While you may be open to professional relationships that don’t endorse others’ beliefs, it’s important to understand that our clients don’t always see it as such. Corporations, non-profit organizations, engaged couples, and other event clients don’t necessarily see their event broken down into distinct companies; they view their event team as a group of professionals that come together to produce their event vision.
Thus, one bad apple can quickly spoil the bunch. And, if you’re the one on the other side a poor referral, that’s not going to look great for you or your business. For example, if you refer a same-sex couple to a florist that turns out to be exclusive to LGBTQ+ clients, that reflects on you first and foremost. You need to know whether your industry partners are equality-minded and be mindful of the referrals you hand out, as they will speak to your values as well.
If a client does happen to be refused service by someone you’ve referred, you have to take responsibility for the misstep. Own up to it, apologize, and ensure your clients that it won’t happen again while providing them other recommendations that have already been vetted.
To avoid this kind of situation, consider these tips for ensuring your vendor peers are up-to-par.
Review their online presence
The best approach to this is preparing a list of vendors that are already vouched for being inclusive to all, so that when you do have an LGBTQ+ client, you’re already prepared to give them referrals. Start by checking their websites and social media, looking at the language they use. Are they marketing towards brides or do they use gender-neutral language, like “couples”? Keep an eye out for direct statements saying they welcome all love, whether it’s a rainbow graphic or imagery that showcases same-sex couples.
Be direct and ask
If it’s not obvious from their online presence, don’t be afraid to ask them directly. Say something along the lines of, “I love your work and would love to recommend you to my clients for XYZ services. Because I take on LGBTQ+ clients, can you please let me know if you’re open to working with LGBTQ+ couples for their wedding?” Note: It’s important to state “for their wedding” because some professionals who use religion as a reason to discriminate will have no problem selling a birthday cake to a same-sex couple but will refuse service for a wedding.
You’ll also want to guarantee that all of the team members are inclusive as well. Verify with the manager that all staff has confirmed that they are open to working with LGBTQ+ couples, or better yet, professionally trained in LGBTQ+ inclusivity.
Consider narrowing your network
It can seem counterintuitive to shrink your network, but if you are truly committed to being equality-minded, I recommend exclusively working with event pros that are inclusive and proud. At the end of the day, we want to work with people who share our values; if someone is against the freedom to choose, then it’s worth considering whether you want to continue a professional relationship with them. When you take this step, you are telling every client that walks in your door that equality is important to you and that you will treat every person with the same respect.
Make it part of your brand
Inclusiveness isn’t just about adding rainbow emojis and throwing up a single image of a same-sex couple on your website to book more LBGTQ+ clients. In fact, this type of behavior is termed ‘tokenizing’ and can actually do more harm than good. You want to be sure that your efforts are genuine and that you’re conducting every part of your business with an inclusive lens on. This means using inclusive language and imagery, communicating with clients in a respectful manner, avoiding identity/orientation assumptions, and training your staff as well.
This could also mean giving back to the community either through your services or a monetary donation. There are lots of big corporations on the right side of history, including Converse, MAC Cosmetics, Absolut Vodka, and Nordstrom, that have long-supported and given back to the LGBTQ+ community.
I particularly favor Freedom for All Americans and have been deeply involved with them personally and professional for several years now. Their predecessor, Freedom to Marry, played a key role in bringing marriage equality to a federal level and I have seen how they’ve effectively tackled LGBTQ+ rights with bipartisan campaigns across the country.
At the time of this writing, it’s still legal in 30 states to discriminate based on orientation and identity. In the wedding and special events industry, we have the power to rise above this and make a difference in the lives of our clients and the generations ahead of us. So, with that, I encourage you to always, always be mindful of inclusivity and make sure you’re sending your clients to equality-minded professionals.