Rainbow Wedding Network to host LGBTQ wedding expo in Wichita

The Rainbow Flag was created by a Kansas native

The Rainbow Flag has become a symbol of the LGBT movement around the world. It was created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, an activist, flag maker and Kansas native.
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The Rainbow Flag has become a symbol of the LGBT movement around the world. It was created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, an activist, flag maker and Kansas native.

This weekend marks the first time the Rainbow Wedding Network, a nationwide company founded in 2000 before same-sex marriage was legal in any state, is hosting one of its LGBTQ wedding expos in Kansas.

With the theme of “Same Love, Same Rights,” the Sunday afternoon event being held at Wichita’s Crestview Country Club, 1000 N. 127th St. East, will feature about two dozen area wedding vendors — from DJs to photographers to bakeries and other services — that are “LGBTQ friendly,” according to Marianne Puechl, co-founder of the Rainbow Wedding Network.

While wedding planning for same-sex couples is similar for heterosexual couples, an LGBTQ expo helps same-sex couples know the vendors are willing to provide services to gay couples and likely have experience and sensitivity to avoid awkward situations, like asking which one is the bride, how to stage wedding photos or how to introduce the couple at a wedding reception, said Puechl.

Sometimes heterosexual couples attend the expos because they want to support vendors who don’t discriminate, she said.

Technically, the Kansas Constitution prohibits same-sex marriages but a landmark 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling said same-sex couples have a right to marry under the 14th Amendment. This past legislative session, some Kansas lawmakers tried introducing a bill that would label same-sex marriages “parody marriages” and stop the state from recognizing them.

“It may be four years since the Supreme Court ruling, but couples around the country still let us know they encounter discrimination and awkwardness so events like this matter,” Puechl said. “It matters that … they won’t need to do any explaining and they are welcomed with open arms.”

Already more than 200 people, representing about 100 couples, have registered for the free event, which includes a drawing for a four-night travel package to a Hard Rock resort in either the Caribbean or Mexico, Puechl said.

The fact that the network has never staged an expo in Kansas since it started doing wedding expos nationwide in 2003 isn’t “anything against Kansas,” Puechl said. “We’re a small staff and there are about 15 states we haven’t gotten to.”

When the network staged a similar expo at a Crestview “sister property” in Oklahoma, venue officials suggested holding one in Wichita, she said. The company has organized more than 250 expos since 2003.

Being based on the East Coast — the company headquarters recently moved from North Carolina to Vermont, it took “a lot of cold-calling to see if (vendors) were gay-friendly,” said Puechl.

“Generally the wedding professionals in the area have been receptive,” she said. “Yes, we did have some colorful comments and some have anti-gay thoughts they want to share.”

In addition to hosting expos, the Rainbow Wedding Network also has an online directory of LGBTQ-friendly wedding services vendors.

LGBTQ Wedding Expo

What: Expo featuring more than two dozen wedding vendors who are considered LGBTQ friendly

When: 12:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25

Where: Crestview Country Club, 1000 N. 127th St. East.

Cost: Free, but RSVPs encouraged at eventbrite.com

More information: rainbowweddingnetwork.com