By Anthony Costello, August 2015 Issue.
The day so many same-sex couples have waited for and worked toward is finally here: same-sex marriage is now just marriage – a nationally recognized union, equal to our straight counterparts.
For couples that have been holding out for this day – and newly engaged couple, too – the third annual Pride Guide Wedding & Honeymoon Expo is the perfect place to start planning your big day.
Within hours of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision June 26, which legalized same-sex marriage in all states, the expo reached its vendor capacity.
Attendees are invited to browse upwards of 130 vendors, spread across the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa’s 35,000 square-foot Sonoran Ballroom Aug. 23.
Pride Guide publisher Michael McFall, who created the expo to provide the LGBT community with a safe space devoid of discrimination, is taking the helm in educating this surge of new and returning vendors on the LGBT community.
“There’s tons of wedding expos out there, but they don’t know if they’re gay-friendly,” McFall said. “We host trainings with vendors … before the event. That way they know who they’re selling to and what the community’s common and diverse needs are.”
This year’s expo will feature a fashion show, as well as premier travel packages for destination weddings and honeymoons. Big-ticket prizes include a $35,000 wedding package offered by the Phoenician as well as accommodation packages for Mexico and Maui. Smaller prizes include discounts on flowers, cakes or other items.
This year, vendors range from traditional wedding needs (officients, photographers and florists) to LGBT-specific services (advocacy, fertility centers and especially fashion).
“It’s a little different, it’s geared toward the LGBT community,” McFall said. “A lot of guys aren’t wearing tuxedos like they used to. We’ll have some pieces with shorts, and very up-to-date fashions, so it’s not going to be just bridal gowns. We’ll also have a suit, tuxedo collection for women who don’t want to wear dresses.”
As a result of marriage equality, McFall expects to see a shift in the wedding industry.
“[We’re] going to see a lot of people with set dates coming into the expo. We’re going to get more serious couples and recently engaged ones,” McFall said. “Of the ones who’ve gotten married already, I think some of them haven’t even gone on their honeymoons yet, or even had receptions, but the expo provides options for all couples in various stages of their weddings.”
According to McFall, wedding vendors are introducing changes to meet the diverse needs of the couples they’re encountering.
“A lot of our return vendors already have paperwork that [is] LGBT inclusive,” he said. “[Similarly], we don’t call the expo a bridal expo because it excludes grooms. I think you’re going to start seeing the term ‘bridal’ disappearing altogether soon.”
Cicely Rocha-Miller of MRSter – Modern Union Experts (mrster.com) has her fingers on the pulse of the LGBT community and finds that, for a community whose marriage rights have been kept from them for so long, it’s all about making the ceremony as personal as possible, regardless of whether tradition or trendy is the overall goal.
“Formal weddings are coming back, more eloquent and a little more spending,” she said. “And, on the flipside, backyard weddings are very hip right now as well. People are focusing more on experiences, it’s about that ‘home’ feeling.”
However, no same-sex wedding is complete without some flair and style to complete the experience, and according to Rocha-Miller, this season it’s all about lively, bright colors and unique festivities that couples want to include in their weddings.
“Green is very hot right now, as well as white along with soft pastel colors and lights of bright colors seen in fashion,” she said. “The plated experience is something that never goes away. However, seeing your chef create your meal or choosing your own ingredients and lighter food is really hot right now.”
Similarly, she added that wedding cakes aren’t as big of a deal as they once were.
“Little things like gelato stations and gourmet popcorn stations are taking off,” she said. “Couples are downsizing their wedding cakes so they can still celebrate the ritual cutting of the first slice of cake, while devoting the money saved … to fund other parts of their wedding.”
While McFall expects the trend of same-sex couples seeking out the services of same-sex vendors to continue, Rocha-Miller urges same-sex couples to broaden their vendor selection criteria, especially at the expo – the ideal place for browsing allied vendors, like herself.
“One trend I want to encourage within the LGBT market is to stop being scared of vendors,” Rocha-Miller said. “There are people outside of the [LGBT] community who are excited and waiting to serve and celebrate your commitment.”
Rocha-Miller encourages same-sex couples to branch out in search of the vendors that will compliment their unique story.
“When the guests leave they need to know it’s your story,” Rocha-Miller said. “It’s not about pretty decorations or the champagne, it’s always about the story you tell.”
Pride Guide Wedding & Honeymoon Expo
11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 23
JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa
5350 Marriott Drive, Phoenix