states were not allowed to deny marriage recognition to same-sex couples who have federal marriage recognition. What does this mean?

GREAT news! It means that full marriage equality will soon be coming to every single state in the U.S.A. Not immediately (though it will immediately come to Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan) - but likely before the end of the year.

Some backstory on the cases: To recap, same-sex couples in several states (Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan) sued their state governments for marriage recognition. These are couples who traveled somewhere else to get married - somewhere that it was legal like New York, Massachusetts or Illinois. Then they returned to their home state hoping for marriage recognition only to discover that their home state would not recognize their legal marriage. 

This lack of recognition is due to the 1996 federal law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which says that states don’t have to recognize same-sex marriage ceremonies, performed in other states. These couples sued their states so that they would be recognized as legally married couples where they reside. 

In many similar cases in other states, the judges ruled in favor of the couple and that is how marriage equality came to places like North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and so on. But in the cases in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan the judges did not rule in favor of the couple and those couples then filed an appeal and those appeals made their way all the way up to the Supreme Court which ruled today.  

What does this mean for us in the wedding industry? Well, there will surely be more gay weddings in every single state, certainly Ohio, Michigan and Indiana – but also in other states whose bans will still end, states like Texas, Georgia and Louisiana. Can you imagine the amazing, over the top gay weddings to be held in Texas and New Orleans? An estimated 70,000 same-sex couples in those states will marry in the next three years, generating $546 million in revenue for the states and creating 6200 jobs. 

In those states (as in all the others), most of the people marrying in the first “wave” (the first few months) will be older couples who have been together a long time and probably won’t be planning a huge celebration. They may be having intimate dinner parties or going out to restaurants instead of planning large traditional weddings. But those larger weddings will come, especially as Millennials become engaged and envision a more traditional wedding experience. 

Since same-sex couples will be able to marry in their home state, elopements will slow way down, so those of us who have relied heavily on same-sex couples traveling to our location for the right to legally marry (people like officiants, especially) will see a big drop-off in business as couples stay home instead. 

As marriage equality becomes more “normalized”, we’ll start to see more couples choosing to have destination weddings than ever before. LGBT people travel twice as much as straight Americans and spend 50% more per trip (source Community Marketing) so we can expect them to be huge destination wedding travelers. Mexico, Puerto Rico, some other Caribbean locations and even Europe (very popular among gay men) will see huge spikes in gay destination weddings. 

Don’t forget there is still work for us to do. Marriage equality is just the beginning and only 56% of Americans are in favor of it. A same-sex couple could legally get married in their state but also be legally refused services by a wedding venue or wedding photographer just based on their sexual orientation. Or even worse, they can lose their job for being gay in 29 states. 

Those of us in the wedding industry must do all we can to be fierce advocates for our clients and make sure that no matter where they live they had the most safe, supportive, positive experience while planning their wedding. That is my life’s work. 

Please join me on a FREE webinar FRIDAY, June 26 at 4pm EST to explain the consequences and repercussions of this ruling.  

LGBT Marriage Equality and Relationship Recognition in Europe

It's interesting to see where Europe stands on marriage equality. It's first important to differentiate between registered partnerships and full marriag equality. Some countries only recognize same-sex couples as registered partnerships, which means that many rights afforded to married couples are not enjoyed by same-sex couples in a registered partnership. Other countries in Europe such as Italy do not recognize same-sex couples at all. 

It's intriguing to get a full run down of LGBT relationship recognition in Europe. The Netherlands was the first country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage and many countries followed suit soon after. There is public support for same-sex marriage in many countries but most of the decisions about actually legalizing it are made by the government. It's unusual to see how in Ireland it is the people who are deciding via a ballot measure this Friday. This info-graphic from Maria Assia Photography gives you a quick overview of where Europe stands on same-sex marriage in 2015.

Marriage Equality is Here. Why Isn't My Phone Ringing?

One of my wedding professional friends who lives in a state which newly has marriage equality asked me recently, "why aren't same-sex couples calling me yet? I've done all the right things you suggested. Where's the business?" 

Talk yourself off the ledge....The truth is that same-sex couples take their time to get engaged and plan their wedding just like straight couples do. When marriage quality first comes to a state, there will be an influx of couples who have been together for ten, twenty or more years getting married right away. Those marriages ceremonies are probably going be quick, down at City Hall or the courthouse, and may often not require the services of wedding venues, planners or even photographers. 

But for the couples who are planning big weddings, they take time to plan and the engagements take time to happen. There's lots of negotiation that goes in to even getting engaged for same-sex couples, many of whom never thought they'd see marriage equality in their lifetime, and others who need to negotiate the size and scope of their wedding. So don't despair. If you're doing all the right things that I've suggested on this website and in my course, those same-sex couples will come. It's just a matter of time for the proposals to happen, the engagements to happen and the weddings to start being planned.

When Should I Use the Rainbow?

I received an email recently from a stranger who lives in a state which now has marriage equality. This person launched a website targeting the LGBT wedding market, providing a vendor directory on the site and eventually wedding planning tips and advice. This person asked me to write some LGBT wedding planning tips/articles and provide some free content to get started. 

When I took a look at the site I realized there's no way I was going to send any articles over. And it's simply because that site (and many others quite frankly) do not align with the 14 Stories brand. Why is this important? 

Anyone was taken one of the Gay Wedding Institute courses knows that the rainbow flag, the rainbow symbol and use of rainbows is often a turn off to modern same-sex couples, not a turn on. There's data to support this fact. Unfortunately lots of people have yet to learn this valuable piece of LGBT marketing 101. While the rainbow is universally known as an LGBT symbol around the globe, to be completely blunt, the rainbow is overused and if you think that you're going to attract contemporary same-sex couples simply by sticking a rainbow up on your website or creating a rainbow version of your logo, then you will be disappointed. Rainbows can still be successful but mostly in association with Pride events.

If you really insist on using the rainbow, you can be successful but it requires a nuanced approach. Marketing to same-sex couples is a sophisticated process and requires some intimate knowledge of the market. I strongly suggest that you ditch the rainbow and learn more about marketing to the LGBT couples in a more sophisticated and contemporary way. 

Feel free to contact us for a website review or private consultation to discuss your own LGBT wedding marketing.

67 Percent of Engaged Same-Sex Couples Want to Hire Businesses with LGBT Wedding Experience

Yesterday I had a phone call from a wedding photographer I know in Massachusetts. She received an inquiry from a same-sex couple that specifically was looking for a photographer who had experience photographing same-sex weddings and wanted my advice on how to respond since she didn't have any such experience. 

It's actually a pretty common request of LGBTQ couples. In fact, 2/3 of LGBTQ couples are actively seeking businesses who've worked with other same-sex couples. Why? Because they want to be safe and they want to trust you. 

With this in mind, I've created some new "scripts" I'll be sharing in upcoming courses, but here are a few suggestions for you: 

  • Don't try too hard...don't be too overeager and say things like "my college roommate was gay!" or "I was bisexual in college!" (I don't make this stuff up - these comments have been said to me!) 

  • Be sincere in your support of marriage equality. Say something like, "While we have yet to photograph any same-sex weddings, our entire team supports marriage equality and would be honored to work with you."

  • Offer an incentive....for your first same-sex wedding, there's no shame in offering the couple some incentive to work with you. In the case of the photographer, she could offer a free engagement session, rehearsal dinner coverage or something else to book this first couple (who hopefully have a lot of also-engaged friends!)

  • Whatever you do, don't lie and pretend you've worked on a same-sex wedding when you haven't!

Have you heard same-sex couples make similar comments to you? How did you respond?