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Jenn T. Grace – Episode 81 – Growing Your LGBT Business with Kimberly VaughanThank you for tuning in to episode 81 of the podcast! You may have noticed that I’ve rebranded the podcast to ‘Professional Branding for the LGBTQ Professional’ to really focus on the people who are listening to and benefiting from this podcast. While the change isn’t drastic, it does allow me to focus in on the LGBTQ professionals and entrepreneurs who are growing their careers, businesses and brands.
Now that I’ve addressed that – onto the show!
In this episode Kimberly Vaughan and I had an amazing conversation about her work in the wedding industry and the ups and downs her business, as well as the LGBT community at large, have encountered in recent years. Kimberly talked about the importance of communication in marketing and how she is helping to bridge the gap between straight owned businesses and the LGBT couples they are trying to serve; helping to create a more inclusive wedding industry over all.
Have a listen and let me know your thoughts below. I love hearing from you!
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Links Mentioned in Today’s Episodewww.lgbtweddings.com
Listen to the episode by clicking the play button below!
Would you prefer to read the transcript than listen to the episode? No problem! Read the transcript below.
Jenn T Grace: You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 81.
Introduction: Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You’ll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You’ll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven’t yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn – with two N’s – T Grace.
Jenn T Grace: Well hello and welcome to the show. For loyal listeners, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I have rebranded this podcast. So this podcast is now called Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional. So you might be wondering why I decided to do this, so I’m going to share that with you super briefly, and then we’re going to get into an interview with Kimberly Vaughan of www.LGBTWeddings.com.
So let me just address real quickly that I was doing some marketing planning of my own, and doing a little bit of research into the listenership of this podcast, and trying to figure out who’s really listening to the show, and what they’re really looking for. And in doing so I realized that a strong majority of listeners are part of the LGBT community, and in thinking about where my business has been coming from, I’ve got a handful of pretty large corporate type of contracts as of late, and asking them- they’ve never heard of my show, they aren’t really listening to anything in iTunes, they’re not really podcast listeners. It occurred to me that I’m going to change the focus of this podcast to really just focus on the LGBTQ professional, or the LGBTQ entrepreneur; people who are part of the community who are growing their careers, growing their professions, growing their brands, growing their businesses, and really just make that my focus. So starting today in episode 81, that’s my new focus.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you go back and listen to the overwhelming majority of the 81 podcasts, or the 80 podcasts I’ve already done, you will note that I talk about marketing and branding as it relates to being an LGBT person. So I’ve already basically been doing this, and it’s kind of evolved into having been doing this probably since maybe the mid-60’s episodes. So going on probably a good twenty episodes, I’ve really already been doing this. So it was really just a matter of finally putting the flag in the sand and just changing the name of the show to truly reflect you, the listener, and really kind of amplify the whole idea of personal branding.
Personal branding to me is such a critical thing to be doing as an LGBT person, because being LGBT is such a benefit. And I know that some of you listening to this might not necessarily feel like it’s a benefit right now, but I can assure you that it’s totally a benefit. So with that being said, I’ll probably be introducing more things around personal branding as we go through, but I did just want to make note the fact that I did change the name, so you’re not listening to this thinking, ‘What the hell? This is so not what I was expecting.’ I just want to make sure that you knew that.
So now that that’s out of the way, today I have an episode for you with a person who’s been in the wedding industry for a long time who is a wealth of knowledge around LGBT in the wedding industry, and she’s the founder and creator of www.LGBTWeddings.com which is a huge resource for businesses within the LGBT community, but then also businesses that are not part of the community who are looking to serve LGBT couples in a better fashion. So without further ado, I’m just going to dive right into the interview today with Kimberly Vaughan.
So I am really excited to have you on the show today. So for those listening, we’re talking with Kimberly Vaughan of www.LGBTWeddings.com. And I told Kimberly before we hit record that she can shamelessly plug www.LGBTWeddings.com at the end of the episode. But to start us off, I’d love to hear a little bit about your background, and I guess how the LGBT community comes to play in what you’re doing right now.
Kimberly Vaughan: Good morning, Jenn. Thanks for having me.
Jenn T Grace: You’re welcome.
Kimberly Vaughan: So let’s see. I’ve been in the wedding industry for about fifteen years now on the west coast, and the past ten years I’ve been producing consumer trade events, wedding expos, we operate the international wedding festivals here on the west coast. It’s a very vivacious, fun, exciting place to plan a wedding. And unlike other bridal shows, or wedding expos, I think that we bring a lot of entertainment value, we have a lot of information planning their event. So it’s a little bit different. I also work with a lot of wedding professionals helping them fine tune their marketing, and create marketing partnership opportunities for them. And that’s my entire background has been HR, marketing, and events planning.
Jenn T Grace: And you say it in such a succinct way that no one would realize the length of time that you’ve been doing this.
Kimberly Vaughan: It has been a lengthy, long time, and here on the west coast, the wedding industry- it’s got the same ups and downs as the entire LGBT community as we were battling Prop 8. So we had a lot of time to prepare, and then no, and then prepare, and then no. So it’s always been part of our industry culture here, as well as our community culture here, preparing for equality. And we were so excited when it finally happened for everyone across the board, but it also gave a great opportunity for the businesses who were preparing to really put into action the things that we’ve been talking about for so long, and we’re finally able to let it roll, and get cracking.
Jenn T Grace: So how did you decide that www.LGBTWeddings.com and what your company does, because you’re more than just a .com website. How did you decide that this is something that you felt you had to tackle?
Kimberly Vaughan: A lot of it had to do with communicating with the wedding industry, and a lot of the companies and players, mostly the smaller base businesses, as well as larger base businesses expos, they had a lot of questions. Going through the motions back and forth, the questions had much to do with how do we refer to couples? How do we refer to the wedding party? What’s okay to say? What’s not okay to say? What do we need to know? For 85% of the wedding industry, they’re straight-owned businesses. And so clearly there was a disconnect of how do we provide services to the LGBT community, and really shine with our services? We’ve got florists who’ve got twenty years plus experience who have no idea how to service the community. And the media made it frightening I think for a lot of straight-owned businesses to want to provide services. They were concerned that they were going to get sued if they said the wrong things, and it really scared, frightened business owners. So I think the more that we start to see silly things that are being said by a lot of business owners, it’s been more so a lot of concern. I felt that it was time to put together a program that would help develop their skills, and help build their confidence. If anything for the community to have more choice for everyone to connect. I mean what we’re after- we’re after a wedding of the wedding of the wedding in many respects, and the only way that we’re going to achieve that is through education. So what started out as like a bridge between industry to community led into www.LGBTWeddings.com, it just kind of grew. We really wanted to have support services for the community that would have online tools, and articles, and how-to’s, and seminars, and all kinds of fun things; education on both ends. So that’s really what started it, and I think that for the 85% of the straight-owned businesses, they’re probably going to find more information that is unknown to them than LGBT-owned business. But I also think that LGBT-owned businesses would find good information in there as well in terms of marketing. We all need to strengthen our marketing, things change, technology has changed, and so it’s always good to stay abreast of those things.
Jenn T Grace: Interesting. So now how would you say you’re differentiating those two audiences? Because I know for me I also have kind of the straight audience, and I have the LGBT audience. So how are you finding that balance I guess on your website and in the marketing to those different and distinct different audiences, but at the same time there’s so much overlap between them.
Kimberly Vaughan: Absolutely and I think that for LGBT business owners, it’s almost like they’re going, “What do I need to know, really? We know our community, we know our craft, so what do we really need to know?” For other business owners it’s like they wonder why. That truly is the differentiation. I think that for LGBT business owners, this is an opportunity for them to really shine, and they know their craft and they know their community, so this is a great opportunity for these business owners to really put their best foot forward. I think that through education, and through inclusion by gay-owned businesses to straight-owned businesses, inclusionary practices, we’re going to find the love so to speak. We’re going to have a more inclusive industry if that makes sense.
Jenn T Grace: Absolutely. And have you found that any LGBT people have reached out to you and say something like, “Wow I wouldn’t have known that.” Like something that you feel like it would have been obvious that they would know, but yet you’re even educating within the community.
Kimberly Vaughan: So yes, actually- and for a few business owners that have called me to say, “You know what, actually I did learn something that I didn’t know, and a lot of it had to do with providing services to transgender individuals.” So for the transgender community, there were just some other things to think about. I know one of the bridal gown owners, one of the sections in the certification talks about accommodating transgender clients for fittings, and things like this. And just kind of giving the POV I think really helped this particular owner, and she was eternally grateful, and I think it’s changed her business and her point of view.
Jenn T Grace: Awesome, that’s really exciting. Can you share I guess maybe some of the highlights of what your training covers? Because I know that there’s so much overlap in terms of the type of information that you’re providing and a lot of the stuff that I talk about, too.
Kimberly Vaughan: Yeah Jenn, and I love your work.
Jenn T Grace: Thank you.
Kimberly Vaughan: I love everything that you talk about in terms of marketing, and the community, and I think you recall the first time that we talked it was like talking to a rockstar for me. So thank you for having me here today. There is a lot of overlap, I mean we all know that marketing is a key part of our business, and our business would not flourish without it. So a lot of the marketing focus for the community is going to overlap and be the same. However, part of our certification has to do with trends that we’re seeing in our industry specifically, wedding trends and new traditions. The great thing about what’s happening in our country with equality for our industry, for the wedding industry, is that there are new tends and traditions being created while we’re talking here today. So we all know that the LGBT community is vivacious and very experiential in terms of wanting to reflect our lives, and our experiences through meaningful ceremonies. So for the industry, we’re watching this unfold right before our very eyes. Two aisles, for example. Two aisles coined by the LGBT community. There were no two aisles prior to LGBT weddings. So same sex marriage brought that to the industry. There are a lot of other things, a lot of other little traditions and ceremonial traditions that are coming into play that we’re able to share with business owners. And each year I think the plan is, is that through re-certification we’re going to share what we’re seeing in the industry with these weddings. So that’s the difference that I think most people might experience.
Jenn T Grace: So can you talk a little bit about the coined phrase the two aisles? For somebody who’s not part of the- I guess wedding industry, what that would actually mean?
Kimberly Vaughan: So I love this part. Weddings have a lot of old historical ceremonies and you kind of go, “Now why did the bride stand to the left of the father giving her away?” And that had to do with way back in the day, you wanted to have the man’s right arm free to grab his sword to protect the bride because usually marriages had to do with merging two clans together to stop the war.
Jenn T Grace: That’s interesting.
Kimberly Vaughan: Who knew?
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, seriously.
Kimberly Vaughan: That’s why you have the bride’s side and the groom’s side, was keep the clans separated long enough to get to the honeymoon so that the war would end and peace would begin. So things like that really started the one aisle to separate the two clans. Well to modern day, we don’t have fighting war and clans coming together, and we would like to think that the people who are coming to our ceremony, they’re coming there out of a place of love for us, uniting as one, and helping us celebrate the love that we’ve found for an eternity. And now two brides, or two grooms, a couple will enter in on two equal sides and meet in the middle which I think is so beautiful. Why it wasn’t done a hundred years ago, I’ll never know, but it’s here now and I love it.
Jenn T Grace: I would not have- I don’t know what I thought that that meant prior to you explaining it, but that makes perfect sense. So I had the pleasure of being on a panel this weekend that you and I set up at the very last possible minute for the New York LGBT expo. And one of the things that we talked about on the panel was wedding trends as it relates to the LGBT community, and you just talked about wedding trends a little bit yourself. What would you say that you’re seeing- because it was interesting, because I’m not a wedding expert, I’m more of the marketing, and I can help any business with their marketing who’s looking to reach the LGBT community. But some of the things that I was hearing on the panel, I’m like, ‘Wow this is really interesting.’ I would love to- instead of me regurgitating that information to my audience, it makes more sense to have the expert, yourself share maybe a couple of the trends that you’re seeing currently with- in regards to maybe a lesbian- what the lesbian wedding trends are versus the gay wedding trends, or even transgender. Like what are you seeing right now? Because as we’re recording this we’re in March of 2016 and I’m sure the trends will be even drastically different six months from now even. I don’t know, I’m not sure how fast the wedding industry moves.
Kimberly Vaughan: Absolutely, and most businesses in the wedding industry follow these trends season after season. We know when the Great Gatsby movie came out, boy we saw that in weddings. There was a period where every wedding had this espresso brown, and either pink or aqua, and after a while you kind of get sick of the colors because you see them at all the weddings. So these are trends that us in the wedding industry are used to, they’re defined by movies, they’re defined by fashion. The Tiffany blue was so huge in the nineties. So it changes, definitely, for sure. And that’s true specifically to the LGBT community. When the ruling happened in each state, state by state, as soon as marriage equality became legal, there were a lot of rainbow weddings, we saw that to be true. We saw a lot of smaller, more intimate weddings, we’re just going to get through this. And we all know a lot of this had to do with celebration, yes of course. But legalities, and let’s get this done as quickly as possible, especially here in California because we were going back and forth with Prop 8, and it just seemed like everyone was running out before it could be taken away. So we saw a lot of quickie weddings, a lot of quickie planning, a lot of small, intimate events. And now it just seems like people are spending a little bit more time planning, everyone’s kind of moved away from the rainbow wedding theme, and are moving more towards what’s trending in the industry a little bit. There’s always going to be a level of individualistic planning, we all want to have our own signature on our event, and at the end of the day- I’d just like to share this, and I know everyone in the wedding industry agrees, this is about two people. This is about two people expressing their love for each other, and it’s about two individual people coming together and expressing their love. So we’ve seen everything under the sun. I just received a wedding story from a couple down in Dallas, two ladies, and one of them is a huge horror story buff. Absolutely loves horror films. So her cake had horror figurines on top of it.
Jenn T Grace: That’s funny.
Kimberly Vaughan: That’s not indicative of a trend that’s going on, it certainly expresses to everyone that it’s okay to let your individuality shine in your ceremony. So that’s what we want to see in the wedding industry. And I think most professionals really want to pull that personal experience into the event. There is no right or wrong. There is no you should follow champagne fabrics when champagne is trending. While it’s very gorgeous and fluid for many people, that’s just not the expression of that individual couple. So those are some of the things that we’re seeing. I think that the size of the wedding- for wedding businesses who are listening, when equality first went national last June, the average number was about 85 in terms of guests. And now we’re seeing that number increase. So I think that now that kind of the fear of reversal is gone, people are looking at like, ‘Okay maybe we did just get married real fast, we want to plan a wedding now.’ And so we’re seeing people extend their planning out nine months, a year, and putting more emphasis and thought into the nuances of the day.
Jenn T Grace: Interesting. So are you finding that LGBT couples generally are more open to having weddings that are more individualized to them? So rather than them following just straight up mainstream trends?
Kimberly Vaughan: I do see that, and I think that that has to do with- straight couples, brides especially have grown up playing with the Barbie dolls thinking about their wedding, knowing that there’s a 90% chance that they’re going to get married, and what is that going to look like. And I also think that there are more traditional pressures in terms of, ‘I want it to be perfect for my family.’ Not that gay couples do not feel that way, but certainly the traditional pressures of carrying on traditions, wedding traditions. ‘My father is going to walk me down the aisle, we’re going to go down one aisle, I’m going to wear a white dress, my flowers are going to look like this, we’re going to use this minister, bride’s side on the left, groom’s side on the right.’ I think that straight couples still think they have to carry on these traditions, and a lot of times I don’t know that couples really know what those traditions represent, just like we were talking about why the bride walks on the left hand side. I mean does anyone really sit there and go, “Oh because my dad needs to grab his sword.”
Jenn T Grace: Yeah.
Kimberly Vaughan: I think that in terms of same sex couples, that is kind of removed. That pressure of following traditions is certainly removed, and I feel like there’s so much joy around just being able to marry, that all of those pressures are taken away happily, and replaced with much more celebration. So I think that couples are like, ‘This is our day.’ Not that there isn’t meaning for straight couples, but it’s just got more universal meaning and equality meaning for couples. And they just want to celebrate and express, and I love it. We’re enjoying all of the trends, and the vows. Boy if you’re not at one of these events and bawling your eyes out because you can feel real love at these events, you’re not human, I’m sorry. Your heart is black. Not to say that straight weddings aren’t beautiful, but there’s just a different level of expression of love going on in same-sex couples that I don’t think could be duplicated anywhere. So if these businesses are pro equality, you really feel like you’re a part of something incredible, and I think that that’s something that I wish for all wedding professionals. Even the ones that aren’t pro, even if they’re just coming to witness and not work at the wedding because I think it might change their hearts and minds. I did want to tell you that some of the negative responses to equality in our industry, I don’t think that it all comes from personal belief. I think much of it comes from- I’m going to get heavy hitting here, Jenn.
Jenn T Grace: Hit me.
Kimberly Vaughan: I think a lot of it actually comes from fear because they don’t know how to service the community. I think a lot of it has to do with media, and when you don’t know something, you’re afraid of it. And when you don’t know how to respond to something, or be a part of something, you’re afraid of it. And so I think that sometimes when couples are going through the screening process of finding a photographer, or a venue, and they get an uncomfortable response on the other end, I don’t know that the person on the other end really has taken a lot of time to have personal thought about it. We all see the responses from people who have fanatical personal beliefs that are against equality, but I think the larger part of negative responders have more to do with, ‘I don’t know what I feel about this. So I’m going to reach for this first.’ And I think that that’s where the education comes in and really helps them guide their feelings, and look at it, address it. So I think that if more businesses are invited to participate, obviously friendly businesses that are interested in participating because nobody wants that negative nilly at their event, I think that it’s going to change so many hearts and minds because you cannot escape the love. You just can’t. You can’t help but feel it.
Jenn T Grace: So somebody was on this podcast awhile back, Michele Wierzgac, I don’t remember exactly what episode she was, but it was probably in the sixties. And she was sharing how she came to New Haven, Connecticut, which is not far from where I am, from Chicago to get married. And she was talking about what a good experience it was, and how where the reception itself was, was great, and she had good hospitality. But she had made a reference to a limo driver making some kind of comment about where the husband is when the two of them got into the limo on the way over to where they were getting married. And how that put just kind of such a damper on the day.
Kimberly Vaughan: And I’m sorry that she had that experience, and there’s no excusing professionals from knowing their craft, knowing their client, and being better professionals than they are. We all want to grow, we all want to evolve, we all want to be better and provide the best possible service for our clients, that should be everyone’s benchmark. And I also do seminars with couples and helping same sex couples to go through the planning process; let’s talk about vendor selection, let’s talk about budget, let’s talk about timeline, and checklist, and things like that because if you haven’t done this, and this is true for every couple, you don’t necessarily know where to begin. But every couple isn’t having the same challenges of the screening process and finding people who are accepting of their love, who are excited about their marriage, who are excited about providing services on their day. I mean that’s just not the truth for every couple. So part of what I’m doing when I’m working with couples is talking with them about how to manage and handle and identify great providers. Certainly utilizing services who are doing screening, that’s great, but also understanding that for many of these providers, they may not be trying to be offensive. They may just be so used to saying the same things for the past fifteen or twenty years that they’ve been a limo driver, or a florist. They’re presuming to know their clients, and to ask appropriate questions for their craft, and by saying the same things for the past twenty years, it just comes out. So sometimes when I’m talking to couples it’s you may have a wonderful, terrific, fabulous florist with all this great experience, and you’ve looked at the options, and they’re fabulous, and you get halfway through the service and they say something like, “So is your groom coming to the next meeting?” Without even thinking, it’s just something that they’ve been saying for twenty years. So we try to one, educate the wedding professionals on what to say, what not to say, and how to get out of these assumptions, and out of the ritual of what they’ve been doing for twenty years, and be excited, and re-formulate their questions with gender neutrality in mind. You know, some people just fall back. And so what I’m asking couples to do also is to just not always be on the defense, and instead correct. It’s okay to say, “You mean my wife?” It’s okay, and maybe not let a silly comment that may not have been intended in a negative way ruin your day. You know wedding days are really joyful but they’re also very stressful for couples. There’s a lot of emotion going on, and that’s true for everyone. There’s a lot of anticipation of having the perfect day; people strive for that, they want that, they want everything to go off without a hitch. And so sometimes getting a negative comment, even from our family and friends who know us, and adore us, and love us, in these situations they say the wrong things. And that’s going to be true for everyone. I always just tell couples try to rise above some of the things that you think are important at the time, because at the end of the day it’s the two of you expressing your love together that is the real important key element of your wedding day, and so let this other stuff roll off your back. There’s always going to be an aunt or someone who says something stupid. A little bit too much wine, and they regret it, they know it, so just let it go.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah I get you.
Kimberly Vaughan: Focus on what’s important.
Jenn T Grace: So as a wedding planner, is that part of their jobs to help educate any ancillary service that’s going to be needed? So it’s obvious that you’d want to prep the florist who has a big part of the day, or prepping the Justice of the Peace for example. But in terms of like a limo driver, which is obviously a big part of the day, but it’s really kind of a small part in the grand scheme of things. Is there somebody that’s kind of trying to pre-educate to avoid those types of faux pas?
Kimberly Vaughan: Absolutely.
Jenn T Grace: Okay.
Kimberly Vaughan: Absolutely. So if couples are utilizing wedding planners, and that’s a wonderful service. So wedding planners can do the screening for you, they can help you with your timeline, your budget, take your vision and really kind of mold it into your budget, and figure out what’s the best course of action to go into. A really, really wonderful profession and underutilized I think in our industry by couples. Most of the time couples think that they can’t afford one because every time you see a wedding planner in the movies or on TV, it’s for these big elaborate events, and so people have the mindset that wedding planners are only for the rich, and only for high dollar events, and that’s just not true. So that’s a whole other conversation but that is definitely not true. Your average wedding can accommodate in the budget to have a great wedding planner. So I highly recommend them. And wedding planners should be the person that is doing screening, that is helping to educate providers. Typically wedding planners have a circle of providers that they call upon all the time, and refer because they believe in their work, because they know that they’re going to show up on time, provide a great service, communicate well with their couples, those kinds of things. So that should be that person’s role, and sometimes when you’re working with a planner who’s doing day services and they have not been part of the selection process, they’re just there to kind of tighten everything up, and make sure everything runs smoothly so that a couple can focus on each other, and their family, and not on little dumb details like- not dumb, but you know what I mean. When’s the cake going to be here, when are the flowers arriving, where’s the minister, things like that. Those are the things you don’t want to think about on your wedding day, you want to leave that to professionals. So sometimes you’re just hiring a planner for day of services, and they haven’t been part of your screening process, so they don’t know. But you hope that they’re having a conversation prior to- day services typically start ten days to two weeks prior to a wedding, so you hope that they’re picking up the phone and going over these things. But if you’ve got the wrong hire, and the wedding planner realizes that you’ve got the wrong hire, it might be too late, and you might just have to make the best of it and run with that person, and really hope that your planner is tightening things up.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, that makes sense. Do you think that there is any benefit that you as someone part of the LGBT community may gain versus someone who’s not for doing the same type of role for a client? In terms of I guess-
Kimberly Vaughan: So this is a really great opportunity for LGBT owners to put their best foot forward. You understand your client base, you understand maybe some different ways to express ceremonial wow so to speak in these weddings. And sometimes that’s half the battle, especially in terms of marketing and reaching the community. Well you know how to reach the community, you have a good idea of how to network within the community, it’s a very tightknit community. So what we’re finding though also is just as- and any wedding owner whether you’re straight or gay knows this. Marketing within the wedding industry is niche marketing. There’s a way to go about it, and there’s a way not to go about it. So whether you’re gay or straight-owned, you have to understand your marketing inside of the community. That’s a must. But I think that the advantage that LGBT-owned businesses would have here, is that you already understand your client base. Straight-owned businesses are really struggling in understanding how to accommodate the community because of media hype, because of their own fears, because they just haven’t had the opportunity yet, and many of them want that opportunity. So I think it’s a good way, especially if you are gay-owned businesses, to put that on your website, market that, promote it. I think it’s a really good idea.
Jenn T Grace: Would you guess that LGBT people might be more comfortable doing business in regards to their wedding with other LGBT people who are service providers?
Kimberly Vaughan: I do think that there’s probably a preference; we all know, we see it all the time, there’s certainly a preference to work with LGBT-owned businesses because of the feeling of comfort and understanding of needs. There’s a couple that we’re working with down in Texas, they’re actually getting married on the 20th next Saturday right after the LGBT Wedding Party and Expo. So they’re getting married in Dallas, they don’t live in Dallas, they live in a very rural area in Texas and they were having a very hard time finding a venue that they felt comfortable at, that was welcoming. So they were very excited to have this opportunity for them. It’s happening, it’s happening all over the place. There aren’t always gay or straight-owned businesses that are rolling out the welcome mat for couples. And it’s the sad truth that the community is experiencing. So would a couple prefer? Probably. That could very well be, but there are also in many other providers who are straight-owned that can do a fabulous job and might match their vision of what they’re trying to achieve, or might be available on the day of their wedding. There’s only so many Saturdays in a year, and there are only so many providers, and there’s not one LGBT-owned, gay-owned florist in any city who can accommodate every Saturday for every wedding. So having that diversity is going to be- it’s needed, it’s wanted, I think everyone feels that we all want to see inclusion across the board.
Jenn T Grace: And so if there’s somebody listening to this, because as you were talking I was thinking about the media hype, and how things get blown so out of proportion whether it’s in our favor or against us, it doesn’t matter, it’s just everything is to an extreme, it’s not helpful. So in thinking about the bakery who refused to bake the wedding cake for an LGBT couple. Like yes, so there’s a piece of that, and I feel like I’m very pragmatic and I always look at things from both sides of the situation, and to me if someone doesn’t want to bake me a damn wedding cake, there are 1,000 others that will bake the cake. I don’t need to throw a shitfit about this particular vendor not wanting to do business with me. So there are people who have that train of thought, and then of course there are people in the community that have a completely different thought of like, ‘I want you to make my cake, you’re going to make my cake.’ So there’s extremes again. Now in terms of an ally listening to this, because I do have an ally audience as well, if there’s one thing that you could say to them that might get them to feel more comfortable? So maybe there’s somebody who has some kind of service that they could work with the LGBT community, not even necessarily weddings. What would you tell them? Like if there was just that one little nugget of wisdom that you think might help them take that first step in saying, ‘I feel comfortable enough to try this. It doesn’t mean I’m going to do it right the first time, but I’m going to try it.’ Is there something that you can think of that might make that a little more digestible?
Kimberly Vaughan: Well a couple things popped into my mind. One is for couples, if there’s someone that you’re just not feeling it, this is your wedding day. This is not a time for politics, this is not a time for social justice, that is not the expression that you want on your wedding day. Your wedding day is personal, it’s about the love that you share with your partner, and that should be the reflection. So if you’ve got someone who is gruff on the phone, making comments, I mean this really just is not the time and place to push the equality button and push for the rights. I really feel like there are plenty of other instances in life that could support that, there’s certainly opportunities every single day, but I kind of feel like weddings should have a special no pressure zone of just let’s not push the equality button. I just want people to focus on the love really. And nobody wants somebody at their wedding that’s going to provide bad services, or if it’s a pro, it’s like a no-fly zone for crappy people. We just don’t want them at these weddings. So I think that for businesses who really want to be a participatory business for couples, I think just being honest and expressing your experience and your intention. So we have a lot of businesses who want to provide services, who don’t necessarily know how, and it’s okay to say, “Your my first same-sex couple, and I’m really excited about your wedding, and I don’t know that I know all the right things to say. So I know how to make a great cake, and I know that I can take your vision and put that into the best cake that I can possibly give you, and I’m excited, and honored that you’ve selected me. So thank you for that. If I do something wrong, kick me under the table, correct me, help me be a better professional.” That’s what we’re asking of couples as well as providers.
Jenn T Grace: I feel like at least in my experience, and I think that you do bring up a good point that your wedding day probably isn’t the day to take some kind of activist road, and cause chaos that may or may not be necessary. I know for our wedding, and I was actually thinking when you were talking earlier about the benefit of having a wedding planner, and we did not have one, and I don’t know why we chose not to. I don’t think it was a conscious decision to do or not to do it. And I was thinking about all of the logistical stress that since I run events I’m like, “Oh doing my wedding just might be just the same as any other event,” and obviously that is not true. And I managed to pull it off because I knew enough people who were already active in the LGBT community, whether they were allies or actual LGBT vendors, which I tried to get as many as I could, and we even had the Lieutenant Governor of our state, who’s still the Lieutenant Governor, marry us because she has a sister who’s a lesbian and it was just kind of a passion for her to be able to marry- like we were her first lesbian couple to get married, which I think is so fun. And so I was thinking like I am stressed out about the fact that the frickin Lieutenant Governor is here, and I need to be like trying to like keep my shit together. So I feel like I was totally-
Kimberly Vaughan: It felt perfect, and everything’s perfect.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, I was like kind of all over the place.
Kimberly Vaughan: No pressure.
Jenn T Grace: No, not at all. My wife on the other hand who is a saint in many regards, she was just very calm, cool, collected, like ‘just chill, come on, just relax.’ Her dress was like falling off of her back because something got sewn wrong, and yet she was still like, “It’s fine.” She was so passive about the whole thing. But I know for us, we didn’t take a political tact necessarily, but we did make sure that we- of course having a politician officiating, that clearly adds a political element. But having all these LGBT vendors, and then having the allies who are properly in the know, I feel like it worked out really well. But that was a very conscious and deliberate, and it took awhile. So I can totally see how if something at our wedding had kind of gone off script if you will, I probably would have been- I feel like I would love to say that I wouldn’t have gone down like some kind of activist road, but I feel like I may have gone down that road because you’re so wound up when you’re getting married. Like it is what it is. So I think generally most LGBT people aren’t necessarily wanting to go from zero to sixty, from being just this calm rational person to irrational and an activist without something kind of happening in between to push them there. So do you think that that’s- and I’m trying to figure out the question.
Kimberly Vaughan: I don’t think that people are setting out- I just think that if you’re facing- during the selection process, if you’re facing some push, move on, these are not the right people for you. These are not the people that you want on your wedding day. You want to feel supported, you want to feel the love, you want to feel- even if it’s due to the proprietor, I mean we can all sense it when we’ve got someone who’s embracing us. That’s what we want on our wedding day. We want to feel supported, and loved, and that that provider is there to make our day as beautiful as they possibly can within their abilities. And it’s deserving, and it’s the way things should be. So all I’m saying is if during the process you’re feeling some pushback, like it’s just not the time to pick it up and turn it into a legal issue. Like just move on. I’m not saying let people trample right, I’m not saying let people treat you like dogs or anything bad, I’m just saying that it’s probably just not the time or place to pick up a fight. You’ve got a wedding to plan.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah you don’t have time for that.
Kimberly Vaughan: You’ve got celebration in your midst, and it’s time to really grasp onto that and not let anybody rain on the parade. So move on.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah I know for us the only hiccup we had was filling out our marriage license. So we got married in 2011, and marriage was legal in 2008 in Connecticut, and the marriage license paperwork was still not up to speed, so I had to do some crossing out on that, put two brides. But that was like I feel like it is unreasonable for me to think that in a matter of- and while yes, it was three years, I feel like maybe it could have moved a little faster, to think that everything’s going to be up to par and immediately, like overnight in terms of LGBT equality. And I think most people, most LGBT people understand that and realize that it’s going to take some time. So I think that if people are thinking about doing business with the community broadly, or if they’re thinking specifically about weddings, I think most LGBT people are coming from a place of recognizing that they don’t expect that vendor to be perfect. And if they make a mistake, if that vendor kind of owns the mistake saying like, “Oh I’m sorry I said groom, or said bride,” I think it’s a completely two way open dialogue between the LGBT person and the vendor, because most of them are not out there to criticize and chastise, I think it’s just what the media makes it look like, it’s not really the reality.
Kimberly Vaughan: Exactly, and I agree with you, and I think that those are things that we discuss when we’re talking with, and working with companies, businesses, is let’s just fine tune and go down through your forms, let’s talk about gender neutrality on your website, let’s talk about it in your forms. It’s really important that if your intention is to provide services to the community that you are really demonstrating that; that you have taken thoughtful preparation, that you’re rolling out the red carpet, that people feel welcomed, and accommodated and loved. So that’s certainly a place where businesses can express their understanding, or at least their desire to understand the community. And it’s funny because in many ways I feel like a lot of the businesses have been a little bit more proactive, and they don’t want to be anti-government than maybe some of the forms that we’re seeing at the state and local levels. And it’s like guys, come on. I get that you’ve got probably 50,000 of these forms already printed, and it’s going to require you to reprint all this stuff, but it is what it is. Time to get the printer going.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah I feel like-
Kimberly Vaughan: For some of the smaller businesses it’s probably an easier task than for the large government entities to revamp every form under their umbrella. So all of this is going to take time, and I think we all had hoped that it would move along a lot faster, and that it would have been enveloped a lot faster, but this is not easy stuff. It was long overdue, as much as the community would have liked that everyone prepared beforehand, it didn’t happen, and in many respects the world is scrambling to be to par. And I like the process. The process means we get to take an opportunity to educate, to train, to understand the community. I think it’s really an opportunity, and not- it’s frustrating but this is an opportunity for more people to understand the community, and see the beauty. It’s all good stuff.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah I’m in complete agreement, and I don’t want to quote the right wing necessarily, but we have changed the institution of marriage. Like we can’t expect because it was legalized last year that suddenly hundreds of years of what marriage was thought to be is just going to change overnight. So we do need to be I think a little more realistic about how long things take.
Kimberly Vaughan: And let’s embrace the process, because this is going to change and evolve for many, many years to come. I mean this is just like a starting point, and we in the wedding industry just as we see trends change by season, whether it’s the colors of weddings, or symbolism; we have a whole new culture and community contributing to how weddings are going to look going forward. And that is extremely exciting for wedding professionals, I mean everyone is just kind of like, “Oh my goodness, what’s going to happen this season?” It’s exciting for everyone to watch all the symbolism and the changes in trends. We’re all on bated breath trying to see where this new direction is going to head into design wise, aesthetically speaking and symbolically speaking.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, definitely. Well we’re already pretty much at the end of our time. It went by so fast, but I want you to share how people can find you, how they can find more information about LGBT weddings, and just kind of hit them with all the information to get in touch with you.
Kimberly Vaughan: So you can find us at www.LGBTWeddings.com, that’s our URL. You are welcome to call our 800-number. 844-899-LOVE, and we’ve got a lot of seminars developing for wedding industry businesses to learn about the current trends, how to express gender neutrality, and change their forms, and change how they approach their business for the community, and how to market to the community, and at the end of the certification process there’s this free badge, and the badge I think is a good way to express to the community that you know what? I’m doing due diligence, I’m learning how to address my marketing, I’m learning how to address the community, and that you’ve got a provider who’s really trying to be a great performer for you. So look for the badge of course, and we’re also developing some online seminars for couples to go through the planning process just like you and your wife had experienced, there’s now some online planning tools specifically for the community; bride/bride, groom/groom, bride/groom, bride/groom. So we’ve got some great tools like seating charts, and timeline, and checklist, and budget list, and things like that that will help couples through the planning process. So we’re doing good stuff, and I’m really excited about where the world is taking us. We got to experience that at the expo last weekend, and we did a workshop with couples, we did a workshop with businesses. Jenn, you and I shared Kimberly [Inaudible 00:50:33], you had Kimberly [Inaudible 00:50:35] on stage, you had Stacy at Foxwoods, you had-
Jenn T Grace: Louise.
Kimberly Vaughan: Louise at Cafe Louise. And these were all great contributors in our industry that are providing services within the community. So that was really wonderful. So we’re trying to incorporate programs like that across the nation to really be the bridge between industry and community. So We love to hear from wedding providers, we love to hear what trends are being seen in the area because we all know the east coast trends and traditions are very different from the west coast, and the south, and so these are the exciting things that we’re looking at on an industry level, and it’s going to be true within the community whether it’s by location, time of year, we’re going to see a lot of seasonal changes. So we love hearing from wedding professionals what they’re seeing, and we love receiving stories from couples, and sharing those online as well. So we’ve got our real weddings where couples can go on there, see what other couples are doing, see what’s trending, what’s happening, and I think it’s a fabulous site with a lot of educational value as well as a lot of- for both couples and for businesses. So it’s a fun place, and wedding planning is a joyful process. It’s supposed to be a contingency, and so taking all of the politics out of everything and focusing on having fun with the planning process. That’s what www.LGBTWeddings.com is a site that’s all about, and really helping everyone to have the tools that they need whether they’re a business or a couple in the planning act.
Jenn T Grace: I love it. It’s an all-around fantastic resource. So thank you again Kimberly, I’m so happy that you were on, and I know that we will continue to stay in touch.
Kimberly Vaughan: Thank you Jenn, thanks for having me today. Everybody have a great day!
Jenn T Grace: Thank you for listening to today’s podcast. If there are any links from today’s show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.