Same-sex Wedding Expo Partners With Inclusive Vendors

Local Businesses Say 'I Do' to LGBT Community

By Kate Opalewski

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in June 2015, some of the world's most valuable brands and businesses took over social media with marriage equality posts. Kellogg's wrote, "Love, the same at every table."

Burt's Bees wrote, "We love love of every kind."

Visa wrote, "Love. Accepted everywhere."

The Gap wrote, "Equality is always in style. We've been proud supporters since 1969."

Mentos wrote, "Two of the same is beautiful."

American Airlines wrote, "We're on board. Diversity strengthens us all and today we celebrate."

These companies, and many more such as Apple, Adidas, Google, Maytag and Absolut Vodka, were not afraid to isolate their right-wing consumer base to come out in loud support of same-sex marriage. This is what the LGBT community deserves from businesses that are licensed to serve the public -- equal treatment and respect -- and that is what they can look forward to at The Ultimate LGBT Wedding and Anniversary Expo. Hosted for the sixth year by Between the Lines and Pride Source Media Group, the event features more than 100 vendors at maximum capacity, special guests and plenty of surprises, all in Motor City's state-of-the-art ballroom and Sound Board Theater.

The inclusive vendors on site will showcase everything couples need to plan their upcoming celebrations, including weddings, anniversaries, vow renewals, graduations, bar and bat mitzvahs, adoptions, baby showers and more.

Now is an important time to celebrate businesses, especially local businesses in Michigan that vocally support equality for the LGBT community and everyone else.

The political climate is polluted with news of "religious liberty" advisory councils forming to advocate for discrimination against LGBT Americans, and anti-LGBT "marriage and family boards" attacking same-sex marriage rulings by the Supreme Court. Furthermore, it is still not against the law in 29 states to discriminate against an LGBT person wanting to buy something from a store.

Such a repugnant fact motivates LGBT-friendly vendors, such as B. Ella Bridal (http://www.b-ella-bridal.com/) in Plymouth, to continue extending themselves to the community.

"Our LGBT customers and friends are influential and essential to our success," says owner and creative director Brittany Blase, who has been involved with the expo since its inception. Blase has more than 10 years of experience providing happy, stress-free experiences for many couples in love. "Our whole goal is to make it easy for you to say yes," she says about helping soon-to-be brides select the perfect wedding gown. "We have a closet of fabulous dresses. Our shop tends to have unusual items."

Blase and her team will bring a large number of those interesting looks to the expo for guests to see and touch. "This is the year of the ball gown. We are seeing a lot of long-sleeve dresses also. Many high-profile designers are adding more beading to make dresses really sparkle again." On the heels of tastemakers in the industry, Blase is "excited" to feature more daring styles and editorial looks during the bridal fashion show. Models will walk the runway wearing Watters, Wtoo, and Eve of Milady, to name a few. Another vendor leading in terms of innovation is Saks Fifth Avenue in Troy. Their Made-to-Measure program (http://www.saksfifthavenue.com/editorial/mens-custom-suits/) offers personalized tailoring and customization on an appointment basis for dress shirts, suits, sport coats, trousers, tuxedos and more. Creating that "killer suit" is a piece of cake with a trained fashion consultant or expert fitter.

Speaking of cake, Browndog Creamery and Dessert Bar (http://www.browndogcreamery.com) in Northville is helping many LGBT couples reinvent what weddings should look like with non-traditional dessert options.

Owners and partners Paul Gabriel and Brian Scherle will attend the expo for the first time to share their unique small-batch ice cream, craft desserts and custom cakes created by their pastry chefs. The rapidly expanding micro-creamery offers dairy-free, vegan and allergy-friendly cakes upon request.

"We are excited to bring our business to the LGBT community," says Gabriel, adding that samples will be available for expo guests to indulge in. This might be the time to forgo traditional chocolate or vanilla cake and try hummingbird or lemon chiffon cake. What about salted caramel, Bavarian cream or sweet honey buttercream? Ice cream lovers can get their fix with Browndog's famous ice cream cart, which is available for weddings. Some of the staple flavors are triple vanilla, salty dog, bourbon pecan, chocolate hammer, cookie monster, and blood orange coconut ice. Gabriel and his culinary team are experimenting with ice cream cakes. "They present their own unique set of challenges," he says, but "if you can imagine it, we can make it. The sky is the limit."

Abracadabra Jewelry (http://www.abragem.com/) in Ann Arbor is no stranger to supporting same-sex couples. Since 1974, they have specialized in creating one-of-a-kind pieces that celebrate all unions being as individual as their love.

"Making the rest of the wedding world an all-inclusive place has been a gradual process, but a few years from now we hope the conversation will be totally unnecessary. When someone walks into our store, we aim to create an environment that's welcoming to everyone. We believe in the right of all loving couples to be married and aim to give everyone an exciting experience in choosing the perfect piece of jewelry for their special occasion," says Pippa Creffield, jewelry designer and media director at Abracadabra Jewelry. "Our newest designer, Alex Sepkus, handcrafts his own tools to create luxurious textures on his bands. There's a special appeal to couples that want to wear the same style, but a little different, so coordinating colors or textural elements is a great way to go."

Creffield says there is a departure from the traditional formula of an engagement ring and wedding band for more carefree, unconventional pieces. "There's no rule that fine jewelry has to be formal. Pieces that mix earthy, organic materials with precious metals are easy to wear, one-of-a-kind, customer favorites," she says about her own line, Pippa Jayne Designs. "There's no guidebook that answers the question of who proposes to whom or who will wear a diamond ring, and we love it," she says. "People simply want to wear something intimate and personal as a symbol of their love, and we're here to help commemorate that."

To capture that moment is Kreativ Imaging (http://www.kreativimaging.com/) in Warren, a visual arts studio specializing in lifestyle imagery. LGBT couples looking to create memories in the form of photos are encouraged to establish a connection with these photographers. They integrate the latest advances in digital photography, cinematography, design and print to produce a multidimensional visual narrative of life's most precious moments.

The expo is a great opportunity for LGBT couples to think about and finalize their wedding details. Remember that even though LGBT couples can still get married in Michigan, there are no civil rights protections statewide. "As you plan, it is important to protect yourself and your family. You may have marital rights, but someone can refuse to rent you a room for your honeymoon," says Angie Martell of the Iglesia Martell Law Firm, PLLC (http://www.iglesiamartell.com/) in Ann Arbor. Martell, who will be available to speak with LGBT couples during the expo, has been an LGBT lawyer for more than two decades. She has been a cooperating attorney for Lambda Legal Defense and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

"I participate every year in Lavender Law where thousands of LGBT lawyers and allies meet to discuss the legal landscape we face and address how to navigate through legal issues to find solutions for our clients. While Obergefell gave us the ability to marry and recognized our marriages nationwide, it unfortunately created a line in the sand. If you marry, you have rights as a couple, and if you don't, you may not have rights. What Obergefell has done is open the doors to the possibility of equality, but we still have a long way to go," she says.

Martell's firm understands the complexities of the issues the LGBT community is up against. "We understand because we stand in your shoes. We understand and are connected to the pulse of issues in our movement. We understand how complex the trajectory still is regarding LGBT issues and are aware of all the issues we still must address and navigate," she says, adding that lawyers "often create bad law when they aren't well-versed or understand the legal trajectory."

While choosing a lawyer that is culturally competent is important, do not forget the fun stuff that LGBT couples have to celebrate because inclusive vendors are not afraid to support our community. The expo will feature demonstrations throughout the venue along with live entertainment and an impressive array of prizes for attendees, including a cruise for two donated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, dinner for four at Iridescence and tickets to see Margaret Cho donated by Motor City Casino, two tickets to see Adam Lambert at the Fillmore Detroit plus dinner at Angelina Italian Bistro donated by the Fillmore and Angelina's, and much, much more. The Ultimate LGBT Wedding & Anniversary Expo will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 20 at the MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit. Tickets are just $10 each. For a full list of vendors and to buy tickets, visit http://www.btlweddingexpo.com, where tickets are also available. For updates, follow http://www.facebook.com/UltimateLGBTExpo on Facebook, @BTLexpo on Twitter and @BTLEXPO on Instagram.


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