On February 11, Norfolk-based Weddings with Pride will introduce dozens of area wedding professionals to same-sex couples planning their nuptials at the Second Annual Gay Wedding Showcase in Virginia Beach.
“When we produced the first showcase in 2016, I knew the timing was right for this event,” said Eric Hause, President of Wedding with Pride. Hause is gay himself and up until now produced only traditional wedding shows. He recognized the need for a separate wedding event after a friend and his fiancée blindly called a wedding planner to assist with their wedding.
“When the planner found out they were gay, she refused to help them,” he recalls. “That’s when I know the time had come for an event of our own.”
While an overwhelming majority of wedding businesses welcome marriage equality, the media has given highlighted coverage to those that refuse to service same-sex weddings. Coupled with pending religious freedom legislation working its way through state and national government, gay couples feel added trepidation as they navigate the already-stressful new frontier of wedding planning.
In 2016, Weddings with Pride surveyed over 1,000 gay couples in Virginia and North Carolina to uncover how they approached planning their wedding. An astonishing 89% of respondents said they are sensitive to the possibility of discrimination by some wedding vendors. 76% of them rank working with LGBTQ-owned, operated or friendly businesses as a top priority.
As a result of those findings, the Gay Wedding Showcase is structured to give couples and business owners several opportunities to build a rapport. “We carefully vet every wedding professional we invite to make sure that they fully embrace marriage equality,” said Hause. “Right off the bat, we offer a level of comfort with that guarantee.”
The company also set out to create a showcase that offered couples a higher level of personal attention than the traditional wedding show. They put together a daylong event with three signature activities, a format that they had successfully implemented in the traditional weddings market.
The first event on the morning of February 11 is a chauffeured limousine tour of six Hampton Roads wedding venues from in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Each venue will welcome couples with food, drink and a tour of their facility.
At tour’s end, couples return to headquarters at the Sheraton Virginia Beach Oceanfront where 35 Coastal Virginia wedding professionals await them at the Wedding Expo. The expo is capped off with a spectacular fashion show featuring local same-sex couples produced by House of Maya Bridal.
After a break for dinner, couples and vendors will mingle at an After Party hosted by the Holiday Inn and Suites North Beach and Astro DJs with more food, drink, dancing and door prizes—plus a couple of surprise performances.
Hause explained, “The party is an opportunity for couples to socialize with the same vendors they met that day without feeling overwhelmed or pressured. Plus, we want everyone to let their hair down and have some fun.”
He recognizes that LGBTQ weddings are a small segment of the overall weddings industry but adds in the current political climate, it’s an important one that needs some extra hand holding.
“For the foreseeable future, gay wedding events are necessary as more couples commit to each other,” Hause said. “But who knows, maybe some day we won’t have a need for gay weddings. Only weddings.”
The Coastal Virginia Gay Wedding Showcase is on February 11, 2017 at the Sheraton Virginia Beach Oceanfront. All Access tickets for all three events and discounted expo only tickets are available at www.WeddingswithPrideVA.com. Expo only tickets are also available at the door from noon until 4 PM.
The Showcase is sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group/Jessica Tallett; NOW 105 iHeart Radio; the Sheraton Oceanfront Virginia Beach; House of Maya Bridal; Astro DJs; Holiday Inn and Suites North Beach; Gold Key|PHR Resorts; Dominion Limousine; and Visit Virginia Beach.