There is a major movement happening in our industry — a much-needed one — where vendors and publications alike are looking at themselves and others with a magnifying glass, and holding each other accountable to do a better job at diversity and inclusion, whether that is for race, size, culture or sexual orientation/identity.
Inclusion is at the heart of what Love Inc. stands for. LGBTQ+ inclusivity is the very reason why I started Love Inc. back in 2013, when so much of the mainstream content and wedding pro marketing was targeting either hetero or LGBTQ+ couples, rarely ever both in an inclusive, organic manner. It was my goal to create a platform that showcased inspiration, ideas and planning advice that couples could see themselves in, no matter who they loved.
As someone who identifies as a hetero ally, I've recently been asked why I feel qualified to speak and run a business on inclusion, so I wanted to take this opportunity to be transparent on Love Inc.'s efforts and reiterate our mission.
I think it's incredibly important to give a voice to the LGBTQ+ community — my entire platform revolves around that, sharing love stories of couples on a daily basis. When I take the stage for speaking engagements to share my expertise with other wedding pros, it's not expertise on being LGBTQ+, it's expertise on inclusive marketing in the wedding space. Though it has been assumed by some, I have never spoken on lived experiences as an LGBTQ+ person, I simply share marketing statistics and guidance — inclusive SEO strategies, equality-minded language to use, tokenism in photo shoots, LGBTQ+ modeling agencies I recommend as a publisher for shoots — so that other allies are able to properly navigate their inclusive efforts in a genuine manner, based on the information I've acquired through years of publishing in this hyper niche content space — a space that I had to carve out for myself when I launched Love Inc.
There are LGBTQ+ speakers who do integrate their lived experiences into their inclusivity presentations, and my goodness, is it powerful! Jove Meyer is one who does this exceptionally well and I don't think I've ever heard him speak and not tear up at his words — he is truly sensational. And I have always fondly called Bernadette Smith one of the OGs of LGBTQ+ education, as she was the first person to actively educate on the topic in the wedding space, starting with a dedicated LGBTQ+ planning company that has since evolved into corporate diversity education as well as the Equality Institute certification course (I highly, highly recommend her courses for any industry!). Kathryn Hamm is another great veteran voice, having been the publisher of GayWeddings.com (now part of WeddingWire) and educating on the topic since the early 2000s and planner Chanda Daniels (of A Monique Affair fame) is another who is exceptional on-stage.
We all bring a different angle to the topic, which I think is so important — mine is very much coming from an ally perspective — and as someone who has dedicated practically my entire career to inclusivity, who's used my privilege to create a platform specifically for those efforts and has done the inclusive work for many years, I do feel qualified. I understand and hear the argument that speaking opportunities should go LGBTQ+ educators, and, of course, I would absolutely pass along names of LGBTQ+ educators when the content requires a perspective from a lived experience rather than simply marketing education. But particularly as it relates to communicating to other cisgender hetero allies the importance of these efforts, and how to do so in a genuine manner, for some audiences, it can be better absorbed when its coming from a fellow cishet with inclusivity experience, and that's where I have created a space for myself over the years.
Another important aspect of being an ally is giving back to the community — a responsibility I take very seriously and have integrated into my business model. Freedom for All Americans (formerly Freedom to Marry), has been Love Inc.'s LGBTQ+ rights partner since we started, and along with donating a significant amount of Love Inc.'s income to large campaign pledges each end-of-year, I also am actively involved as a donor, having quarterly strategy calls with the CEO and sharing my insight into small business marketing and how to get small business professionals more involved. I don't say this to pat myself on the back, and to be quite honest, I'm incredibly uncomfortable sharing it now because it's not an accolade for me — it's a responsibility — but I have received comments — comments filled with incorrect assumptions — that required me to address it. In reality, I'm genuinely just trying to make our industry more inclusive for couples while giving back to further LGBTQ+ equality in our society, and I believe the more people we have speaking out for equality, the better off we are.
Lastly, I do want to address an area where I can do better, and that is bringing on more diverse writers. Here at Love Inc., up until recently, I've been a one-woman staff. With my maternity leave coming up in a few short weeks, I brought on a talented writer this past spring who was already very familiar with the brand and our unique voice to help me get content written in bulk and scheduled out. However, the Black Lives Matter movement shed light on the fact that I had a responsibility to bring on diverse voices, and I recognize that that goes for LGBTQ+ as well. I'm excited to soon be sharing content from two new writers who I hired a few weeks ago, and I am still actively seeking out a few more to round out our content. It's certainly an investment, but it's an important one, and it's something that I pledge to do better with moving forward.
As a publication and as a human, I know that there's always room for improvement when it comes to diversity and inclusion across the board, and welcome respectful dialogue around it.