I've never been ashamed of being a lesbian, no matter what society has attempted to make me feel with its laws set up for my relationships to fail. I was born to love the girl next door, who preferably would have bigger muscles than me, exude a quiet confidence, make me fall to the floor laughing and love traveling, creating, exploring new cultures and gastronomy as much as I do.
Though I've certainly not been immune to discrimination for being a lesbian, I was naïve in my understanding of what modern-day society felt about my "kind." Sure I'm aware (and angry) that we don't have the 1,138 Federal rights that are naturally afforded to my straight co-citizens, but I didn't realize just how unequal some of the basic components of life -- like having a wedding -- are for the LGBT community.
I dreamt of having a romantic lush wedding since I was a little girl. Yep, I'm one of those. And when I realized that it was a woman I wanted standing at the altar waiting for me, I never thought it wasn't possible. Not once. You see, to me, a wedding is a wedding, whether a government legally recognizes it or not.
I finally met the woman of my dreams in 2003: She easily ticked off all the items on my checklist and then some. Maria and I began dating in 2004, and she proposed one frosty winter day in 2008. I was over the moon with elation, and quickly started the perhaps-tad-excessive planning process.
I settled in with my strong cup of joe and my self-made mountain of wedding-planning insanity in our living room, and I began flipping through the magazines, the glossy pages of beautiful brides and their handsome grooms. I didn't mind seeing straight couples, of course, but page after page I didn't recognize myself in these magazines. Where was I? And more importantly, where was my soon-to-be-wife, with her short hair, her masculine figure, her men's clothing, most notably the wedding suit she'd soon purchase. The lack of information for gays and lesbians bothered me, but I also felt that not being included translated to rejection and what I could only imagine to be homophobia in the wedding industry at large.
It was at that moment that I knew what I was being called on to do. Don't for a second think I have any delusions of grandeur or celestial inspiration. But I've always had an insatiable appetite for helping the underdog, even when that dog is me. So I did what any writer/editor who was about to marry a talented graphic designer would do. We decided to launch our own online magazine for engaged LGBT couples.
I still didn't even know how much our kind of magazine was needed. When Maria and I started calling vendors to interview for our own wedding in the city that The Advocate named the No. 1 gayest city in America in 2010, I was shocked to have multiple phone calls and emails unreturned when I made clear in my initial message that it was two women getting married. When I spoke to some vendors, I felt rejected and unwanted. At one bridal salon, a saleswoman disappeared on me after I told her my fiancée was a woman.
As a credentialed magazine writer, I even pitched the honeymoon department of a popular bridal magazine known for its more modern presentations of weddings. The now-defunct magazine's travel editor told me politely that they weren't ready to run a lesbian's honeymoon story in their magazine.
Every homophobic wedding vendor or wedding-industry professional Maria and I dealt with when planning our wedding rained on our gay parade. It was a light drizzle compared to the horrific stories I've heard from some gays and lesbians. But I was more determined than ever to try to help the members of my family, the LGBT community, be able to plan their weddings -- enormously important days when we officially begin our lives as two, not one, with the person we love -- without this hate and judgment.
After an intense nine months of research, writing, designing, coding and developing, we launched Equally Wed, the nation's premier online same-sex wedding magazine, in March 2010.
At EquallyWed.com, we showcase a myriad of gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender weddings to serve as inspiration to those planning their own nuptials. In addition, we also offer Local Resources, a marketplace of gay-friendly wedding vendors across the United States, Mexico, Canada and parts of the Caribbean. We now have a team of editors and writers working at EquallyWed.com, bringing same-sex couples the latest in fashion, beauty and grooming for every wonderful sector of our diverse community of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and genderqueer, from the butchest of butch to the most feminine; honeymoon articles written by gay travel journalists who visit destinations to aptly review them for being gay friendly (who wants to worry about getting arrested or beaten on their honeymoon?); a plethora of wedding-planning inspirations for ideas and trends for each special moment on the Big Day and everything surrounding it. Because politics and marriage do mix when you're gay, we cover the latest news in marriage equality, as well. We produce new posts daily, and later this month, we're taking our quarterly magazine to monthly issues. Also later this month, we'll debut our own wedding tools to further help our readers enjoy planning their weddings in an accepting and inspiring environment.
As we continue to grow our company and attract investors, we'll be able to do more, but I've gotta say, I feel pretty good already. Not a week goes by that I don't get a note of thanks in my email inbox from someone planning their own wedding, a relative of theirs (usually a parent) or a wedding vendor who just wants to say what we're doing has helped them in some way.
Follow Kirsten Palladino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/equallywed