Brand Strategy

Speak now: Inside the wedding industry’s move toward inclusivity

One company plans “love parties” for couples, ditching the more traditional terms typically associated with weddings.
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@aaronandwhitneyphoto via Instagram

· 4 min read

In the past several years, inclusivity has become a more prominent value in many parts of the world.

It’s changing how people plan weddings, events that have long been associated with traditions that some couples are ready to leave behind. Wedding planners focused on inclusivity are having a moment as a result.

They often promote their services by challenging what Portland, Oregon-based wedding planner Elisabeth Kramer called the wedding-industrial complex, which she said typically only caters to white brides and heterosexual couples seeking to tie the knot.

The industry often markets “to cis, white, female, thin people. This is problematic,” she told us.

Kramer provides a number of services to her clients that are typical of wedding planners, like detailing the exact time stamps at which certain events, like the first dance or toast, will happen. But her offerings often include an inclusive bent; for instance, she offers a “wedding vendor and VIP directory” that includes a space for each person’s pronouns. On her intake form, Kramer asks a question that accommodates polyamorous clients.

According to Kramer, marketing her services involves emphasizing her focus on underrepresented communities. She donates 5% of every booking she receives for in-person wedding coordinations to wedding vendors in need or nonprofits, including Basic Rights Oregon and Shout Your Abortion.

She also sends out a monthly newsletter with resources for planning weddings, which in the past has included updates on things like Covid restrictions and wedding venue reviews, and has written about ways to make wedding planning more inclusive.

Ainsley Blattel, who heads up brand and marketing efforts for Modern Rebel & Co., an “unconventional event planning company” based in Brooklyn, said the company employs inclusive language in its marketing and client work.

“If you say, ‘Imagine a wedding,’ everyone can see it,” they said. “There’s a white dress, black tux, and black tie. There’s a three-tiered cake, and there’s a bouquet toss. There’s all of these things, and when you picture that wedding, there are so many expectations and traditions that carry so much weight and baggage. Even just the terminology—bride and groom—there’s so much that we tack on to what it means to be in those roles in this country. And those things don’t necessarily work for everybody.”

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The company plans “love parties” for couples, ditching more traditional terms to describe the occasion, explained Blattel. “When we say love party, we mean a celebration of love. And that can include all shapes and all forms.”

For instance, they pointed to a couple that Modern Rebel worked with last year who chose to set up a cannabis bar at the event and, instead of having a first dance, had a “first Smash,” aka a Super Smash Bros. match.

Justine Broughal, managing partner of event planning service Greater Good Events in Portland, Oregon, asks clients if they want to reinvest in certain communities through the vendors they choose—like women-owned, BIPOC-owned, queer-owned, or sustainability-minded businesses—a practice she called “ethical vendor sourcing.”

Both Broughal and Blattel said they’ve largely relied on word-of-mouth to gain business. Broughal estimated that about 70% of business stems from referrals, noting that the company doesn’t advertise on wedding platforms like The Knot or use social media much.

Meanwhile, Blattel said that “in more recent years, word-of-mouth has really worked” for Modern Rebel, which was founded in 2015. “Because we have some really amazing clients all over the country, we have built relationships with other folks nationwide, so at this point, word-of-mouth is rocking and rolling for us.”

Blattel said they’re intentional about “showcasing the diversity” of the company’s clients, whether that’s on social or across wedding platforms. They also emphasized the importance of marketing the business as one that prioritizes inclusivity and allyship year round.

“A lot of times you’ll see people who maybe just post something about queer folks in June or about supporting Black folks in February,” they said. “If you were doing it consistently year round, that not only shows people that you’re actually invested, but if you take a moment…to say, ‘I value practices of inclusion, and here’s why,’ then people really get to see that they can trust you.”

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