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September 30, 2014

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Gay and lesbian wedding expo an opportunity for local businesses to network, show support

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Ari Castellano and Imani Ortiz, who have already received their domestic partnership, plan for their commitment ceremony sampling wedding cake while attending the LGBT Wedding Expo hosted by the Rainbow Wedding Network at the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009.

Gay Wedding Expo

Ari Castellano and Imani Ortiz, who have already received their domestic partnership, plan for their commitment ceremony sampling wedding cake while attending the LGBT Wedding Expo hosted by the Rainbow Wedding Network at the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009. Launch slideshow »

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Rainbow Wedding Network returns to Las Vegas with its “Same Love Same Rights” LGBT Wedding Expo this weekend.

The touring event, which marks its third year in Las Vegas, takes place at Circus Circus on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. The expo will host more than 30 local and national LGBT-friendly businesses, including event planners, ceremony and reception venues, photographers, officiants, cake and floral designers, legal resources, travel planners and dress and tuxedo retailers.

Attendees at the Valentine’s Day-themed event also can enjoy food, raffles and a fashion show sponsored by local Renta-Dress & Tux Shop.

The expo caters equally to weddings, commitment ceremonies and vow renewals, with a focus on giving LGBT couples a comfortable space to focus on planning their event.

“If you’re two women going to a [mainstream] bridal show, the question is usually ‘Oh, are you sisters?’ or ‘Who’s getting married?’ At our show, it’s, ‘Congrats, when’s the date?’” says Cindy Sproul, co-owner of Rainbow Wedding Network. “That level of awkwardness is taken out. I’ve seen some people come to tears to walk into a wedding expo and find vendors who are gay friendly and who support equality.”

Gay marriage may not be legal in Nevada, but commitment ceremonies remain a thriving market here in the Marriage Capital of the World, and Sproul has already received more than 450 ticket reservations for Sunday’s event. She points out that of the 30 states the expo tours, it’s often those without legal recognition of gay marriage that draw the largest crowds.

“Couples realize if they are planning a wedding, this is the one-stop shop where they won’t encounter discrimination. It’s planning where you get to have that excitement and none of the disapproval,” Sproul says, adding that expo attendance in Las Vegas has grown steadily over the two previous visits.

The expo first showed in Las Vegas in 2009 through outreach from the Nevada Commission on Tourism as part of a continuing push to market the city to the LGBT community. It returned in 2010 and will mark its third year in Las Vegas this weekend. Sproul says that the Commission’s involvement has helped legitimize the expo to local businesses and in turn encouraged catering to the alternative-wedding market in Las Vegas.

“It’s a great business opportunity, not just to show people the services we offer, but to let them know you’re supportive of this part of the community,” says vendor Joni Moss, who owns the local wedding and event planning service Las Vegas Wedding Connection.

Moss is eager to return to the expo after receiving a spike in clients after the 2010 event, saying that the expo helps bring visibility to businesses like hers that provide specialty services, such as officiants for commitment ceremonies, which may not be offered by other local companies.

The event may only be for an afternoon, but for vendors like Moss, it’s a valuable opportunity to connect with a rapidly expanding niche market and build relationships with other businesses.

“We do vow renewals and other events like birthdays, too, so it’s a tremendous opportunity to network with the local community, clients and other [LGBT-friendly] businesses that we might work with in the future,” says Moss, who teamed up with Renta-dress & Tux to produce this year’s fashion show. “It helps serve the market in so many different ways.”

The “Same Love Same Rights” Expo was founded and organized by Rainbow Wedding Network, the LGBT community’s first online wedding gift registry. The event takes place this Sunday at Circus Circus and is free to attend, with a requested $5 donation. RSVPs and more information are available through SameLoveSameRights.com. Approximately 25 percent of donations will go to Las Vegas Pride.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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  1. Nevada needs to recognize gay marriage and take full advantage of our status of being the marriage capital of the world. It is not only the right thing to do, but also the right economic thing to do. What more could you ask for?