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Pittsburgh Marriage Equality showcase gives all couples their day

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Divine Celebrations
The Celebrate Marriage Equality Wedding Showcase, set for Nov. 9 at the Senator John Heinz History Center, will feature more than 30 vendors open to working with same-sex couples.
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Paul Meyer Photography
Gino Poliziani and Dennis Novak held a celebration at the History Center in 2012 in honor of the civil union they obtained in Chicago, as well as their 10-year anniversary.
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Beth Kukucka
Sheri and Vicky Owen hired photographer Beth Kukucka, of Kukucka Photography in Verona, who has extensive experience working with same-sex clients.

An upcoming wedding showcase is aimed at helping all couples feel the love while planning their big day.

The Celebrate Marriage Equality Wedding Showcase, set for Nov. 9 at the Senator John Heinz History Center, will feature more than 30 vendors open to working with same-sex couples.

“Unlike at a traditional show, (attendees) don’t have to ‘come out of the closet’ every time they walk up to a vendor,” says Erin Calvimontes of Highland Park-based Divine Celebrations, who is producing the event.

This will be the second showcase of its kind in the Pittsburgh area. After the first event was held in June shortly after same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania became legal, Calvimontes was inundated with requests to repeat it.

“Industry-wide, there are a lot of planners and vendors who are accepting of it and jumping on the bandwagon to help out the couples,” she says. “It definitely means more revenue and more creative ideas on how to do weddings.”

A 2014 report by the Williams Institute at UCLA predicts roughly 7,500 to 11,000 same-sex couples in Pennsylvania will marry by 2017, bringing up to $ 92.1 million to the state and local economies.

Calvimontes has helped 15 couples with commitment ceremonies over the past three decades. Since U.S. District Judge John Jones overturned the ban in May, she’s planned three weddings for same-sex couples.

“Some have never thought that it could ever possibly happen, so they’ve never thought of dreaming about what it would be like,” Calvimontes says. While some prefer more traditional events, “a lot of them are taking a very unique and different approach, which I love, because it really focuses on them and their relationship and who they are,” she says.

Calvimontes, who has undergone training with the New York-based Gay Wedding Institute, interviewed all vendors participating in the showcase, including photographers, florists, caterers, DJs and others.

“Often, our vendors are within the LGBT community, but if they’re not, you can get a sense once you start talking to them,” she says. “I just come straight out and ask them if they’re comfortable working with LGBT groups. If they’re not, I don’t want them on staff with me, because their discomfort will show through, and I don’t want that projecting on the couple’s day.”

Maura Minteer, director of events at the History Center, expects from 100 to 200 people to attend the showcase. The center has long been a popular spot for same-sex couples seeking a unique celebration venue, she says.

“We’re not new at this,” Minteer says. “We’ve always been inclusive. We want to do everybody’s wedding the same way — as perfectly as we can. I’m excited that anyone who would want to have a wedding here is able to do so.”

Dennis Novak and Gino Poliziani held a celebration at the History Center in 2012 in honor of the civil union they obtained in Chicago, as well as their 10-year anniversary.

“We wanted something unique and special that really highlighted our relationship,” Poliziani says.

While the pair were overjoyed with their celebration, both say they could have benefited from an event like the upcoming showcase when thinking about what they wanted for their big day.

“Had there been additional resources, that would have been helpful,” Novak says. “What really sealed the deal for us at the History Center was Maura, who made us feel so comfortable. She was really excited and wanted to be part of the planning.”

Ed Amori, general manager at Lendable Linens in Plum, has helped plan commitment ceremonies in Pittsburgh and all over the country. Lendable Linens booked three same-sex weddings after the first showcase, and Amori anticipates even more requests after the next event.

“It’s important everybody feels comfortable working with vendors who respect their choices,” he says. “We do that for everyone who walks into our showroom.”

Beth Kukucka of Kukucka Photography in Verona has extensive experience working with same-sex clients. Kukucka lived with her wife in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, for several years. Events like the upcoming showcase help vendors both economically and socially, she says.

“Because the gay wedding industry is new in Pennsylvania, a lot of vendors and couples don’t know how to take the first steps,” she says. “When it first passed, it took everybody by surprise, and I was getting a lot of calls from people who were getting married in the next week because everyone was so excited. For 2015, people are taking more time with it. They’ve had more time to kind of settle into the idea that this is real in Pittsburgh.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or [email protected].

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