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

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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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