News / Canada

Is love in the cards? Couple filling the void of LGBTQ-friendly greeting cards

After getting just one wedding card with two women on it, Canadian couple launches their own company to address the issue of LGBTQ representation in the wedding industry

A week before Kate Hofstra, right, and Kate Cowles tied the knot, Hofstra found the perfect present

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A week before Kate Hofstra, right, and Kate Cowles tied the knot, Hofstra found the perfect present

A week before her wedding, Kate Hofstra had picked the perfect present for her bride. But then she realized she'd forgotten to get a card.

So the 27-year old childcare provider from Saskatoon hopped in the car and headed to her local store. But there wasn't a single appropriate card for a celebration of same-sex love. After two more stops turned up nothing, she started calling stationery sellers around the city.

"There was nothing available," Hofstra said. "I had to whip my own up!"

That's what she did. And the beginnings of a business were born. Hofstra’s wife, Kate Cowles, is a whiz with watercolours, and together they started designing and printing LGBTQ-friendly greeting cards.

They call their venture Love is Proud, and are fundraising some of their start-up costs on the crowdsourcing site GoFundMe.

Their wedding convinced the couple there was a need for their business: Of 200 guests, they got just one card with two women on it. Some people even wrote an apology in their cards for not being able to find a suitable card, Hofstra said.  

Their aim, just as much as getting their business going, is to raise awareness about the lack of LGBTQ representation in the wedding industry and in cards specifically, Hofstra said.

Meghan Peckham, a 30-year-old social worker in Toronto, experienced that lack of inclusivity first-hand.

After eloping in August, she and her partner Jenny threw an intimate 55-guest celebration in Prince Edward County, Ont. on Sept. 10. But DIYing a lesbian wedding with décor from the craft store turned out to be harder than they thought.

Everything says bride and groom,” Peckham said. “The labels for the backs of chairs, the cake toppers say Mr. and Mrs … the bachelorette stuff is all, like, phallic.”

The pair got two copies of the same “Mrs.&Mrs” card from their guests, but the rest were gender-neutral.

The wedding world is “missing out on a huge market,” Peckham said.

It doesn’t have to be that way, says Bernadette Smith, president of the Gay Wedding Institute, which trains industry professionals in how to reach LGBTQ customers.

“I certainly thought Canada would be doing better,” at catering to gay couples by now, she said.

There’s been great progress, she said, but “There’s a lot of heteronormativity in the industry. It’s so traditional and based on the assumption of, and role of, one bride and one groom …  people get very hung up on that. Even the most non-traditional (wedding businesses) are still quite traditional.”

Smith once launched a clothing line for brides who want to wear suits, but had to abandon the project. She had some advice for the two Kates.

“They have to realize the size of market is not that big,” compared to the industry at large, she said, and “big guys” like Hallmark dominate the LGBTQ wedding space.

According to Statistics Canada, half the country’s same-sex couples live in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver or Ottawa. Hence, perhaps, the scarcity of LGBTQ-targeted cards in Saskatoon stores.

But Hofstra said “the demand is there”; meeting it just hasn’t been a priority.

For now, people can get Love is Proud cards as a perk for donating to the GoFundMe, or by messaging the team on social media. Hofstra said they’re more than happy to make custom cards for people of any sexual orientation and gender identity.

They’re working on a website to make ordering easier, but eventually they want to get cards on store shelves, Hofstra said.

“I know I’m not the only one on the way to the party, and you need the card.”

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