Even though I want to wait a few more years before getting married, as a queer woman, I was thrilled when I heard about the Orlando Gay Wedding Expo. I immediately signed up for this free event, figuring it’d be a great way to gather ideas and maybe taste a few cake samples. After all, I’m in my early twenties and there’s no time like the present.
I expected a small but well-populated venue, with enough booths to occupy about an hour of wandering around, chatting with vendors, and meeting other people. Let’s cut to the chase: Of the 15 booths that were there, one was a DJ, one was a catering service, one was a décor distributor, and one was for flower arrangements. There were two bakeries, two wine/alcohol distributors, two wedding favor distributors, and a photographer. Finally, there was a legal subscription service booth, a booth on some scary-looking weight loss drinks, a booth for an orthodontist, and a booth for an oddly out-of-place sex toy shop.
As you can tell, there were major gaps in this event. Where were the venue displays? Where were the wedding dresses and tuxedo booths? Why was there only one catering service? Where were the wedding planners? Orlando is a pretty big city, and as a place where people often host their destination wedding, it was startling to walk into this event and be greeted with no diversity in the product offered.
In the wake of businesses shutting down over their discrimination against LGBT people, especially surrounding marriage, such as the bakeries who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, more businesses need to step up their game.
If an organization wants to host an event like this, it needs to at the very least cover the bases, and with more diversity than this. Noting that, I think it’s critical to look at each distributor and ask them hard questions about whether they are comfortable serving diverse communities, and whether they can work with a nontraditional wedding party. Inclusiveness of gender identity and outward expression of gender is so important, and the comfort and safety of the queer community needs to be respected.
This event was a great idea. And having a small event of select, exclusive vendors could have worked. But when it comes to planning a wedding, a small event needs to have something special to offer. And as much as it pains me to say this, I wasn’t impressed. A small, intimate wedding expo like the one sought here should have been a little more structured, and this just fell flat.
What this event lacked was diversity in product, ambiance, and a full scope of what is needed to plan a wedding. I will give this event credit that on their website, there are multiple venues linked where one could potentially host their wedding as well as a wedding dress site linked, with a physical store. There are a few more cake and photography places listed. And it’s wonderful that there is a list of businesses that this organization has vetted that would be inclusive to the LGBT community. But with so few of these vendors at the expo itself, it makes it incredibly hard to get a sense of what would work without just using the website. At that point, I may as well research these things myself using Yelp.
I understand the criticism behind the wedding industrial complex, such as the way it upholds patriarchal values and is bolstered by classism. But I have no problem with people celebrating their love the way they want to, problematic industry or not. What I do have a problem with is events that don’t live up to my expectations. Linked below is the Orlando Wedding Expo website, with a list of links to businesses that have been vetted by the organization for inclusivity. This is not an extensive list, but if you are looking to get married in the Central Florida area, it might be a good place to start your research.
Sources: Orlando Wed
Mehek Naresh is an Indian American lesbian, living and working in Florida after recently graduating with a Bachelors in Political Science. Her hobbies seeking out small talk with cashiers, reading, and spending more time staring at tumblr than she’d care to admit.