The Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce has been preparing for marriage equality for over a year. Last June, the LGBT Chamber began a membership initiative based on the wedding industry. When the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, work on the initiative stalled. The membership drive picked up again when the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, the LGBT Chamber immediately prioritized being the trusted source to find local LGBT-friendly wedding vendors.
“In Tennessee, it is legal for a business to deny providing services to people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Lisa Howe, Executive Director of the Nashville LGBT Chamber. “The LGBT community needs a safe place to find their wedding vendors, and LGBT-friendly wedding vendors need help connecting to the potential $37 million economic impact same-sex marriage will have in the state of Tennessee.”
The LGBT Chamber began leveraging wedding vendors who were already members to encourage their event partners to join. Wedding planners helped recruit caterers, venues helped recruit photographers, and so on. For members, the LGBT Chamber has offered educational opportunities. “We want to give our members every advantage when it comes to winning the business of same-sex couples,” Howe explained. “The staff needs to use language that meets the expectations of the same-sex couple and their family. The LGBT Chamber has offered several programs, including a webinar to help its members market to and work with the LGBT community.
Other initiatives in the wedding vendor program are a wedding vendor newsletter, a devoted WEDDINGS page on a new website, a panel discussion on How to Plan Your Wedding, and the LGBT Chamber organized a wedding vendor expo in June at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel.
There are also plans to partner with Perfect Wedding Guide to host a mock same-sex wedding in August at Hotel Indigo Nashville Downtown. LGBT Chamber members will get to show off their talents by designing the event from formal wear to florals. After the mock wedding, guests will learn more about the same-sex wedding market.
For the first time in three years, the LGBT Chamber has invested in getting the word out to the broader community that the LGBT Chamber is the place to find LGBT-friendly wedding vendors. “We designed ads and ran them in Out & About Nashville and the Nashville Pride Guide,” said Ron Snitker, LGBT Chamber Board Member and Marketing Committee Chair. “If you are planning a same-sex wedding in Nashville, the LGBT Chamber is the place to find your vendors.” The new mobile-friendly website will allow users to find LGBT Chamber members on the go and as soon as they see the ads.
LGBT Chamber leaders acknowledge there is still meaningful work to be done after marriage equality. President Brad Pinson added, “Tennessee is one of 32 states where a person can be fired based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. While the wedding vendor initiative has been an inspirational commitment to our members, the LGBT Chamber is committed to advocate for workplace equality and inclusive cultures for LGBT employees as it impacts the Nashville economy.”