Guest Post By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting
It wasn’t very long ago that I found myself catching up with friend and colleague Stephanie Yonce over a couple of coconut lattes. Our conversation went from here to there, then landing on the breaking news that Virginia would potentially be next in line to legalize same-sex marriage.
Stephanie’s eyes suddenly lit up and I easily recognized that “we have to do something awesome” glint in her eyes. And thus, it quickly became clear- we needed to have a party on the front steps of the Richmond courthouse, preferably with doughnuts.
As any event professional would do in our position, we got to work. Within 15 minutes, we had pulled together the promise of rentals from Classic Party Rentals of Virginia and Paisley & Jade, an enthusiastic thumbs up from the sheriff’s office and yes, dozens upon dozens of doughnuts from Sugar Shack. By the afternoon’s end, we had received commitment from over 30 area professionals to meet us on the steps, ready to celebrate.
The plans unfortunately dissolved when the initial decision was pushed back, but one message was clear: the Virginia wedding industry was eager to welcome the LGBTQ community into our funny, eclectic, boisterous, doughnut-loving world.
So how does the recent legalization of same-sex weddings affect area professionals? As vendors head into the off-season across the state, they are making time to facilitate change within their own companies to ensure they’re ready.
Experts Kathryn Hamm of GayWeddings.com and Bernadette Smith of the Gay Wedding Institute agree that one of the best ways to prepare for the LGBTQ community is to take a good, hard look at one’s marketing materials and web site to ensure copy is gender-neutral, a subtle yet impactful gesture for engaged couples seeking services from same-sex-friendly wedding professionals. Equally important is same-sex wedding imagery, which communicates a message of inclusion.
A more challenging, yet equally crucial, step is qualifying one’s referral list to ensure each and every colleague is welcoming of all couples. Recent statistics from Splendid Insights notes that 34% of engaged couples will hire a wedding professional based on recommendations from other wedding professionals, which further demonstrates the power of the vendor referral.
Wedding professionals are also fine-tuning their offerings, as many of the same-sex weddings in Virginia this year have been intimate, laid back affairs. Weekday packages, along with services tailored to smaller groups, are essential for when the typical package geared toward the traditional Saturday night fetes aren’t quite the right fit.
One of the most exciting things to come to fruition in our industry as a result of the recent developments is simply the sheer enthusiasm exuded from a group banded together to proclaim that love is love.
Meghan Ely is the owner of Richmond-based wedding marketing and wedding PR firm OFD Consulting, which specializes in getting wedding professionals their brides. She is a highly sought after industry speaker and serves as a Public Relations adjunct professor for Virginia Commonwealth University, specializing in PR writing and brand promotion.
Photo Credit: Robert Radifera Photography