Here Come The Brides (and Grooms)

Celebrate Marriage Equality Wedding Showcase returns November 9th.

November isn’t just the start of the holiday season; it’s also the kickoff to wedding planning season. Every winter, dozens of local wedding shows give couples the opportunity to meet different florists, photographers, and other vendors in one convenient spot. And now, Pittsburgh has a wedding showcase exclusively for same-sex couples who wish to tie the knot.

Show organizer Erin Calvimontes has been a wedding planner for 30 years, and has worked on many different types of nuptials and commitment ceremonies. The May 20th ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in PA prompted her to put together an event specifically for the LGBTQ community. “We saw a need for a show with LGBTQ-friendly vendors”, she said, and so on June 26, she held the first Celebrate Marriage Equality Wedding Showcase at the Heinz History Center. Although the event was put together in less than two months, the response was strong and many people asked her to produce another show.

Calvimontes pre-screens each vendor to be sure they’re comfortable with same-sex marriage and offer top quality goods and services. “We want to make sure they’re a good fit for our show.” Although same-sex marriage is legal in many states, some couples still face rejection from vendors. Likewise, some vendors have turned down Calvimontes’ invitation to participate in the showcase, telling her they don’t want to work with LGBTQ couples. She hasn’t let this bother her, though, since her goal is to provide a positive, welcoming event for everyone involved.

Calvimontes and her husband are longtime community allies. Their daughter is bisexual, and they have a transgender cousin and many gay friends, so marriage equality has always been an important issue. She also donates a portion of each show’s proceeds to LGBTQ organizations; PERSAD is the November recipient.

The June showcase included 45 vendors; November’s show will offer expanded space for up to 60 vendors. Although the show is growing Calvimontes doesn’t want to let it get too big. She limits the number of exhibitors in certain categories to maintain balance – “I’ve been to shows where there were 60 DJs,” she said. Her event will cover the gamut of wedding vendors, from bakeries to linen providers. Live music and plenty of food tastings will be offered.

The Heinz History Center was a natural choice for the showcase “since [marriage equality in PA] was an historical event”, she explained. The space is also very flexible, lending itself to intimate affairs or grand soirees. And of course, it is uniquely Pittsburgh, which she loves since many of her clients are looking for unique venues for their ceremonies and receptions.

Calvimontes cites two key differences between LGBTQ and heterosexual weddings: Same-sex couples tend to be a little older, and the couples often want smaller, more intimate celebrations. The average straight wedding costs around $35,000 and has 150-300 guests. Average ages for first marriage in the US are 27 for women, 29 for men. She hasn’t seen many over-the-top, elaborate LGBT weddings. “There’s more focus on your support group, your friends and family, rather than having bigger, better centerpieces and inviting all of your distant relatives and co-workers.”

Whether you want a casual celebration or a glamorous soiree, you’ll find plenty of inspiration at the showcase in a fun, friendly atmosphere. “We want all couples to be comfortable with their planning process.”

The Celebrate Marriage Equality Wedding Showcase will be held on Sunday, November 9 from 1-4 pm at the Heinz History Center. Tickets are $5 in advance or at the door. Register at CelebrateMarriageEqualityPA.com.