If you’ve ever attended a straight wedding fair, you probably haven’t gone to another one since. First, there’s all that heterosexist bride-and-groom lingo buzzing in your ears. And then the questions asked about your groom or husband-to-be, or quizzical looks if you’re a man checking out the bridal glory—and not as the gay best friend of the bride-to-be. Of course, it’s natural to feel nervous to sign up for the tux giveaway from the big-brand suit shop in town, because you don’t know how they’ll act when a woman shows up for the fitting—and she doesn’t want a woman’s suit. And you can imagine how it is for two grooms asking a wedding photographer if he’s ever shot a gay wedding, and he stammers, “Uh, is that even legal?” It’s uncomfortable, to say the least. So yes, we need our own wedding fairs just as much as we need our own wedding magazines. Which explains why we’re so excited about the Illegal Wedding Fair in New York on June 6.

The one-day four-hour event is full of useful things every LGBTQ couple could wish for when planning their big day, including a highly curated selection of New York’s most talented, equality-minded wedding professionals from florists, photographers, cake artists and caterers to event performers, fashion and style vendors, and officiants—all happy to help you plan your fabulous gay wedding. A full list of vendors is on the fair’s website, but some of the highlights include Cake Alchemy (of WEtv’s “Amazing Wedding Cakes” fame), Brooklyn-based Betsy Thorleifson of Nine Cakes, Zak Kunish of ZAK Events (a luxury event designer and master of décor), Brooklyn-based florist Saipua, Rony Tennenbaum, the talented artist behind the LVOE rings, and the Oratory Laboratory, which is a quirky company that does speech consulting. 

Guests also can expect a discussion on gay weddings led by author David Toussaint (Gay & Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony), as well as workshops led by Anne Klaeysen and Law’nence Miller, officiants from the New York Society for Ethical Culture. And it all takes place in the sumptuous setting of downtown Manhattan’s most exclusive wedding venue, 632 on Hudson.

So how’d New York get so lucky to land the nation’s first Illegal Wedding Fair? Well, it wasn’t always this fortunate. Last December, 38 New York State Senators voted against legally recognizing gay marriage. The wheels started turning for Kiwa Iyobe, the chief organizer of the grassroots event. A founding partner at Suite 2046, an NYC-anchored small marketing consultancy, Iyobe understands events and consumerism inside and out. It was this expertise combined with her feminism and longtime support of equal rights that led her and other like-minded people to, as she says, “get together out of frustration” after the devastating vote in December. Iyobe says they “looked around and noticed that while there were about a million ‘bridal fairs’ for heterosexual couples in NYC every year, there wasn’t anything comparable in production value for the LGBT community.”

Nothing happens with just one person, of course. And Iyobe is quick to start thanking the people who’ve been instrumental in making the Illegal Wedding Fair possible. “Karen Lashinsky had this wonderful venue that she was willing to offer us for the event since she too is a big supporter of marriage equality, so the ball started rolling from there,” she says. “It’s been an incredible journey for us, because we really only started talking about doing something this February and now it’s turned into this much bigger thing with media interest and lots of wonderful support from gay-friendly vendors. I have to say that the timing of Equally Wed being launched was also totally serendipitous because we’d been looking for a partner that also emphasized great design and high production value.” She credits her business partner Susan Choi, who has been hard at work in the outreach to product sponsors, as well as generous donations of time and services from Amy Krakow of Propaganda Marketing, graphic designer Wil Rodriguez, web guru Benjamin Degenhardt, and Erin Gleeson and Vanessa Bahmani of E&V Weddings, the featured photographers for the IWF.

Suprisingly, Iyobe isn’t gay. Well, maybe not surprising, but it’s really touching that a straight person would take so much interest in giving the gay community something so wonderful. Of course, Iyobe does have her reasons. “Many of my best friends are gay and lesbian,” she explains, “and it is deeply frustrating to see overt discrimination at work when it comes to the legalities of marriage, especially in a city like New York. I have been in a committed relationship for more than seven years with a U.K. citizen, and after I became a U.S. citizen last year—I was born in Japan—we decided to get married in City Hall precisely because of the legal protections it offers.  Our witness was a very close friend who has himself been in a committed relationship for almost a decade, and it is impossible to understand why I should be afforded more rights than he and his partner. It’s my firm belief that the cultural tide has turned with regard to same-sex marriage and the lawmakers need to catch up with the rest of society. What happened in our state in December was a big blow, but we hope to keep our spirits high and not give up until all people are treated equally before the eyes of the law.  We hope that the Illegal Wedding Fair will continue much-needed dialogue about what marriage between two people really means and why it is a privilege that should not be taken for granted!”

June 6, noon to 4 p.m.
WHERE: 632 Hudson, West Village, New York
COST: $35; $60 for couples (a limited tickets will be available at the door for $40)
BUY TICKETS: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/108159
ALL THE INFO AND MORE: http://www.illegalweddingfair.com

Equally Wed magazine is proud to be the national media sponsor of the Illegal Wedding Fair. Please stop by our table and say hello. We’d love to meet you!