When Rob McKinney and Tyler Leasher began meeting with vendors to plan their wedding, they weren't sure of what kind of reception they'd get.
After all, "this was kind of new for our state," McKinney said, referring to the law allowing same-sex couples to marry. "We didn't know whether to expect any complications, or if we'd be welcomed by different venues. But it turned out to be a very positive experience."
The only time the Champaign couple felt uncomfortable was when they attended a local wedding expo shortly after getting engaged.
When Leasher went online to register, "everything was brides this and brides that," he said. At the event, he found a VIB (Very Important Bride) sticker in the goody bag.
"I could understand if it was simply all dresses, hair and makeup, but I saw very few booths that would just be for the bride. Most were photographers, cake people, caterers, etc.," said Leasher, who expressed his concern to organizers via their website, but never received a response. "It made it kind of feel like the wedding is only about the bride. ... I know in most cases, the bride does make a majority of the decisions, but I felt left out. As we walked through, I felt that most vendors only really reached out to those ladies wearing the VIB stickers, knowing they were the decision makers."
With only a few months to go before same-sex marriage becomes legal, one wedding expert said businesses may need to refine their practices to be more all-inclusive.
"This is a new day for all of us ... and we're charting new territory," said Gwen Wilson, owner of Nuptiae Wedding & Event Planners in Gifford. "A lot of people have waited a really long time for this to happen and be able have this special day. I definitely want to make sure I'm not making anyone feel uncomfortable or that they don't belong."
After learning that her friend Brad Martin got his company — Anywhere Anytime Journeys in Rantoul — certified through the Gay Wedding Institute, Wilson decided to bring representatives from GWI in from New York to put on a seminar for vendors. It's scheduled for April 1 at Allerton Park in Monticello.
The six-hour training will cover same-sex marriage laws and policies, language and terminology, wedding trends and traditions.
"My goal is to not just train wedding professionals to be gay-friendly and open-minded," said founder Bernadette Coveney Smith, who has trained people throughout the country and from nine different countries.
"The goal is to train them to be advocates for their clients, which is definitely a step beyond being gay-friendly. The reason we do that is that in (most) states, it's perfectly legal for a same-sex couple to be discriminated against based on their sexuality, and the couple has no recourse."
Participants who complete the training will be LGBT-certified by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
For more information about the seminar, people can call Wilson at 217-621-0372.