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15 Heteronormative Terms to Avoid in the Wedding Industry

If you haven’t noticed, the wedding industry is ripe with heteronormative terminology and traditions. Society has long been focused on a bride who is marrying a groom, and the verbiage reflects that. In fact, it’s been engrained into our brains for so long that you may not even realize you’re using it.

But the fact of the matter is, marketing to a “bride” or “bride and groom” can have quite the negative impact. It’s a huge turnoff for potential LGBTQ+ and hetero clients who value inclusivity.

Photography: Studio A Images – wedding featured on Love Inc Mag

So I want to challenge you to start training your brain to use gender-neutral terms on your website, client communications, documents, marketing materials and social media. Do a deep audit to ensure that you are using inclusive language, and physically go through the process that clients go through – from filling out the inquiry form on your website, any automated emails that get sent, questionnaires and contracts.

Photography: Studio A Images – wedding featured on Love Inc Mag


Make sure you’re avoiding these 15 heteronormative terms, and in case you are, it’s time to for a modern update!

Fiancé/Fiancée: A lot of people think that “fiancé is gender-neutral, but let’s tap back into our high school French class. When written out, one e is masculine and two is feminine. Modern Update: You can write it out as fiancé/e so that it includes both the masculine and feminine forms. 


Mr. & Miss/Mrs..: You always want to give your clients title options, whether it’s through a dropdown menu on your website, or options to circle on a contract. I also recommend including the popular nonbinary title Mx. (pronounced “mix”), as well as leaving a blank space for them to fill out their own. Modern Update: Make it optional


He/Him and She/Her: You never want to assume someone’s pronouns, and luckily, it’s becoming much more common in society to ask for one’s preferred pronouns. I always recommend to wedding pros to ask for preferred pronouns in the initial inquiry stage, as well as include their own preferred pronouns in the email signature and/or About section on their website. Modern Update: Ask for clients’ preferred pronouns


Bride/Groom: We’re obviously not getting rid of these terms anytime soon, but if you’re a wedding pro, it’s so important to make sure to adapt your marketing language so that you’re not talking to a bride, or a bride and groom. Sometimes there is no bride, sometimes there are two, sometimes neither person identifies as either a bride or a groom. Modern Update: Use gender-neutral terms like spouse, partner, soonlyweds or nearlyweds


Bridesmaid/Groomsman/Maid of Honor/Best Man: Long gone are the days of girls on one side, boys on the other. Today’s couples, both LGBTQ+ and hetero, are having mixed genders stand by their side on their special day. While you can certainly refer these individuals to whatever your individual clients are calling them, when speaking jn general terms, you’ll want to keep in gender-neutral. Modern Update: Person of Honor, Attendant, VIP


Bridal Party: Just as the traditional titles for your VIPs are gender-driven, so is the group name itself. I’ve seen couples use this name refresh as an opportunity to insert a splash of personality, with labels such as “squad” or “crew.” Modern Update: Wedding Party, Wedding Squad


Bridal Show/Expo: Confession, I hate the average “bridal” show — there is usually so much heteronormativity in these things that it makes me rage. Luckily, there are some cool ones on the market, and they all have one thing in common: they’re calling them wedding showsModern Update: Wedding Show or Wedding Expo


Father-Daughter Dance/Mother-Son Dance Tradition: We’re seeing couples continue to incorporate these sweet dances into their reception, but they’re no longer limiting themselves to gender or relationship. We’ve seen daughter-mother dances, father-son dances and even special dances with particularly close relatives such as grandparents and aunts/uncles. Modern Update: Parent-Child Dances or Special Dances.


Bridal Suite: Many venues have a room for the wedding party to get ready in before they walk down the aisle, and many resorts offer special luxury accommodations for newlyweds, which are both often dubbed as the Bridal Suite (even if there are no brides). And it’s super awkward when two grooms are doing a venue tour. Let’s change that, k? Bonus: there’s usually one large room and one smaller room for getting ready, traditionally with the larger room being for the bride because she has hair and makeup. If you’re a venue and you really want to be equality-minded™, create two equally sized rooms with unisex designs. Modern Update: Prep Suite, Getting Ready Suite, Wedding Suite, Newlywed Suite, Honeymoon Suite  


Groom’s Cake: The traditionally smaller, often less formal cake served is called the groom’s cake. With more couples planning their wedding together, this tradition is becoming less necessary, though I’m certainly all for the idea of more cake. Modern Update: No need to label, just have a second cake if your heart (and taste buds) desire!    


Bachelorette/Bachelor Party: To avoid gendering this rite of passage, drop the suffix of each. Modern Update: Bach Party.


Bridal Salon: Yes, some cisgender men want to wear a dress. And some cisgender women don’t identify with the term bride. And nonbinary individuals may shop at these stores. When referring to their attire shopping, keep it inclusive. Modern Update: Wedding Dress Salon,  Wedding Attire Shop


Bridal Shower: Are you starting to see a “bridal” trend here? You can basically switch out “bridal” with “wedding” and make a term gender-neutral. The shower is another prewedding event that’s slowly evolving to be more of an opportunity to celebrate the couple—no matter the genders—whether done for the couple together or separate showers for the individuals. Modern Update: Couple’s Shower, Wedding Shower


Menswear: In the past, menswear was referred to suits and men’s style in general. But, of course, not everyone who wears a suit identifies as male. Suit style has evolved tremendously in the last few years within the wedding space, and ranges across the spectrum of masculine to femme styles. Modern Update: Suit Style, Formalwear


Bridal Portraits: This Southern tradition is a portrait session with the photographer, typically done a few weeks before your wedding, in which the bride gets dolled up in full wedding hair/makeup/attire for a formal photo shoot that is then displayed at the wedding. Of course, today’s version can be for either to-be-wed.  Modern Update: Formal Portraits, Pre-Wedding Portraits 


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Brittny Drye

Based in New York City, Brittny Drye is an editor, activist, educator, influencer and thought-leader within the wedding space. Her equality-minded™ efforts have been applauded by Forbes, The New York Times, Refinery29, New York Daily News, Cosmopolitan and more. She frequently shares her wedding and LGBTQ+ inclusivity expertise with national media outlets and TV broadcasting, and has taken the stage at Catersource, The Special Events Conference, NACE Experience, IMEX Frankfurt, Global Tourism Summit and more. She is a WeddingPro Educator with The Knot/WeddingWire and has resided on the Advisory Board for the International Academy of Wedding & Events since 2018.

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