Creating A Safe Space For LGBTQ+ Couples with Carly Fuller

On The DMV Wedding Pros Podcast this week, I got to chat with Carly Fuller from Carly Fuller Photography.

On this episode we are talking about LGBTQ+ inclusion in the wedding industry. If you know me, you know this is a topic that's close to my heart, and why I created the LGBTQ+ DMV Wedding Resource Guide. Today we talked about inclusion and making it a safe space for ALL in the wedding industry. That means on our websites, in our marketing, and through our posing.

Hey Carly! I'm so excited for you to be on the podcast today. Give us an introduction.

Good morning! I'm so happy to get to be here and share and talk with you today. I am Carly. I own Carly Fuller Photography, which is a wedding and lifestyle boutique photography studio. We just opened up our new space in Savage Mill. We specialize in capturing all love stories, business branding, portraits, you name it. We want to be a part of capturing people's stories in their lives.

Awesome. Well I'm really excited to have you today and be talking about the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to the wedding industry. Where would you like to start?

I would love to start with the word "inclusivity." I think so many people want to be inclusive and want to celebrate everyone's love story. At the end of the day, we are all a part of this incredible wedding industry, and we're a part of people's biggest, best, epic most exciting day of their life. I think a lot of people do want to celebrate inclusivity and maybe they're just not sure how, or what sort of language might actually speak to that.

When we start with a website, I feel like there are things you can write out in text, and there are things that are symbolic or more of a vibe... I don't know how to explain it. But what kind of things do you think people are looking for when they go to a website to know that this brand is inclusive and won't turn them away because of who they are.

I think it starts with - I always call it "the seeds we plant along the way," or the seeds you plant for your ideal client. Who do you want to speak to? I think it starts with the identification of the person who owns the business. What is their story? What are they wanting to relate to their client? Who are they speaking to? And really working on identifying your "why" will actually help you then lay those other stepping stones for your client to find and feel welcome. So when your business has its "why," and it has its story that it’s sharing, then the website, your Instagram, your verbiage in your emails, and the PDFs that you share with each client will speak to each person individually.

A lot of professionals are still using the word “bride.“ I think that that is really a word that we need to put it aside. I got married a year and a half ago and I don’t know about anyone else who’s listening to this but I am a very feminine woman and everyone called me a bride. But I was like, “I am a bride, I get it. But like I’m just in love and so excited to marry my person.“ I really feel as though, yet again, “bride“ is just another boxed-in term that we call a female. The great thing about this conversation is that we get to like share words that might work better for people. Just simple words like couple, spouse, partner, significant other. You can make it fun! Your “boo thing.” Whatever you vibrate with, whatever word you might call your spouse or your favorite person in the world, start using that language in your website and your PDFs and your emails.

Definitely. I think it's important because for so long even the contact form on my website said "bride and groom." When I realized that that wasn't the sole couple who was booking me, I went in and had to figure out how to fix it. Then I basically changed all the language on my website, my contact forms, and my wedding guide to "you & your partner." When we came back with season two of the podcast, the first episode was with Jenna Miller who is a web designer. She told this story about a photographer who used "Babe #1 and Babe #2" for their contact form. I was like, "I'm taking that."

Language is where it all starts. There are plenty of people who don't identify as either a bride or a groom.

Absolutely. My wife didn't really identify as a bride or groom. When we went to have our bach parties, which is what we called them - which is a whole other industry that serves everyone but we're putting people into boxes like "bachelor" and "bachelorette" - Shannon didn't identify in that way. The best experience we had was going to Bindle & Keep in New York. She was just beaming. She got to custom design her own suit, and it was one of my favorite days, watching her feel seen and in her element. Everything fit, and she was so excited to finally have a suit that was tailored to her and her body.

I had a bride in November who was the same way, and she went to Bindle & Keep and couldn't speak more highly of them. It was good to know because I have plenty of people looking for an inclusive suit experience that isn't necessarily a super masculine vibe. I think it's important that there are services like that, and businesses who are open to fitting everybody.

And from the moment you walk in, when you speak to them on the phone, when you set up your appointment, they are just super open and aware to... who are you? How do you want to be defined? Because that's what they want to see and create for you. The first interaction we had, they asked our pronouns. That was something for me personally, marrying a woman and going through this process of planning a wedding, I got to see how other businesses plan their process, and their systems in place to be inclusive. That starts with questions, and being able to ask openly, "What are your pronouns? How do you like to be called? What are your nicknames?" Just opening yourself up to not assuming things about people.

In fact, I just caught myself in the trap by referencing my "bride." When you talk about your couples or your potential clients... you know, we can say "couples" or "people getting married," but what comes to mind is people posting on instagram with general statements about their clients. People use "bride" a lot. I do it all the time. Is there a word or phrase you've found that is pretty general and fits the bill?

I just think "couples." That's the word I personally replaced it with ten or so years ago. I know it sounds silly but "brides and grooms" just aren't my favorite words. "Couples" is my favorite. It relates to everybody. Also, we're in the business of telling love stories, and I don't think that's only on the day you get married, and I don't think it's just because you have a marriage certificate. "Bride and groom" kind of niches it down to that one second, whereas "couples" - or whatever word vibrates with you - that goes beyond that one day.

That's one thing I've talked to people about a lot - we should be getting to know our couples as more than just a bride or a groom, as more than just a person getting married. It's one day. It's one day that they have a wedding and get married, and then their story continues. It's so important to recognize.

And, a funny story, the reason why I started using the word "couples" is because my best friend, Dennis, his husband, and I went bridesmaid dress shopping. We went to find my maid of honor dress and we went to some place I won't name, but when we walk in there's two men and me. We walk in and they were like, "Who's the bride and who's the groom?" Immediately my radar was like, "Excuse me, these are my best friends. They will be two husbands, they are both grooms, and I am a maid of honor. Maybe we should think about a new question..." I always go into immediate education. That is so not sensitive. It's not compassionate in my opinion.

And I do want to recognize now and as we go along, there are certainly levels to it. If you're trying, if you're trying to be more inclusive and change your language and ask those questions, you're way beyond a lot of people. But it's okay to make mistakes or slip up or say "bride and groom." We need to continually educate ourselves.

Luckily I think the wedding industry is changing for the better. This is a topic that's I'm so passionate about, but I try to educate people about it and I still slip up, and that's okay.

Absolutely. We're human at the end of the day. We get into our own routines and our own comfort. Sometimes I forget not everyone is lesbian married to a woman. We all mess up, and I think the best words are they and them, learning to use those in our vocabulary more rather than identifying "he" and "she" because it's an instant word where you can't mess up. I'm working on using those words more than he/she.

I totally agree with that. It's a hard thing to relearn, especially if you've grown up thinking the world is binary. I have a friend who is starting to experiment with they/them pronouns, and because I've known them for so long I slip up sometimes. Again, if it's something you're educating yourself on and you're working at it, if they love you they'll understand. I think the general they/them is something we should be working on.

Definitely. So we talked about websites, and emails are another place you mentioned using certain language, then on Instagram, and now there's Clubhouse. People are making live videos on Instagram, and TikTok. When you're speaking, sometimes it's even good for me personally to practice or quickly run through what I want to say to find out if I'm going to say something that won't feel like a hug to everybody. That's one of those things that's helpful.

When it comes to using pronouns, do you have yours in your bio, on your website? Where do you suggest people put their own in order to feel like a safe space?

I leave mine at the bottom of my email with my name and company name, and that I feel is an opening door to others if they want to share their pronouns with me. I don't ask for pronouns in my emails because I've changed all of my language to be way more broad. Maybe I'm far on the spectrum, but I really don't want to put people in boxes. My whole life I resisted sitting in a box that somebody else defined me by. You can make whatever boxes you want to understand people. We're in a business, too, so some people have to track details and information.

So website, emails, social media. When it comes to direct marketing/advertising, do you have ideas there?

That for me is super visual. Like you said "vibing." When you identify your why and what's important for your business and what you want to cr