In the spirit of love and Valentine's Day, I'd like to ask all my colleagues in the wedding planning industry to take a moral inventory of how they're running their businesses.
In the news lately, there have been wayyy too many stories about wedding planners, pastry shops, and other wedding-related vendors who do not want to provide wedding services to gay and lesbian couples. In a world where many of these couples have been waiting for years to have the wedding of their dreams, having those dreams crushed by a thoughtless wedding vendor who disagrees with same-sex marriage is totally unacceptable.
Let me be perfectly clear - I have been planning gay and lesbian weddings for years. I went into the wedding planning business counting on the fact that same-sex marriages were becoming legal in more places and that I would have same-sex weddings on my calendar. And I do. They are a significant chunk of my business now, and the more states that legalize the process, the more gay and lesbian weddings that will come to me for planning services. That's a good thing.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 36 states. Soon it will be all 50 states and the territories. Even Puerto Rico, where I'm based, is considering it now - and this is a seriously Catholic island. Some states have tried to fight it and they've been losing, a few at a time. Those officials refusing to issue marriage licenses where legally they should be, are going to find themselves in big trouble when the courts are done with them. But in the meantime, the only thing the growth of same-sex marriage brings to the wedding planning industry is MORE REVENUE.
Which is why I've been so horrified by the recent news stories I've read about excited brides and grooms who can FINALLY get legally married running into bigoted wedding vendors who are refusing to give them services for their big day. Now, if I were gay, I wouldn't want to give my business and my money to any vendor who didn't support my marriage, so I suppose it's good that they're finding out about these people before they hire them. But really, if you're going to say you provide services for weddings, you have two choices - either accept that THE LAW says equal rights for same-sex couples and you have an obligation to provide the same level of enthusiasm and service as you would for a straight couple, or get out of the wedding planning business.
I'm completely serious. It isn't right offer to "dream weddings" and "fairytale wedding cakes" on your websites and advertisements if you're only willing to cater to the dreams and fairytales of straight couples. I guess, theoretically, you could put a big flag across the top of your website (or a sign on your shop's door) that says "We do not support same-sex marriage" and let your potential clients decide for themselves. Of course, that's going to turn off a lot of straight potential clients too, but that's the risk you take when you choose to discriminate against an entire segment of the population.
As a business owner, I'm amazed. Even if I wasn't pro-gay rights, I'm smart enough to know that gay and lesbian clients have money as green as any straight client (and frequently, more of it to spend because they've been waiting for this day so long). Close-minded business owners are going to slowly put themselves out of the wedding business if they're not able to compete with wedding vendors who successfully and reliably service all kinds of weddings. They say it's because they're Christian and it violates their beliefs, but shouldn't a wedding vendor simply want to see all couples happy with beautiful weddings? Who are we to judge?
I've planned gay weddings, lesbian weddings, Wiccan weddings, and many other non-traditional marriages. I'm Christian - Episcopalian, actually, if you want me to be specific - and I support same sex marriage. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to go to hell if I spend the rest of my career helping men and women marry the life partner of their choice, whomever or whatever gender that choice may be. I believe that everyone has the right to declare, publicly, their love for whomever they want to marry and that as wedding vendors, we have an obligation to give them the most amazing day of their lives.
What I'm not okay with is hearing stories about broken-hearted, newly engaged couples who have been shunned (often to their faces) by "reputable" wedding vendors who do not agree with their life decisions. Recently, a judge in Oregon wisely ruled against a company called "Sweet Cakes by Melissa" who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.
Maybe this ruling will make other wedding-related vendors with personal religious concerns think twice before mistreating an excited, newly-engaged couple who wishes to engage their services just because they disagree with their sexual orientation.
You don't want gay clients? No problem. I'm sure none of my gay or lesbian clients would want me to give their hard-earned dollars to a vendor who didn't support their union. All you have to do is announce it and it will scare all the potential same-sex clients away. The law doesn't permit businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, but I'm pretty sure they won't stop you from openly announcing your bigotry, whether online or in posted signage at your business. Maybe a big rainbow with an X over it is the ticket.