I was recently asked a really interesting question by an industry colleague. Maryann Goetsch, Founder of Pridezillas.com wanted to know how brides and grooms can make sure they’re hiring an experienced, gay-friendly wedding planner who uses gay and gay-friendly vendors. At first, I was taken aback. Obviously, you can tell if a wedding planner is a good choice for a gay couple by looking at their website and testimonials… but then again, maybe it’s not all that obvious.
When I planned my first gay wedding, the clients knew they were my first gay couple. I didn’t represent that I’d planned gay weddings before and they didn’t care. However, I was able to tell him, quite honestly, that Vieques is a gay-friendly island and a number of the vendors and venues we regularly use are gay-owned. That was enough for them – thank God! – and so I had my first gay wedding to plan. As soon as that wedding was posted on the web, I started getting slammed with gay wedding requests, and a large chunk of my clientele has been gay and lesbian ever since.

But the question made me step back and think about what brides and grooms should be looking for when they research and interview professional wedding planners because what you see on company websites isn’t always what you get. We ONLY use pictures from our own weddings, but a number of my competitors have no scruples at all and will post pictures they steal from other successful planner’s sites. Do not assume that seeing gay wedding pictures posted means they’ve actually planned gay weddings. And having no experience doesn’t mean they couldn’t plan your wedding, but you – the potential client – should absolutely positively know the true experience level of any consultant you’re hiring to coordinate such an auspicious day.

Look for client testimonials from gay clients. Ask for a gay reference if you doubt the veracity of what they’re telling you they’ve planned. Actually contact the references – do you know that half the people who ask me for references never actually contact them? That’s crazy. You could be looking at a phone number for their cousin. A few well planned questions can reveal a lot when you chat with them. And always ask to chat on the phone – email references are wayyy too easy to fake.

Ask them to tell you about gay-owned or gay-friendly vendors they work with – not that those will necessarily be the caterers or florists you choose – but ASK if they are available. It’s also perfectly okay to ask your potential future wedding planner what his or her views are regarding gay marriage. After all, it’s your wedding day and you don’t want to hire somebody who isn’t 100 percent supportive of your union. Because of the economy, there are planners out there who previously said they’d NEVER do gay weddings and are advertising for them now. Don’t get taken in by somebody who won’t truly appreciate glitter jokes and neon.

If you choose a straight wedding planner and, at some point, she makes a stupid statement that could be construed as ignorant or offensive, try to be kind when you point it out to her. None of us are perfect. I made a joke about “knowing who was the bride” to one half of my first gay couple. He was kind enough to tell me that my remark offended him, and I was horrified I’d hurt his feelings. I realized how insensitive it was coming from me, his wedding planner. And I haven’t said something like that again unless the client made the joke about himself first. Fortunately, the client forgave me my faux pas and we had a lot of fun planning their wedding and it turned out absolutely beautiful. But it was a stupid thing to say on my part and I’m a lot more careful now. Something I might joke about with my gay besties may not be appropriate to say to a client with whom I do not share the same level of personal intimacy.

So what are the key things to identify in selecting a wedding planner for your gay wedding:
1 – Make sure they’ve actually planned gay weddings.
2 – Check references if there isn’t enough really reliable info already out there (you guys saw me officiate a gay wedding on “Wedding Island” so it’s rare I get my gay credentials questioned).
3 – Ask about the availability of gay-friendly vendors and gay-owned businesses in the area where you’re getting married. Find out if the planner has actually worked with any of them.

Finally, make sure you like the wedding planner that you choose to hire. Don’t hire somebody because he or she is your only option. Switch destinations before you put the most important day of your life in the hands of somebody you don’t trust to know what they’re doing and who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. By the end of an initial consultation, most brides and grooms can tell if they like my warped sense of humor or not. Some can’t stand me and so they don’t hire me. The ones who do have a great time planning and do a lot of laughing while we get the work done.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from www.WeddingsinVieques.com and www.WeddingsinCulebra.com! And check out my new website at www.SandyMalone.com for more answers to the mysterious questions of wedding planning!

Sandy