After historic ruling, wedding fever takes hold at Twin Cities Prideby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS — One month from today, the first same-sex wedding ceremonies will take place in Minnesota, and anticipation of that day was evident at Twin Cities Pride over the weekend.
Instead of an area for commitment ceremonies as there has been in previous years, there was a showcase for wedding businesses that want to help couples with their plans.
Twin Cities Pride began in 1972 as protest for gay rights. Last year, the community was fighting a same-sex marriage ban proposed for the state constitution.
After it was voted down and state legislators began talking about legalizing same-sex marriage, Dot Belstler, executive director of the nonprofit that runs Twin Cities Pride, knew this year would be different.
She started working in January on a new wedding section for the event with the Twin Cities GLBT magazine Lavender.
"We started the wedding showcase with a group of vendors who have been longtime advertisers in Lavender," Belstler said. "So we know that they're already committed to the community."
When the governor signed the Freedom to Marry bill in May, Beltsler said calls poured in from mainstream wedding businesses that wanted a booth at the event. She said she never thought about raising prices despite the increased demand.
"We probably could have capitalized on some of these wedding vendors," Belstler said. "But I think it's more important here for the organizations, the businesses that really support the community that they're here."
Belstler screened the companies, asking about their involvement with the gay community. She disliked a practice by some business owners who said they were setting up a separate web page to market to gay couples. Belstler does not support a "separate but equal" approach.
"That's not really being supportive," she said. "If an organization is supportive, they're going to incorporate the GLBT community into their current marketing."
In all, about 35 businesses and six bands made the cut. Many of those business owners realized their marketing materials needed an update, so they pooled their resources for photo shoot of gay couples in tuxes and gowns. The pictures covered the walls of a tent where wedding planner Julie Lyford operated at the center of the wedding showcase.
"We only used couples who were really in love and were in committed relationships," Lyford said, "because you can see the difference."
Many couples feel a little overwhelmed, Lyford said, since they had not thought about marrying in Minnesota because it was impossible.
"They can't open up brides' magazine and see themselves," she said, "and that is one of the reasons we had a photo shoot with couples who are real couples in daydreams of having their wedding. And then it happened to become legal."
Twin Cities florist Alice-Lynne Olson said the gay couples who have come to her have showed some preferences.
"They're looking for things a little bit more stylized and clean and classical, and not fluffy," Olson said. "Even the girls, they don't want fluffy. Fluffy, you know, baby's breath - what we used to call in the old design school days the 'roundy-moundy huggable hump.' They want to make a statement."
Other wedding businesses at Pride said appealing to new clients is just good business. According to the Wedding Report, a statistics site, the average wedding in Minnesota last year cost $22,884, and the state's wedding industry had a market value of $644 million. That could increase by 4 percent in the next year because of same-sex marriage, according to a study released by UCLA in April.
"We're good at what we do," said David Faber, operations coordinator at Event Lab in Minneapolis. "And if you want a gorgeous wedding, if you want a gorgeous event, you should come to us."
He estimated that thousands of people walked by his booth and said the company can handle many more clients.
"We are expanding already," Faber said. "We just switched in a new, bigger space for the offices and tackling more clients."
St. Paul resident Joe McManmon appreciated having gay-friendly wedding businesses in one place. He has tried before to go into stores that cater to couples getting married.
"Sometimes you walk in and you kind of have to be careful when you say, 'Well, would you mind doing a same-sex wedding?' and then you have to wait for their response," McManmon said. "Versus just being like everyone else who go in and say, 'Hey, I wanna get married, what do you have for me?'"
McManmon and his partner, Michael White, had a marriage ceremony three years ago.
"We went to the location, and we had it catered, and we had a minister and - we really kind of went all out for that thing," he said. "And this time around it's really the legal side of it."
The legal side is now meaningful because of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week that struck down a federal provision denying benefits to married same-sex couples.
McManmon and White are marrying in the Como Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul on Aug. 1, the first day possible in Minnesota. But this time, they say, they probably won't spend as much money.
- Morning Edition, 07/01/2013, 6:45 a.m.