What is Heteronormativity?

Definition

What is heteronormativity? Heteronormativity, or to be heteronormative, by definition is “of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.” (Merriam-Webster) Normal is defined as “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected” or “the usual, average, or typical state or condition.”

Heteronormativity in the Wedding Industry

Heteronormativity is hugely prevalent in the wedding industry. This is largely based on the fact that, in Western society, marriage is an institution promoted by the church. Many churches still emphasize that God created marriage as a loyal partnership between a man and a woman. Churches have a deep history of denouncing homosexuality and invalidating the credibility of LGBTQ+ marriages. As many people turn to religion as a guidebook for their beliefs and values, it is simply accepted that heterosexual marriage is “normal” and homosexual marriage is not.

Heteronormativity is predominant in every part of the planning process. From wedding planning books filled entirely with images of heterosexual couples, to forms with fields automatically labelled “bride” and “groom”, to ceremony scripts and readings that outline responsibilities of man and wife, to hugely gendered wedding traditions like the man proposing, taking the groom’s last name, the father giving away the bride, having completely gendered wedding parties, the father/daughter dance and mother/son dance, and the bouquet and garter toss. Virtually every aspect of a wedding has been traditionally gendered in favour of heteronormativity.

How Heteronormativity Harms LGBTQ+ Couples

Heteronormativity harms LGBTQ+ couples because it makes them feel invalid and unrecognized. Wedding planning is an exciting season of a couple’s life because we are encouraged to envision our wedding day from an early age. Imagine growing up with ideas of what your wedding will look like one day, only to be met with opposition and feelings of otherness. When an LGBTQ+ couple encounters an industry website using heteronormative language and without any LGBTQ+ representation, they are forced to question if their business is welcome, or if their marriage will truly be celebrated.

LGBTQ+ couples deserve to plan their weddings without fear of being forced into boxes they don’t fit or being denied on the basis of who they love. They deserve to see themselves in portfolios, on wedding blogs and published in wedding magazines. They deserve to feel celebrated and recognized.

Homework

How can you eliminate heteronormativity from your practice as a wedding industry professional? Follow along with my upcoming series of blog posts that will highlight various ways to be more inclusive in your business.

If you would like a simple way to start, look at your forms – your contact form, your contracts, any document you require your couples to fill out while interacting with your business. Are they labelled “bride” and “groom”? If they are, change them. Right now. You can use partner, spouse, marrier, or simply ask for their names. Recognizing that your forms do not need to be gendered is a good first step in doing the work to remove heteronormativity from your wedding business.

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