Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute, an award-winning author of three books about same-sex weddings and industry EXPERT on same-sex weddings. She is not just a design innovator on distinctive weddings, but is working tirelessly to create a wedding industry inclusive of all couples. Bernadette Smith has become a powerful legacy for the LGBT Wedding Community. As a launch to our partnership with Gay Wedding Institute (a new initiative to better train, equip and promote LGBT Wedding Vendors), LGBTWeddings.com’s Editor in Chief, Jessie Reid, recently had a chance to catch up with Bernadette Smith and discuss where the industry is at.?
JR: Wow - let’s start at the beginning! Where did this goal in integrating the wedding industry to be fully inclusive begin? BS: It began for me pretty early, essentially it’s the foundation of why I started my company as a planner. Not just to be a wedding planner, but to assist couples who were going to be under-served, who were facing hetero-normative assumptions over the course of their wedding planning, who could be discriminated against. So to me, once I took that leap and started my wedding planning company it was immediately towards that vision of an inclusive industry.
And as I started researching vendors and making connections in the wedding industry, I realized how much work there was to do. And a few years later, The Gay Wedding Institute was born. I realized that I was only able to make a limited amount of impact as wedding planner, and even though I still do planning, I knew that I could have a much bigger impact on the industry as a whole, through training, and therefore support more couples.
JT: How different is the wedding/marriage process for a same-sex couple? BS: It’s a lot different and it’s not. Certainly there are things like, you have to establish your budget, and the guest list and pick your vendors, and all of that stuff is obviously going to be the same. One of the differences comes in when the couple has to come out to their vendors. Be vulnerable and having to trust them, and having the vet their vendors and find out if their gay friendly. The couple may have to be concerned with rejection from family, which doesn’t come up a lot with opposite sex couples. And then of course there’s the potential issue of being put into hetro-normative boxes from people who have seen traditions in the industry for decades, if not centries.
JR: What kind of challenges do same-sex couples face when planning their wedding? How do you help navigate this for your couples? BS: Well we see lots of couples skipping traditions. That survey we did with Wedding Wire, there is a link to that on my website, and also on the Wedding Wire website, it reveals what same-sex couples are doing versus opposite sex couples. There is certainly a huge trend that we saw where same-sex couples are far more likely to write their own vows. But in many cases, they’re skipping so many traditions. Especially gay men, who are just very traditional at all. So, lesbians aren’t as traditional as hetro-sexual brides, but they are mroe traditional than gay men. We found that a trend is skipping traditions. And although opposite sex couples are not following all of the traditions as much anymore either, they are still far more traditional than same-sex couples. I’ve noticed a lot of gay men throwing receptions that are more cocktail parties than sit-down dinners. I noticed a lot of gay men in particular bringing in another element to the reception as an entertainment factor and surprise to their guests. ?
JR: What kind of traditions do you see evolving from this trend building period? BS: I think that some are being considered throughout the industry. As I mentioned, the skipping of traditions in general has become more common. Cocktail receptions are more common than they use to be, but I don’t know that they are a trend with the industry as a whole as they are with gay men. JR: Thank you for so much sharing yourself and your expertise! BS: Thank you! We are looking forward to our new partnership with LGBTWeddings.com.