Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Crystal Proxmire
The Detroit Marriott Livonia was overflowing with love on April 29 as over 300 people came out for Between The Lines’ second annual Same-Sex Wedding Expo. The event, which was sponsored by Comerica, gave attendees a chance to meet gay-friendly vendors for every aspect of wedding planning.
There were jewelers, travel agents, bakeries, chocolatiers, bridal shops, tuxedo rental establishments, caterers, photographers, invitation designers and more. There was even a seminar on financial planning and another on the marriage movement by ACLU attorney Jay Kaplan.
Among those who enjoyed meeting the vendors, sampling the wedding cakes and other food, and gathering swag from the tables were Jenay Kightlinger and Lisa Bishop. The Garden City couple has been together “on and off,” for 23 years. Kightlinger picked out the perfect ring, and got permission from Bishop’s sister before proposing to her at the Canton Pizza Hut, a place they often hung out when they were teens.
The couple is planning on having their ceremony in August, and the Expo helped them ease their minds. “I’m leery of finding a location. I’ve heard way too many people get three to four weeks out from their wedding only to have the facility back out. It’s my biggest worry. I hope as long as you are honest with people it shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s better knowing up front that some place accepts same-sex ceremonies.”
Kightliner and Bishop said they were really excited to talk to Ivan Harrison at Affairs To Remember, a company that specializes in wedding linens. “She knew a lot about LGBT-friendly venues and other resources, and she was really friendly,” Bishop said. The women are planning on having butterflies and Calla Lilies throughout their wedding decor, and they hope to release butterflies as part of the ceremony.
Chris Kitley of AG Chocolates provided the chocolate fountain for the event. The fountains come in multiple sizes and a trained staff person accompanies the fountain to events to help guide guests. Based out of Jackson, Kitley said they do weddings, commitment ceremonies and other events mainly in the Jackson and Ann Arbor areas. In addition to the chocolate fountains, Kitley offers fine chocolates in many styles, including delectable bars that couples can print on their names and/or an image. “It’s a real great way to have something customizable to share with guests, something important to them,” Kitley said. “Everyone should be able to have their wedding feel like it’s theirs.”
Couples checked out honeymoon options as well. Laura Wake of Nightline Travel Agents said her agency helps couples get through the mass of information on the internet to get the best rates possible, from someone who knows the business. She also knows the special needs of LGBT couples. “Most cruise lines are LGBT friendly now,” she said. “But with destinations some are friendlier than others.” She said that places like Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Cayman Islands have had problems with gay travelers in the past, and that an experienced travel agent can suggest places that are more affirming.
Finding the right people can make all the difference. The professional jewelers at M. Mazzoni Jewelry of Farmington talked with dozens of potential brides and grooms about how to decide on the perfect stone and setting. “Working with same-sex couples gives us a chance to suggest settings that work for both partners. Some couples want the same ring, while others like individual rings that might have a similar theme or sensibility,” said owner Michael Mazzoni. David Schroeter, owner of Schroeter’s Flowers in Farmington, presented an array of beautiful flowers and had photos of weddings with amazing variety. In the Marriott’s covered entryway, guests got to see the fabulous hot pink Hummer limo on display from Satisfaction Limousine’s, and two photo booth vendors let guests document themselves being silly and foolish.
After 41 years in the photography business, Kathy Mabbutt of Rawlinson Photography is excited to be actively welcoming LGBT couples. “I’ve never been against doing same-sex weddings, it’s just the opportunity hasn’t come up. I’m a supporter of the gay community so when I heard about this [wedding expo], I wanted to open my arms and show they are welcome.”
While the expo offered much romantic fun, organizers at Between The Lines also wanted to include an educational and activist component. Jay Kaplan, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT project, spoke about marriage equality and why in Michigan citizens still don’t have it.
“Michigan has one of the broadest restrictions against marriage,” Kaplan said. He listed the barriers to marriage equality, including the 1996 law that said only opposite sex couples can get married and the 2004 amendment to the State Constitution barring marriage and any similar union. In the audience, same-sex couples held hands and cuddled closer as Kaplan described legal hit after legal hit endured by LGBT human beings by a significantly better-funded lobbying machine.
“If it even passes the legislature, it would have to go on the ballot and it would take an incredible amount of money to launch a campaign…and those who oppose marriage equality have three times more funding,” he said. One way to make a difference, he said, is in voter education. “Find out who is running and look at how they have voted on issues that are important to you. You can’t just rely on who has the biggest billboard.”
Another important issue to LGBT couples is financial planning. And without access to the right of marriage, same-sex couples in particular have to take care when setting up the management of their estate. Christopher Kelly, Vice President of Comerica Charitable Services Group, gave a presentation about how setting up a charitable trust can be advantageous for people as a way to invest in their future and the future of charities that are important to them.
“No matter where you are on the economic pyramid, your estate is important. What you earned is just as important as Donald Trump. This is your life’s work,” Kelly said. He gave examples where trusts are set up to receive assets, such as cash, real estate and bonds. This can provide tax breaks and it keeps one’s investment in the charities of interest to that individual.
“If you are looking to make the next generation stronger, this can set an example,” Kelly said. He also said that planning for a charitable trust can be a motivator for some people, a reason to be successful.
As the second annual Same-Sex Expo came to the end, a round of drawings made the day for several lucky guests, including Meredith Peltonen of Clawson who won dinner for four at The Whitney Restaurant in Midtown Detroit. “I’m so excited,” Peltonen said. “I’m not getting married, but my sister is…. Maybe I will let her come to dinner.”