Being a Culturally Inclusive Wedding Venue

Wedding venues wanting to reach a broader clientele should research and understand the needs of the couples they would like to serve.

In the multicultural context that we live in, that would include an in-depth understanding of the dos and don’ts and sensitivities of each culture they wish to attract. It is only by doing so can they adequately address and fulfil those needs, and it is only then that they can ‘speak’ authentically to each culture.

Couples need to see themselves represented in the venue’s communication to help build up a comfort level with their potential clients. This must be conveyed through the use of language and images in all forms of communication including website, social media and marketing collateral.

Research shows that around 70% of millennials are more likely to choose one business over another if that business demonstrates inclusion.

Research shows that around 70% of millennials are more likely to choose one business over another if that business demonstrates inclusion. Does your communication to potential clients show inclusivity in terms of race, age and sexual orientation – for example same sex and cultural weddings?

Each culture will have its specific customs, requirements and features that a venue can display in their marketing material. It takes the guess work out for couples looking for a venue that is the right fit for their culture and its requirements. For example, to attract Asian or Middle Eastern couples, you may show a photograph of hands with a beautiful henna design or a ‘mandap’ which is a temporary four-pillar covered structure decorated with flowers where the main wedding ceremony takes place. For a Jewish wedding, you could have an image of a ‘chuppah’ or wedding canopy, said to offer protection from evil spirits. For some couples it may be the food that’s the most important element and having different catering options (such as African Caribbean, Kosher or Asian suppliers to recommend) this will immediately convey to couples that you are familiar with and cater to their culture.

Finding solutions

Indian weddings (Hindu/Jain communities) require a fire as part of the religious ceremony. Can your venue accommodate that? If not at present, can you find a creative solution?

For an indoor ceremony, the flame is small (not a bonfire… a common misconception!) and the couple and priest would be happy to work with a venue to determine how big the flame can be. The fire element is only needed for about ten minutes and the priest then immediately extinguishes the flame. International chains of hotels allow the use of fire; this should give other venues comfort in knowing that such challenges are surmountable.

A suggestion would be to temporarily switch off the fire alarm in one room for the short duration or to work within flame size restrictions. Explore ways to see if you can manage this within your health and safety regulations and procedures, allowing you to offer Asian weddings.

What if you haven’t yet held weddings for different cultures at your venue but would like to expand and offer such a service? You want to be culturally inclusive and represent the melting pot of cultures in the UK (and abroad); you are also conscious that it makes commercial sense and can be lucrative.

Why not organise a styled shoot at your venue? This will furnish you with sumptuous and vivid professional photographs showcasing your venue as a beautiful backdrop featuring all the relevant aspects of each culture you wish to attract. Use these photographs across all your communications; they will capture the imagination of your potential couples. Plan ahead and seek out a diverse supplier base that you can work with going forward.

How big is your venue? Asian weddings often have a large number of guests; can your venue accommodate them? Explore creative solutions to increase numbers so you don’t turn away potential clients due to lack of space.

What about cultures that have multi day weddings, with events spread out over a number of days? For example, a Hindu wedding typically has three main events spread over three days, starting with the ‘mehendi’ or henna party. The following evening is the ‘sangeet’ or music programme for the couple’s friends and families. This would be followed by a meal or snacks. What can you offer such cultures? How about a weekend/multi day package? What can you upsell? Give it serious thought and come up with unusual and enticing offers that provide added value to your guests and additional revenue for your business.

Food, glorious food

Food is one of the highlights of weddings, especially cultural weddings. Couples will seek out venues that currently offer or are open to offering different cuisines. They would want fusion food at a multicultural wedding where they can combine different flavours and food influences.

Food is one way a couple can inject their personality and heritage into the wedding. Food and drink are also the perfect way to blend cultures, introduce cultures and represent cultures at a wedding. Be creative with your catering and look beyond your set menus or suppliers. Couples would expect venues to accommodate different cuisines, whether that is your in-house catering or working with reputable external caterers (of which there are many!). For example, you could have a rum punch or a non-alcoholic exotic fruit punch to add a Caribbean flavour to your drinks reception. Or a mango bellini, tamarind margarita, a chai-tini or lassi for an Indian wedding. Put on your creative thinking cap!

At weddings food always gets talked about and remembered, so make sure your caterer is up to the job, and there’s enough so it never runs out!

At weddings food always gets talked about and remembered, so make sure your caterer is up to the job, and there’s enough so it never runs out!

Caterers should also accommodate dietary requirements. Certain Indian communities will only want vegetarian food at the wedding (for religious reasons) so venues need to ensure there are ample vegetarian options when they show a couple their wedding menu and during the food tasting. Vegan options should also be available due to the growing popularity of veganism. If meat is allowed, you should also provide sufficient vegetarian options.

A Kosher menu for Jewish weddings would be required.

Muslim wedding feasts called walima may want to offer dishes made from fish, chicken and rice, considered traditional symbols of fertility. Certain Indian weddings including Muslim weddings do not allow alcohol due to religious reasons so bear that in mind when sending packages and calculating costings. Couples may want a consumption bar or choose not to have any bar packages.

Dancing usually follows food in many cultures, including Indian, African and Jewish weddings. Does your venue have a room big enough to accommodate a dance floor? Do you have DJs/live entertainment acts that know about music of different cultures on your preferred supplier lists?

Final words

The more you can understand, think ahead and anticipate the requirements of each culture you are aiming to attract, the more services and suppliers you can provide your clients. This saves couples much valuable time while reducing stress and makes your venue sought after and the go-to place for weddings of all types; this not only promotes your brand but also makes your business commercially successful.

Look at your work colleagues – are they diverse? Do they have a seat at the table? Are their voices heard? Look at your preferred supplier lists – are they all-inclusive?

Cultural awareness gives businesses the edge to stand out, extend customer base and strengthen brand recognition. This solidifies your reputation and increases sales.

Cultural awareness gives businesses the edge to stand out, extend customer base and strengthen brand recognition. This solidifies your reputation and increases sales. Now more than ever, whether you are a single venue or a chain of venues, it is essential for businesses to be all-inclusive and representative of the world we live in. Review your language, imagery and the experience for your couples as they enquire or have a venue showround.

Authenticity is key in all business dealings and offerings. Being authentically inclusive is a process; a conscious decision; it takes concerted effort and investment to become truly representative of today’s society. Create an environment where all couples feel they are listened to and genuinely fit.

Whilst there are some immediate things you can start to do (look at your imagery, your language – are you still calling it a bridal suite?) you should look to make diversity an ongoing goal at the heart of your brand. It should run through every aspect of your business, and not simply be a box to be ticked off. This will make everything you communicate, and your entire brand experience, consistent, considered, thoughtful, meaningful and authentic.

For further information or to have a confidential chat, please contact Vaishali Shah at Culturally Minded.

About Culturally Minded

Culturally Minded with Vaishali Shah is a cultural consultancy helping businesses successfully overcome the challenges posed by cultural differences and sensitivities. Founder Vaishali Shah can help businesses communicate effectively, create a favourable impression, take advantage of opportunities, build trust and expand their brand reach nationally and internationally. She will help to ensure partnerships and collaborations transcend cultural boundaries and to make sure that nothing is lost in translation.

Vaishali also runs two other businesses: Ananya and Creative ID.

Ananya is a cultural wedding and event stationery specialist renowned for its expertise in fusing different cultures to create stunning, opulent wedding and event stationery.

Vaishali has an unashamed love of life’s finer things. She is an avid follower of style and design and has a deep-rooted fondness for travel to exotic locations. All of these passions blend beautifully to create the sensational Ananya brand, which is passionate about encompassing the cultures of every bridal couple perfectly.

Offering an impeccable experience from design to delivery, Vaishali is widely known for creating her sophisticated culture-led designs with quality materials to the finest standards.

Creative ID is a boutique graphic design, branding and marketing consultancy, helping our clients be more visible. Our passion is designing, transforming and marketing your brand identity and translating it across print, online and other media. Innovation and great design from start up, to launch and beyond.

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Culturally Minded with Vaishali Shah is offering a 20% discount on her consultancy services to any Members that book with her by 30th September 2020.


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