The Stranger

The Stranger’s No-Goddamn-Bullshit Wedding Guide

The Stranger's No-Goddamn-Bullshit Wedding Guide

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Weddings Gone Wrong

It was just me and my notepad on the bus last weekend, heading toward the Seattle Wedding Expo. As a gay man whose longest relationship lasted all of 15 months, I must be up-front: A bazaar of bridal products feels less familiar to me than a Victoria's Secret in Yemen. But voters legalized same-sex marriage almost three months ago, and someday I might actually be in the wedding market—plus, it's literally my job to report on stuff—so I hopped off the bus and marched into Seattle Center.

Is the wedding industry—a $644 million annual market in the Seattle area—excited about legal gay marriage? Are they freaked out? Are the expos filled with fags now?

The Seattle Center Exhibition Hall is a sprawling place, a windowless white basement with deco pillars and rows of vending booths. The floor bustled with aunts, sisters, boyfriends, best friends, and engaged women with heart-shaped stickers affixed their bosoms that said "bride." But most importantly, there were mothers. "Moms want the wedding of their dreams—they are much more difficult than the brides themselves," said Tina Lipscomb from Moments to Treasure, a bridal shop in Bothell. In open showrooms, mothers smothered their daughters, who squeezed into ivory satin dresses, fighting with zippers, sweating, and craning backward to see the mirrors.

I gawked at the spectacle: Proprietors hawked cakes and dresses, of course, but also veils, jewelry, and table settings. There were toning creams, balloon displays, tiaras, tuxedoes, spray tans, chafing dishes, photographers—so many photographers—edible arrangements, traditional bouquets, honeymoons to Los Cabos, bed-and-breakfasts, balms, bakeries... and gay people were there to buy it all.

"We are doing the whole kit and caboodle," said Rob Stuart, 30, who drove from Portland with his fiancé, 29-year-old Thomas Van Klaveren, to shop for and plan a wedding this fall in Seattle. They came "with a ton of money" to spend in Washington State because same-sex marriage is legal here, Stuart said. According to the Wedding Report, which tracks these things, a Seattle-area wedding averages $29,155.

As you'd expect, many in the wedding industry are embracing this windfall of rainbow cash. "We have seen quite a few same-sex couples coming through today," Caity Garness at Love Blooms gushed, "but at the last show we did, in October, we only saw one or two." A booth nearby hung a big pride flag.

But there are holdouts, too. In America's gigantic wedding industrial complex—a $40 billion annual market in the United States—some are bristling at the prospect of taking two dudes as their lawfully wedded clients. In contrast to her own enthusiasm, Garness said, "I think you will hear that there are some officiants who aren't going to do it."

And she's not alone with that story. "I won't lie—I get a lot of calls from couples who are getting turned down at a lot of venues," said Amanda Bogue, who plans weddings at the Majestic Inn and Spa in Anacortes. She was positively thrilled to book gay weddings; she hosted one on New Year's Eve. "But nearly all the calls I've gotten from same-sex couples have said the same thing," she continued, recounting stories of gay clients who got the cold shoulder trying to rent a reception hall. "The reality is that not a lot of people are welcoming it like they should."

The whole wedding industry, it seems, is stubborn with tradition. Even more, it's on a sort of anachronistic leash. Mothers and fathers, who want their little princesses to have what they themselves didn't get, fuel the market, after all. And that means the parents buy what they want, what the previous generation wanted... never quite what the kids want. The wedding business, as a result, is at the vanguard of absolutely nothing.

As for Lipscomb, who runs the bridal shop in Bothell, she speculated that for those slow to embrace gay weddings, "it's not a cultural issue, it's just a change. I think that some of the business owners are older. People imagine that same-sex couples want something different. They imagine some flamboyant event, but they don't realize that these couples want a traditional wedding like everyone else. But who wouldn't want this business?"

Well, if someone doesn't want your gay-wedding cash, it's clear that plenty of people like Lipscomb are happy to take your money and provide great service. As she puts it, "Who doesn't want to sell two bridal gowns?" recommended