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No Toaster Oven for You: Where Are Chicago's Gay Wedding Planners?

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Mike Doyle

Since 2005 scribe of the local blog, Chicago Carless. I invite you to visit.

Gay wedding and commitment-ceremony planning is big business on both coasts. So why is it so hard to find an out and proud gay wedding planner in Chicago?


In July, ChicagoNow's lesbian-centric L Blog gave a shout out to Stacy Jill Jacobs, editor & publisher of Queerly Wed, a new national resource for finding LGBTQ-friendly gay wedding planning vendors. The site offers gay couples lots of tips for going it alone as your own ceremony and celebration planner. Actual listings for professional wedding planners and vendors in the Midwest? Beyond Jacobs' own listing, not so much.


Recently, I asked Jacobs via Direct Message on Twitter why it is that the industry is so thin on the ground in Chicago versus other major cities. "That's part of the reason we started the website--so we can help people find queer-friendly vendors. There are definitely businesses in Illinois who are interested to work with the LGBT community. We are making it our job to seek those people out, and give them exposure to this growing audience."


Jacobs told me she "completely thinks there can be" a mature gay wedding planning industry in Chicago someday. But why isn't that industry here today? I put that question to a Chicago-based national wedding planner I know who has several gay clients on the coasts but none on the shores of Lake Michigan. His anonymous take: maybe Chicagoans--gay and straight--are just too socially conservative to accept the celebration of gay unions. And besides, it's not like gay marriage is legal in Illinois, anyway.


Personally, I don't see why any loving, long-term gay couple needs the government's permission to register at Pottery Barn. If you're in love and you know it, clap your hands. Schedule a ceremonial union. Throw a fabulous reception. Why wait for a piece of paper to do your bunny hop or return your extra toaster ovens? No, Chitown queers would never miss an opportunity to throw a party. And if it's a slip of paper they're after, gay Chicago couples can legally wed one state away in Iowa--close enough to host a Cook County reception on the same day.


I think the social conservatism of Chicago is the more likely culprit. And I'm not talking about conservatism in the straight community either. What if years of internalized homophobia combined with classic Midwestern modesty gives pause to Windy City wedding planners considering going after the LGBT market? Perhaps Chicago doesn't have a slew of A-List gay wedding planners simply because as late as 2009, no one's had the guts to stand up and take the lead? 


I'm reminded of the scene from Milk where Harvey castigates the publisher of The Advocate for choosing to keep a low profile instead of leading the LGBT community to power. That's where the gay wedding planning industry is in Chicago today. Someday, someone with a loyal list of cake vendors and a flair for centerpieces is going to stand up in this town and shout, "Love should never be silent!"


In this untapped market, bet me soon after he or she won't be shouting all the way to the bank.


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5 Comments

MelissaJ said:

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Thanks for writing about this! As the number of same-sex marriages increases, more and more vendors will have to be vocal about their support of it. More often than not, queer couples look for queer friendly vendors for all kinds of things from weddings to roofers! Listing on QueerlyWed.com is a very smart idea for such vendors (for weddings, not roofers!) especially as the "wedding season" approaches!! Thanks again, Mike!

Mike Doyle said:

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You're welcome. I definitely think the Chicago gay community is ready to celebrate its long-term unions and I applaud you guys for creating QueerlyWed. Hopefully, your example will bring other local wedding planners (I can't believe I'm saying it this way...) out of the closet!

jll said:

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This is an excellent idea, a wedding planner for gay weddings! No one wants to do this b/c it would be working for 2 bride-zillas. Wedding planners make a lot of money doing one wedding, but not enough money in the world for this. I love my friends Jim and Andy, and would plan their wedding if they asked, but I never would I want someone else to do it. And really, who doesn't like to plan a party more than a gay man?

l'herbs said:

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This is a great piece, Mike. I stumbled across your article looking for gay wedding planners in Chitown, but for purely academic reasons. I'm working on project about music at gay weddings and was hoping to get some contacts on the planner side as my 'in' to do some field work in the city. If you, Mike, or anyone else out there can help, I'd really appreciate any leads. This can include planners who do a good deal of same-sex ceremonies, or (even better) if any queer couples who have planned or are in the process of planning a wedding ceremony that might be willing to discuss music choices... any help would be much appreciated. And here's hoping some businesses get wise to the economic potential of our community!

Candace Polk said:

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Good post Mike. I am an event planner in Chicago who will plan commitment ceremonies. As I am planning on an open house at a gallery that is open to hosting gay/lesbian ceremonies, I also ran across another planner in Chicago who plans commitment ceremonies, www.lisagordonevents.com. I would love to invite you the open house next month so it can be made aware to the gay/lesbian community that there is a venue in Chicago that is not afraid to host commitment ceremonies.

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