Nothing is more exciting—and stressful—than beginning the overwhelming task of planning your wedding. If you’re a person from a marginalized community, however, it only takes one bad meeting with a potential vendor to bring you plummeting back to reality from Cloud Nine.
Take Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, for example. They’re the gay couple who took a Colorado baker to the Supreme Court for refusing them service on religious grounds. They lost their case last year—though the court maintained that businesses do not have the First Amendment right to discriminate.
Many times, however, discrimination based on your sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity is more subtle, and the ramifications feel worthy of a Supreme Court case.
According to a 2017 study, 30 percent of female and 11 percent of male same-sex couples reported being turned away from vendors or felt uncomfortable due to their LGBTQ identity. And it’s unclear how many couples of color find themselves in similar situations. Anecdotally, though, we know it happens frequently.
Freelance journalist Jagger Blaec wrote about her experiences in 2016. When she was planning her wedding, she initially found herself in a lot of uncomfortable vendor meetings, which she attributed to the fact that she was a black bride meeting with white vendors. Every time she met with someone she was considering hiring, “that vendor would stare at me as if ET himself had just strolled in looking for Reese’s Pieces,” she writes.
This type of behavior, sadly, still happens frequently.
So Brides spoke with Spencer Potter, a wedding business expert at the National Wedding Council, for advice on mitigating the possibility of engaging with a vendor who’s prejudiced. Potter suggests couples do a little homework before investing too much time with a business. They should “openly ask vendors about their level of experience working with couples similar to themselves,” he tells Brides. “The vendor’s response should give a clearer picture of their compatibility. Couples can also review a vendor’s portfolio to get a sense of whether their client base is homogeneous or diverse.”
Aside from obvious rudeness, Gail Johnson, a master wedding planner based in Georgia, says there are other subtle red flags to be aware of when meeting with a potential vendor. “Look for any additional hidden fees or pricing not previously stated in their literature or website,” she tells Brides. “This could be a way to increase the pricing and drive you out. Did you discuss an option, and now that option isn’t viable anymore? This may be another red flag. For example, a vendor says [during your phone consultation] you can bring in table linens. But at a face to face meeting, the vendor states you have to rent linens from them at a ridiculous, higher price.”
Be sure to also pay attention to nonverbal gestures, body language, and their tone of voice, Johnson adds. “Do they look you directly in the eyes or have their arms folded? Do they cut you off in mid-sentence and appear not to listen to you questions? Are they constantly looking at their clock or watch in an effort to rush you out the door?”
If you have found yourself in the hurtful situation in which a wedding vendor clearly has an issue with who you are, there are a few ways to respond. For one, you can choose to move on with your search and try to leave this bad experience behind you, Johnson says. For some couples, however, that may be difficult.
Another option is to write an honest online review of what happened, which could help other couples avoid a similar situation. You may also consider seeking out legal counsel if you feel you have enough evidence to show you’ve been discriminated against by a business.
“Couple/vendor relationships are a partnership that requires mutual respect and compatibility,” Potter says, adding that it’s disheartening to hear any engaged couple feeling discriminated against during “what should be one of the happiest chapters of their lives.”