LGBTQ+ Wedding Inclusivity

LGBTQ+ Wedding Inclusivity for two brides at a tropical wedding

I’ve been contemplating situations like this for years, never knowing exactly how to word it. But today, I stand firmly here and am proud to do so: I am a Wedding Photographer that will photography any LGTBQ+ couple and any couple of any race because Love is Love. I want to be more proactive about LGBTQ+ Wedding Inclusivity.

I have begun taking steps to review my portfolio and to be perfectly honest, I have no one representing LGBTQ+ couples, except for my last styled shoot. I know that there are LGBTQ+ couples out there, so I am taking a deeper look at my brand and spending time finding the gaps. I want you, my followers, to know that I am 1,000% on board for capturing your wedding no matter who you are or who you love. 

This is a learning process, I might mess up or say the wrong thing, but I am not going to let that fear stop me from taking action anymore!

Now, what sparked this conversation? Well, recently, there have been screenshots of a Michigan Wedding Photographer’s email to a gay couple who was inquiring with her. I’m not going to name the photographer because that helps no one and she’s currently being heavily attacked online, but I wanted to share her words so all know have context for what I will be talking about.

email snippet regarding same sex couple and refusing to work with them

After reading this email, I thought about the number of couples who have had to deal with issues just like this when trying to figure out who they could work with to capture their wedding day. It’s already difficult to narrow down the choices and now you add this on top of things? Scenarios like Maria and Kristen’s experience isn’t abnormal unfortunately.  Here is a response to the email: 

“Hearing about a Michigan couple being turned away because of who they are hits home for us, but I’m not surprised… Kristen and I have had to fight for our love many times and the wedding industry is among them. I had seen photographs a colleague had done that were beautiful, just got engaged myself and wanted to reach out. Word of mouth is HUGE. And if they could deliver for them I’m sure they could for us. I emailed them to see if they were free on our desired date. It was just a question. I was quickly emailed back with a explanation that they DO NOT and have not ever photographed a same sex couple. They also told me that they assumed this about me and if it was not the case they would be free on our date. They wished me the best of luck and moved right along. How awkward to see their photos posted online of good people I like knowing full well they would NEVER photograph us. It SUCKED. We didn’t put all our hopes and dreams into this photographer but to be turned away because I said “my wife and I” was hard. We tried not to let it bother us. I filed it away in my mind as yet another shitty person but wouldn’t let it ruin our day. I wouldn’t have changed anything about our day at all. It was perfect. But what they did was WRONG. What’s wrong with our love, our money, our event, our choices to make you judge us?”

(Quote taken with permission, reference https://www.instagram.com/p/CDAC5BrHAOv/)

same sex married couple with tropical flowers

It is stories like this and so many others that I’ve now heard over the years which has led me to the point of having a tough conversation with my business coach. I kept asking questions like the ones above; what is wrong with a couple getting married? Why would a photographer ever use their own religious beliefs as a way to discriminate? Why is this happening so often? Why have I been complacently silent until now? This and a million other questions came spewing out of my mouth.   

After definitively making a statement that inclusivity is what I want to support, I had to take a look at myself and wonder, why I am only now making this statement. While I do see others’ actions, people using their judgement to take action and NOT work with this couple, have I myself been complacent when it comes to not showcasing that I am an ally?

Yes.

bridal portraits on the beach of a same sex couple

I have been cautious about posting about my support on LGBTQ+ Wedding Inclusivity because I have been so nervous about messing up. That fear has kept me from showing up in the ways I should, but I would never have gotten this far in my business without making a million mistakes and learning from them. So, here are a few things that you’re going to see change around here in Stephanie Parshall Photography land. This in part is thanks to a conversation with Heather of Ampersand Lettering Lab, reading blogs from Cassandra Zetta Photography, and taking a course from Tia Nash called “Allies Take Action.”

Humble Updates:

I will not be perfect in this pursuit of equality and inclusivity. I’ve come to terms with this. While I know in the future, I am certain I will be frustrated when I make a mistake, I know that I am human and while I am human, I can do better and never stop learning. If my couples can continue to have patience and grace with me as I continue to learn, I will forever be not only grateful, but a willing listener so I can actually be helped into better change.

Language Updates:

I will be using inclusive language and being cautious of word selection because not too long ago (as in, even January of this year), I did not realize that the word ‘Fiancé’ was masculine. Although I vaguely understood that thanks to my 1 year of French in college, I’ve seen it used as a non-gender specific word and I began putting it in place for all individuals who are engaged. Honestly, I don’t even remember when I started to do it, and it seems to be such a Midwest or Michigan thing to do. However, as I’ve done more research, I can now easily see why someone would look at me as being non-inclusive. I will be updating ‘Fiancé’ with ‘Partner’ instead and I’ll be changing other terms too like ‘Bridal Party’ to ‘Wedding Party.’

These are relatively simple changes that anyone could implement into their own business practices and everyday life. The list goes on and Cassandra Zetta wrote a few great blogs to help you get started. Click Here to View them

Posing Updates:

This was actually a great point that Heather of Ampersand Lettering Lab brought up because she has had firsthand experience with photographers that have tried to place she and her wife into heterosexual roles. For example, making one individual the man/alpha in the relationship while posing for photos. She has also had experience on the other side where photographers did not do that and instead gave them posing that was not so gender specific.

Because my posing more or less goes based on heights and closeness, there isn’t too much to change here, it’s more like adding on which I’m excited about! For example, I will be researching more scenario-based prompts to include in my posing repertoire with open-ended instructions.

More to come on this in later in blogs as I continue to enhance these skills but if you’d like to read more specifically about it, here’s a great blog by Cassandra Zetta Photography.

Other LGBTQ+ Wedding Inclusivity Updates:

Apart from sharing more about inspiration images of LGBTQ+ Couples that I’ve seen on the internet, I’ll continue to share what I’m learning because sometimes, it’s simple changes like learning more about a word like ‘fiancé,’ while other times it’s larger issues about how vendors are choosing to interact with same sex couples. All of these stem around caring for real people, real humans, real love. This is not a “one and done” process, so I hope you can continue to come along on the journey with me as I continue to embrace LGBTQ+ Wedding Inclusivity!

two brides celebrating getting married with drinks and kissing

If you’re ever interested in more, I’d be happy to share sources again or have a conversation about LGBTQ+ Wedding Inclusivity so everyone can learn, grow and choose to do better. It is difficult, but also well worth the results.

“At the end of the day, I would rather be excluded for who I include than included for who I exclude.” – Rev. Eston Williams

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stephanie parshall photography

Grand rapids, michigan