HAGEN PARK, WILTON MANORS
AUGUST 17, 1-4 P.M.
The winds of change are sweeping across the United States, and with two recent court cases ruling in favor of gay couples, Florida is no exception. It is just a matter of time before gay couples are allowed to legally marry in the Sunshine State, and many people are taking note and finally planning their dream ceremonies.
Bobby Kyser, wedding and event planner and owner of Panache Style, noticed this nationwide wedding trend and produced an LGBT-welcoming wedding expo, called “Gay Nuptials: A Wedding Showcase,” which will be presented on Sunday, August 17 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Hagen Park (509 NE 22nd St., Wilton Manors). Admission is $20 and ticket sales benefit The Pride Center. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB) is a presenting sponsor of this event.
I got a chance to speak with Bobby Kyser about this hot new wedding showcase in an exclusive Hotspots interview.
How did you come up with the idea of producing a wedding showcase here in South Florida?
I took part in one of the first luxury wedding showcases in Broward County, back in 2010 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. It went amazingly well and I loved it. Obviously we’ve had [same-sex] marriage in the United States for ten years, but the momentum was fairly slow. Then I saw it picking up and court decisions from different states were adding up one after the other. So I thought, why don’t I revisit the idea of wedding showcases? So I attended a straight wedding showcase back in April and as a gay person, I can tell you that it did not feel great. It was not very welcoming at all.
So I thought, I wanted to create a wedding showcase in a welcoming space and use vendors who are trained beforehand to cater to same-sex couples…so the vendors know what to do and what not to do and what to ask and what not to ask the couples who want to get married. An added perk is that the couples don’t have to continuously ‘come out’ to each vendor.
Tell us a little bit about the Wedding Showcase. What would you like couples to know who are planning on attending the event?
It’s going to be a fabulous event. I only do over-the-top events. I will let you know that it’s not going to be a typical expo with booth space, it’s going to be more of a loungey feeling. It’s going to be an experience that allows couples to come in and meet vendors who want your business and are aware of, and are ready to serve, this new emerging market. This is such an exciting time for all the people who are ready for this.
How did you feel when the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau made it known to you that they wanted to sponsor your event?
I do a lot of events for the CVB, especially any gay function for them. So I already had a good working relationship with them. I called them up and said, this is an event I want to organize, this is something that might interest you. They didn’t even hesitate! Not only did they offer me their wedding planning division, they offered me Richard Gray [managing director for the LGBT market at GFLCVB]. And Richard Gray said, “We want to be a presenting sponsor on this event. We want to promote this event next year too, and go to different states and say, ‘If you come down to this event, you will be able to meet with people who are dying to work with you on your wedding.'”
What kinds of trends are you seeing in weddings and receptions this year? Are people wanting traditional affairs or do they want something more unique?
I’ve done six weddings this year, and I’ve found that all of the traditions have kind of been thrown out the door. You think, with a straight couple, the bride and the groom can’t see one another before the wedding day, and there are so many people in the bridal party who coordinate this and make sure it can’t happen, and with a gay couple, they get dressed together and arrive together. The pomp and circumstance goes away with gay weddings. There’s no toss of the bouquet, there’s no removing of the garter, wedding parties are smaller…it makes it a lot easier for a planner if I can be totally honest.
I’ve found that with some gay weddings, sometimes there is a cocktail reception before the wedding, to calm people’s nerves. Some people also like to have a show, whether it’s with a drag king or a drag queen, during the reception. I also found one wedding party I did very recently to be very interesting, because they invited everyone back for hors d’oeuvres and then afterwards, only the closest 50 people were invited to stay for the dinner. I find that to be the exact opposite in straight weddings, where the couple wants to please everyone. Gay couples are focusing more on what’s important to them.
Admission proceeds are benefiting The Pride Center. What special place does The Pride Center hold in your heart?
I’ve been working with The Pride Center ever since I started Wicked Manors six or seven years ago. More importantly, I’ve been a recipient of their services. Their L.I.F.E. program really changed my life, and as someone who is HIV positive, it really made me evaluate my health and take care of myself better. I think it’s important to give back to people and organizations that have impacted your life.