The knowledge that same-sex couples were getting married en masse like so many Moonies up there in granola-gobbling, hippie San Francisco might have lent an especial pep to the second annual Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Wedding Expo, held on Sunday, Feb. 22, at the flesh-colored Wyndham Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood.
The air smelled of cheese: There was a large communal pot of fondue just inside the entrance. Two Fabio types were strumming Spanish guitars, trying to look soulful. Lovers strolled listlessly through various salons (the “Grand,” the “Debussy,” the “Chopin”), amassing armfuls of free promotional literature.
The Expo was co-organized by Desiree Hargrave, 25, a loan processor at Premium Finance Company, and her partner Kimberley Sikes, 35, a director of housekeeping and laundry at a hospital, after they saw an episode of the miniseries Gay Weddings on Bravo, in which a pair of lesbians trying to schedule a wedding were rebuffed by a venue manager in Marina Del Rey.
“Here in Los Angeles!” said the heavyset, still-incensed Ms. Hargrave, standing near a tootling flute trio and some freeze-dried floral dioramas. “It was like, ‘I don’t want to deal with that, because I’m a hothead-I’ll kill somebody.’”
A few feet away, pierced representatives from a company called Outvite.com, a spin-off of eInvite.com (not to be confused with the widely loathed Evite.com), were hawking a selection of stationery that included sample “birth” announcements for a hypothetical lesbian couple’s pet cat. Joanne Laipson, the director of business development, said demand for Outvites surged after Massachusetts’s highest court ruled the ban on gay marriage unconstitutional in November. “Then there was a little bit of backlash and we tapered off a little bit, and then the San Francisco thing happened,” she said. “It ebbs and flows.”
There seemed to be no part of the traditional wedding experience that had not been sliced, diced and arranged into a fan onto a folding table to entice gay consumers, from the stretch limo (“You certainly don’t want to be alone in a car on the happiest day of your life with a homophobic driver,” said Faith Landsman of Metro Limousine), to the cake (“We’re definitely seeing brighter colors, much more vibrant colors,” said Jesus Ornelas of Topozios Cake Artistry), to the music. Several couples rocked out to the beat as Janet Jackson’s “All for You” played over the loudspeakers. D.J. Steve Stephens of Sound Masters, a sympathetic straight fellow, had donned a lavender shirt for the occasion.
“I’ve never actually done a gay-oriented type of wedding,” he said. “But sooner or later it’s going to become legal, and I think that’s probably the way it should go. I’ve done ‘regular’ wedding shows, and I have a better vibe from this one.”
At 3 p.m., there was a fashion show, best left undescribed.
In the main ballroom, Catherine Burris, 30, a theater student, and Elaine Tse, 38, an actress, were thumbing through a binder full of formal wear by the likes of Oscar de la Renta, including zoot suits and white “intrigue” vests in ivory and buttercup. They said they lived in the Miracle Mile area but were planning a “simple and spiritual” ceremony somewhere in Berkeley, near the redwoods, to celebrate five and a half years together.
“It’s not like a fairy tale,” Ms. Tse said. ” She was more into the wedding. I thought because I was gay, I was denied this kind of opportunity. But then I said, ‘Why not?’
“I think I’m going to wear a dress,” she added.
“We’re going to end up combining a lot of traditions,” Ms. Burris said. “We just decided that we’re going to jump the broom” (an American custom that was widely practiced in the U.S. during the slave era, when slaves were not permitted to marry).
A couple of tables over, Yolanda Gutierrez-Williams, a part-time police officer from Queens who is married to a man she met on the force, was doing a brisk business in ribbon-festooned brooms. For $130, one could buy the rhinestone-encrusted “Hollywood” model, with twin pink “woman” symbols dangling off the end. “I sensed a marketing opportunity,” she said.
Ronaldo and Ociel, both 34 and banquet employees of the Wyndham, were examining “homo”-moon opportunities in Iceland. They seemed to think the whole thing was pretty tacky.
“This is just the beginning of something. It’s gotta be an evolution,” Ociel said. “I really want the law to change so I can get married. I want the benefits and I want it to be real, not just a little game for men.”
“I don’t care if it’s not legal,” Ronaldo said, shaking a blond forelock out of his eyes. “I could have a party on the beach-everybody wearing linen, nice shoes, lots of champagne …. ” The two men linked arms.
As 4 o’clock drew near, the mood grew celebratory as certified officiant Deborah Gordon, a.k.a. “Minister Deb,” prepared to unite Lelani Nonies, a nonprofit worker, with Bridget Urmacher, a student from Cal State, Dominguez Hills. Ms. Gordon was bouncing on the balls of her toes, bubbly about an impending trip to the Bay Area to cheer on the troops, suggesting that when the political activism up there merged with the crass capitalism here in the Southland, the old statutes were sure to buckle.
“People are going to Beverly Hills and trying to get same-sex wedding licenses and being denied-but how long can they keep that up?” she asked. “Business is booming!”