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  • Randall Benton /

    Bobby Christian, left, and Sean Warren of Natomas carry bags full of information from various vendors during Tuesday's LGBT wedding expo at the Red Lion Hotel, Woodlake, in Sacramento.

  • Randall Benton /

    David Paul, a model at Tuesday's wedding expo at the Red Lion Woodlake Hotel for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples, tosses a bouquet to the crowd. About 500 people attended the event, which featured 80 area businesses.

  • Randall Benton /

    Dakota Pevino, center, and Chris Hedding, right, sample sweets at Tuesday's wedding expo offered by the Vanilla Bean Gourmet Cupcakery.

  • Randall Benton /

    Models Anne Fenkner, left, and Jennifer Garlan model wedding gowns. Attendees stopped at booths run by restaurants, hotel chains, bridal magazines and stationery design companies.

Sacramento businesses cater to same-sex couples planning weddings

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 - 8:30 am

It didn't take long for House of Fashion managers to update their bridal salon's window display.

On June 26, the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the fate of Proposition 8 meant same-sex couples could get married in California, the midtown store introduced a set of newly outfitted mannequins for its J Street display.

Each mannequin wore a different colored bridesmaid dress. Together, their outfits replicated the rainbow colors of the gay pride flag.

Updating the window display celebrated the legal victory for same-sex couples, but it also reflected an economic choice, signaling the store's awareness of a burgeoning consumer group, manager Jen Davis-Murai said.

"We have a prime location, adjacent to Lavender Heights," Davis-Murai said, referring to Sacramento's hub of gay and lesbian life at K and 20th streets. "So supporting the community, it's been really good."

Her mannequins' colored dresses took a temporary respite from J Street on Tuesday night to be displayed at Sacramento's first major wedding expo aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples.

Eighty area businesses purchased vendor slots at the Red Lion Hotel, Woodlake, exposition floor in an attempt to woo the interest of same-sex couples planning weddings.

To the background of DJ-ed music, more than 500 attendees stopped at booths run by restaurants, hotel chains, bridal magazines and stationery design companies.

"From an economic standpoint, money is green no matter whose it is," said Fred Palmer, one of the expo organizers. "Whether it's a little pink in color or a little rainbow in color, it's still money."

Over the next three years, an estimated 37,000 California same-sex couples are expected to get married, and the ceremonies are expected to generate $492 million in additional business revenue, according to UCLA's Williams Institute testimony in the Proposition 8 federal case.

Jennifer Cera stood at Zocalo's expo booth. The midtown Mexican restaurant was advertising space for rehearsal dinners, banquets and anniversaries. Cera said while the restaurant hasn't seen an uptick in reservations from same-sex couples about to wed, "that's what we're trying to correct."

Christina Harris, with the Woodlake hotel, said Red Lion has just started getting inquiries from same-sex couples about reserving its wedding gazebo.

"It's coming," Harris said, echoing the sentiment of many vendors at the expo.

Palmer, who is CEO and publisher of Outword Media, said the legalization of same-sex marriages in California already has had an economic impact on his business.

About a fifth of the pages inside the most recent issue of Outword Magazine, a gay news publication, are wedding advertisements, Palmer said.

That's about the same percentage of pages dedicated to wedding ads that it published from May 2008 to November 2008 – the last time same-sex marriages were legal in the state.

During those six months in 2008, thousands of same-sex couples rushed to the altar as the vote on Proposition 8 got nearer. The ballot measure eventually passed, outlawing gay marriages in the state.

With the June 26 Supreme Court decision and Gov. Jerry Brown's instruction to county clerks to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses on June 28, gay and lesbian couples are now able to take time and plan for dream weddings.

"People don't have to do the quick, 'OK, let's go to the courts,' " Davis-Murai said. "They can plan big gala events, and ask how the House of Fashion can help them plan for the future."

Davis-Murai said her bridal salon didn't see an increase in gay or lesbian clients the last time that gay marriages were legal in the state. However, she said that in the past few weeks, several same-sex couples have come into the store.

House of Fashion produced the expo's fashion show, which featured models from the local LGBT community. Each of these models gave input on the clothes that they ended up wearing during the show, Davis-Murai said.

Palmer organized the expo with Kelli Hannaford, a meeting planner at Details Details, an event management company. The two put the expo together in the past 22 days.

"It's been a whirlwind," Palmer said. "We wanted it to be a party and celebration. … People can plan weddings, and they aren't forced to plan one because they have three months before it's illegal again."

The Rev. Lisa Shearer said she came to the expo to be a part of something that was "groundbreaking."

"This is the first expo that I've been to like this," Shearer said.

Call The Bee's Kurt Chirbas, (916) 321-1030.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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