By Jessica Kamzan
Same-sex couples in Washington – some of whom have waited 10, 20, even 30 years to legally marry – are anxiously anticipating the outcome of Referendum 74. Last Saturday’s One Love Wedding Showcase, which took place at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel, was developed in light of this hopeful time and sought to provide all couples with the resources to turn their ideal wedding into a reality.
“With Referendum 74 on track to pass and provide equal rights on Nov. 6, One Love offers an opportunity for these couples to finally plan their celebration!” said Lesa Linster with Linster Creative, who helped market the event.
Jenny Harding, owner and wedding coordinator for New Chapter Weddings and founder of The One Love Wedding Showcase, said that so many couples haven’t even thought about a wedding before, “so this is for them. This is to celebrate them.”
The five-hour event attracted more than 300 attendees into a contemporary, party-like atmosphere with music, lights, white couches, candles and floral bouquets.
“I think that one of the biggest things that we can be proud of in the Seattle area is that we are a very diverse, open, accepting and forward-thinking group of people,” said Michael Peterson, event designer and floral manager with Rented Elegance, who helped create the ambiance for the event.
Peterson, who has been in the wedding business for more than 30 years, emphasized that there are “tons” of people in the wedding industry who are supportive and want to help same-sex couples make a beautiful wedding and “set their lives out on the right foot.”
More than 60 vendors were invited to the One Love Wedding Showcase, from venues and caterers to real estate and legal professionals. All vendors were pre-qualified and chosen based on their professionalism, service, support of marriage equality, and quality of product or service.
David Haggerty, co-owner of the catering business Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes, was among the event’s 14 official sponsors. Haggerty, who is happily married to his wife, says he has always been supportive of same-sex partners. In fact, his brother and business partner are both gay men.
“It’s kind of the norm in my life as opposed to the exception. … It’d be odd not to be here,” he said. He added that passing R-74 would also be good for their business. “It’s a great clientele base for us,” he said.
Washington United for Marriage volunteer Amy White stood close to Mr. Haggerty in the foyer, promoting Referendum 74.
“It’s a very politically exciting time in the state of Washington in terms of the ability that this state has to set a precedent that I think will have national impact,” she said. “… Our objective today is to remind them [attendees] about the importance of voting. … that we can’t do this without every single person taking the time to fill out their ballot and send it in on time.”
Jim Conant and Troy Thorpe, who have been partners for almost 10 years, were impressed with the event, referring to it as “amazing” and “phenomenal.”
“Nobody knows how much we fought to get here and to have people come out and present here because they believe in what we’re trying to do. That’s the key right there – that the belief is there. … they’re trying to help us build our life together,” said Thorpe.
Harding said she has spoken to couples who have been together for more than 27 years and want to start planning a wedding in anticipation of the approval of Referendum 74, but “have no idea where to start or maybe they did try to start somewhere and had a bad experience, because the vendor didn’t serve same-sex couples.” In fact, Harding said she called some vendors to ask if they served same-sex couples and received one “flat-out no.”
“It’s very personal to me,” said Harding, who has been dating her partner for three and a half years and plans to get married next year. Harding wants to experience signing a marriage license just like her straight clients do.
“People are going to love each other no matter what. … So why not just give us the same equal right that you already have? You’re not stopping us from being gay by not letting us sign this paper, so it’s just a simple civil-rights issue,” she said.
“Everyone deserves to celebrate love and everyone deserves to celebrate their commitment to each other. … Everybody deserves to have that day,” added Harding
Harding hopes to extend The One Love Wedding Showcase to other states in the future. Watch out Portland, One Love is coming to you next!
New Chapter Weddings and Events hosted the event in association with the Greater Seattle Business Association, with support from Washington United for Marriage.
Jessica Kamzan is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.