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As movement grows, so does LGBT wedding expo

Derek Draplin
The Detroit News

Hundreds of gay couples and activists gathered Saturday at the fifth annual Ultimate LGBT Wedding and Anniversary Expo at the Southfield Civic Pavilion to plan weddings and anniversaries with 95 local vendors.

This year's event was especially significant because of the progress gay rights have made in the past year, event organizers and participants said.

"I think because of the movement across the country where 37 states now recognize same sex couples legally in the state. I think that we have momentum; we have a lot of hope," said Susan Horowitz, editor of Between the Lines, an LGBT news source published by Pride Source, which produced the event.

"Given the amount of nuisance lawsuits around the country...when vendors come out in support it's important to all of us," Horowitz said, who was married to her partner in Canada in 2005.

With over 500 people registered online to attend the free event, the number of vendors grew significantly this year to 95, up from 65 last year, Horowitz said.

Famika Edmond, left, along with Chere Reese Williams, both of Detroit, hold Autumn Carr and their "I do" poster during the 5th Annual The Ultimate LGBT Wedding and Anniversary Expo on Saturday March 21, 2015 in Southfield.

For many attending couples, the event is a safe haven from being denied service due to their homosexuality.

"We've heard so many things about people not getting service," Ely Hernandez, 28, of Ann Arbor said, who attended with her partner Maria Ledbetter, 36, from Ypsilanti. "It's explicit that they're here because they're open to that and they won't say no to providing us services."

At the expo, vendors come looking for business that gay couples might not be able to find elsewhere.

"It seems ridiculous that all these great vendors that participate that might also be part of the LGBT community, they can help you plan your wedding…but they can't have their own," said Brittany Blase, owner of B. Ella Bridal in Plymouth, which has participated in every expo since the event started. "So I'm just here in support of the community and everything they do for my industry and to give back; hopefully there will be some legal equality."

"This year the expo has special meaning because we have same-sex married couples recognized legally, finally," said Lisa Brown, Oakland County Clerk who presided over dozens of gay marriages that were put on hold but eventually recognized by the federal government and state of Michigan.

Brown will also be participating in the fashion show part of the expo, modeling two wedding dresses.

ddraplin@detroitnews.com