By Laura Latzko, August 2016 Issue.

Weddings are a collection of small details that create the foundation for one of the most memorable days in every married couple’s journey, and also for their future together.

For same-sex couples, having access to accepting and open-minded wedding vendors is one small detail among many that future brides and grooms can check off their list, thanks to Pride Guide’s fourth annual Phoenix LGBT Wedding & Honeymoon Expo Aug. 21 at the Arizona Grand Resort and Spa.

Additionally, Pride Guide will also host its second annual Tucson LGBT Wedding & Honeymoon Expo, which has been rescheduled for Sept. 25 at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa.

According to Michael McFall, Pride Guide publisher, this year’s wedding expos will be “open-minded” affairs for LGBTQ people as well as allied couples with LGBTQ friends and family. Having inclusive wedding vendors. McFall added, is becoming increasingly important at opposite-sex weddings.

“If their best man or so forth is gay, or they have a lot of gay friends, they don’t want them to be discriminated against on the dance floor by the photographer or the DJ,” McFall said.

As far as trends go, McFall said he’s seeing LGBTQ couples taking a number of years to plan more elaborate themed weddings and also looking to get married in picturesque settings – such as zoos and botanical gardens – instead of a traditional church setting.

No matter what the current trend is, however, the annual wedding expos offer couples the opportunity to interact directly with different types of LGBTQ-friendly vendors to get a head start on their wedding planning, regardless of how far out their wedding date is set for.

“A wedding is stressful as it is,” McFall said.  “[Couples] don’t want to go through the effort to find out if [vendors] are gay-friendly. They just want to know that they are.”

Photo courtesy of Marcus Flores (left) and Valentino Luna.

Even more then a year after the landmark Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage legal in all states, McFall said an LGBTQ-focused wedding expo is still necessary, because many wedding events aren’t inclusive of LGBTQ people.

“The regular bridal shows or wedding expos don’t really try to make the effort to cater to the LGBT community,” McFall said. “It’s not that they are against it. They are just not making the effort. They still have a lot of vendors who do discriminate [and] won’t do LGBT weddings.”

Additionally, McFall said the expos produced by Pride Guide offer a more intimate environment where couples can have more interaction with the vendors. Phoenix expo vendors include various wedding planners, venues, dress and tuxedo shops, DJs, cake makers, florists, jewelers, photographers, bartending services and catering companies. Additionally, attendees will find vendors to meet their needs as a married couple – after their big day has come and gone – including dentists, fertility and adoption services, realtors and more.

In an effort to further the interaction between attendees and vendors, this will be the first year that guests are invited to cast their vote for their favorite booths – the vendor with the most votes wins a prize.

And, of course, the vendors will not be the only ones with a shot at a prize. Like past expos, attendees will have the opportunity to enter into raffle drawings for a wide variety of giveaways, ranging from smaller, local prizes to a honeymoon package in Sedona.

Photo courtesy of Valentino Luna (left) and Marcus Flores.

Also new this year, two fashion shows featuring two brides, two grooms as well as a bride and a groom will take place at 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on the second level overlooking the vendor hall.

“Everyone on the main floor of the expo can look up and see [the fashion shows],” McFall said, adding that in previous scenarios, booths obstructed the view from some vantage points of the expo.

No matter what couples come to the Pride Guide Wedding & Honeymoon Expos looking for, McFall said it’s proven to be an important step in the wedding planning process.

Although they were married in New Mexico, Valentino Luna and Marcus Flores used expo vendors for their shoes, suits and reception venue.

Continuing a longtime Flores family tradition, the grooms were married March 17, 2015, at the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe in front of about 100 friends and family members. Flores and Luna were one of the first same-sex couples to tie the knot at the historic chapel.

“It meant a lot to me because that’s where I’m from,” Flores said. “My family has been getting married there [in Santa Fe] over 300 years.”

According to Luna, Pride Guide’s expo offered an environment where he and Flores felt comfortable as a same-sex couple and found themselves surrounded by other same-sex couples.

“The fashion show almost made me cry,” Luna said. “Just to see two women and two men, just really shows where we are going and where we are growing as a community.”

The inclusivity of the expo, Luna added, stood out as very powerful to him.

“To be able to experience that, it really gives you a sense of acceptance in that moment,” Luna said. “It was nice to see other couples holding hands, kissing, getting super-excited …because they know now they can move forward to the next level of their future together.”

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