By Erin Flemming
Referendum 74 brings the hope that same-sex couples in Washington State may soon be able to tie the knot. With this new territory in mind, Jenny Harding, organizer of the One Love Wedding Showcase, hopes to create a place where all couples feel welcome to begin planning a life together.
The show, which will take place Saturday, Oct. 27, will feature 64 vendors in what Harding expects to be a “positive and upbeat” party atmosphere. The event will be held from noon to 5pm at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel in downtown Seattle and admission is free.
“I decided that I was going to create a show where couples could come and know that they would be treated just like anybody would be treated to plan their wedding,” she said.
Harding, who works as a wedding and event coordinator, said the One Love show is intended to serve as a place where LGBTQ couples can come without the fear of discrimination or assumptions about their relationships.
She said she’s heard stories from many same-sex couples of discrimination and awkwardness when inappropriate questions were posed like “Which one of you is the bride?” or “Who is going to be wearing the dress?” to lesbian couples, for example.
“A lot of people have said, ‘We feel like we have been treated like second class citizens’ – so why would they ever think that they could throw this fabulous wedding?” she said. “There’s all kinds of fun, amazing things you can do for your wedding day. [We wanted to] really just showcase that to them.”
While the show is marketed as a LGBTQ show, Harding said all couples are welcome.
“We wanted to make it clear that this is a safe place to come,” she said. “However, anyone who is getting married and is supportive of love of any form would be welcome at this show.”
The cause of marriage equality is personal to Harding, as well. One day, she said she’d like to get married to her partner. Harding said the increasing support for marriage equality that she’s seen in the wedding industry has been encouraging.
“Everybody is very excited,” she said. “There’s very few businesses that are not supportive. They’re definitely still out there, but as a businessperson…whether they have been involved in the LGBT community or not, they’re going to look at Referendum 74 being approved as a great added bonus to their business.”
Rich Kaalaas, owner of Rein Fire Ranch, a vendor at the show, agreed that same-sex marriages are discussed more and more widely accepted in the wedding business. Kaalaas, who is gay, said the idea of a marriage show for all couples, gay or straight, is important.
“We’re not looking at having gay weddings; we’re looking at having marriage equality,” he said. “You’re not going to eat gay food, you’re not going to throw gay flowers…they’re weddings, and it’s a celebration between two people.”
That special celebration is something Tony Oteromarrero has been looking forward to since childhood.
“I have an idea that I’ve had my whole life in my head of what my wedding would be like, sort of like the fairy-tale that every girl has thought about,” the 32-year-old receptionist and floor manager at a hair salon said.
Oteromarrero has been engaged to his partner since July, and said he’s been long looking forward to attending a general wedding expo. However, he said he’s excited to find companies that are accepting and understanding about his relationship all under one roof.
He said that planning a wedding as a same-sex couple makes things a bit more complex. It’s important to find companies accepting of LGBTQ relationships, Oteromarrero added, but equally important that these businesses also understand his relationship.
“Having a photographer that’s never done a gay wedding before is not the same,” he said. “And not that the photographer has to be gay or straight, it doesn’t matter – but being able to capture those emotions is what does…not being able to understand who does that in your community is kind of hard.”
The showcase will feature representatives from wedding-related businesses, as well as companies representing the “next step,” in areas such as mortgage, real estate and lending. In addition, raffle tickets will be sold and the proceeds will be donated to Washington United for Marriage.
Erin Flemming is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.