With same-sex marriage now legal in California at both the state and federal level, gay couples are turning their attention to the real challenge: choosing a caterer. And a florist, photographer, videographer, limo service, tuxedo rental, invitation designer, hairstylist, makeup artist and the 1,001 other elements that comprise a 21st-century wedding.
So on a warm Sunday in November, the first Los Angeles Lesbian and Gay Wedding Expo is taking place at the Los Angeles Athletic Club downtown.
People have questions. For one, they are asking wedding planner Michael Habicht about his skills. "They want experience," he says. "If you've only got two years, they don't want to be bothered."
With 15 years in the trenches, Habicht is a wedding veteran. Mainly the ones he's done have been for straight couples, but next year he expects to double the number of gay weddings he'll be planning.
Habicht specializes in details. "Especially with the gay crowd," he says. "They're anal, and they're looking for someone to capture that." Having been denied the opportunity to marry for so long, "They're very focused on what they want. They have a real clear picture." The bride usually takes over in a straight wedding, he says, but gay couples tend to be equally involved in the planning. Imagine two brides. Bridezilla, squared.
The gay men, he finds, have a specific vision. "They want leopard, or red, or whatever. They know the look. The lesbians are more out for the professionalism of it. That it's done just right."
What else? Men have been sheepishly asking bespoke tailor Pedro Rubio if he makes tuxedos only for "the perfect guy."
"No!" he says. "I see many figures. Including people who are outside the box" — big guys, short guys, fat guys. Not just thin guys. Brides aren't the only ones who have a hard time finding something to wear to their wedding. "Have you heard that saying about the guy who wears the favorite shirt until it has holes all over it? That's because men are more about fit than about trends." Rubio tailors suits and tuxedos from the ground up.
"Let's not talk about size," he tells guys. Sometimes he won't even let them see the measuring tape.
Plenty of people stop to chat with ministers Shari Altmark and A. Mauricio Lubong over at the Great Officiants booth. They haven't been asking too many questions, though. Mostly because it is tough to get a word in edgewise.
"Our goal," Altmark says, "is for every guest to leave going, 'Oh my God, that was the most amazing wedding,' instead of, 'Oh my God, another fucking wedding.' "
She and Lubong are warm, funny, sincere, charming and talkative. Out tumbles anecdote after anecdote.
Did you know that the owner of their award-winning company married the first gay couple after the law changed? True story. Or how about the wedding in which the butch lesbian bride got her high heels stuck in the mud when the sprinklers accidentally activated during the ceremony — she ran off without her shoe. Or the one about the disapproving Catholic mother of the lesbian bride. Mom sat in the front row praying her rosary in protest for the entire wedding.
"I just ignored her," Altmark says, rolling her eyes. "She was busy with God."
"Really?" Lubong says. "I would've been, like, 'Honey, you keep those prayers coming. We need them!' "