Photo by James BunoanA lot of fuss was made last week when the U.S. Senate rejected an amendment to the Constitution that would have, in effect, outlawed gay marriages. While tales of political machinations and far-reaching consequences made for interesting reading, none of it really mattered much since the issue was ultimately settled a few days later in Garden Grove.
There, at the Marriott Suites, in a medium-sized ballroom with cut pile carpet, they held the Gay and Lesbian Wedding Expo, at which caterers, photographers and American Express vied for gay-wedding—or a reasonable facsimile—dollars. Gay marriage wasn't a crime; it was a revenue stream. If the Senate didn't understand this, the folks in Garden Grove did.
"I think there's a future in this," said Sandy Segal of Princess House behind her crystal champagne flutes and silver cake cutters, "especially as it becomes more mainstream." Of course, the presence of Princess House and Bridal Affaire and Weintraub Photography and Catering by Bruno, not to mention American Express Financial Services and Wells Fargo Mortgage makes it mainstream.
You know how it goes in America. Politicians do what they do, but it's the marketplace that ultimately decides a woman will wear pants and baseball will be played on Sunday and movies will be targeted to 16-year-olds and skateboarding isn't a crime, it's a revenue stream. And so people of the same sex will be joined in marriage—or a reasonable facsimile—and they will have flowers and chicken with sauce, and they will dance ("When it comes to deejaying a wedding, gender doesn't matter," said Kurt Davies of Alvaron Entertainment. "It's the age of the person that tells us what they'll want played—although everyone seems to want 'Brick House'").
Now, to be at the expo, you might not have been aware there was a societal shift afoot, the whole thing looked so wholesome, so, well, banal. When I asked expo organizer Minister Deb Gordon if she expected any "flamboyant" photo opportunities, she said, sweet as could be, "If you mean 'Are there going to be any drag queens?' No. This is going to be run-of-the-mill couples just looking to arrange weddings."
Couples such as Teresa Watson and Tricia Hood—"We have no life," Watson said. "We stay at home and watch Jeopardy. Hey, Kenny's kicking butt!"—and Chris Mondragon and Tom Gabler, who laughed as I told them of Weekly photographer James Bunoan's disappointment at seeing the place ("I thought this was going to be wild," Bunoan said, his face fallen). "What did he expect?" Chris asked with a chuckle. I told him I wasn't sure, though I was certain Princess House didn't figure into any scenario.
Deb, who performs ceremonies for gays and lesbians and says, "Business is booming," was careful to only allow reputable and gay-friendly companies at the expo.
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"This is supposed to be a happy time in their lives," she said. "They don't need to feel they're being looked down upon," though Mario Guerrero, who owns Bill's Tuxedo Shop in Long Beach, says others' narrow-mindedness has been his gain.
"This has been wonderful for us to have a niche in the market," he said. "[Our gay and lesbian clientele] is our most loyal. They use us again and again, and they send their friends."
Jim Weintraub of Weintraub Photography has been shooting gay weddings for the past three and half years and says it makes up nearly 10 percent of his business. Standing behind his display of happy couples kissing in cars, standing with friends and walking down the aisle, he says the only difference between a gay wedding and a straight one is that "gay weddings, the energy is so intense. It just seems to matter so much more.
"I remember the first time I shot a gay wedding. It was between these two gay priests, and the time was coming for their first kiss as married people. This is the big shot, you know, and I was really nervous because I had never shot a gay wedding, and I honestly didn't know how I would react. Would I flinch, would I freeze? This is a very tight shot, and you only get one chance at it, so I was very nervous. But when they kissed, it was like their gender just disappeared—it didn't matter. It was pure love in that place, man; I mean it, you could just feel it. It was no bullshit, man. It was real."