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Wedding vendors noticing changes since Minnesota legalized gay marriage

Hanna Erickson helps fit Richie DePaolis with a dress shirt as Justin Metz looks on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Tip Top Tux in the Moorhead Center Mall in Moorhead, Minn. David Samson / The Forum1 / 2
Hanna Erickson (from left) talks about wedding accent colors with Richie DePaolis and Justin Metz on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at Tip Top Tux in the Moorhead Center Mall in Moorhead, Minn. David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

FARGO - Tom Poole says Minnesota's decision to legalize gay marriage is ushering in a new era.

Poole, The Hub's sales director and the owner of downtown Fargo's Avalon Events Center, says he's excited for the change.

"It's opened up some more opportunities for us, and, I think, the couples that are celebrating their weddings," he says.

He's not alone.

Fargo-Moorhead wedding vendors noticed a shift in May when Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill allowing same-sex marriage, which went into effect Thursday.

Not only are they getting more inquiries from same-sex couples, but they've also noticed they seem more comfortable talking about their wedding plans.

"Couples used to give one name when booking - 'It's the Turner wedding.' Now they give both names very freely," says Poole, who's booked several same-sex weddings.

Before when he met with same-sex couples planning commitment ceremonies, they seemed hesitant.

Now they're openly showing their excitement about being able to legally get married and plan their big day.

"When they come in, there's a different continence to them in general," he says.

Couple Justin Metz and Richie DePaolis have been pleasantly surprised with how they've been treated during their wedding planning.

"They've looked at us like this is our special day, and the fact that it's a little different really doesn't matter," Metz says.

Both men say there was only one business where they felt uncomfortable.

"That was the one instance where we felt like we were treated differently because of who we were," DePaolis says.

They did most of the planning in Fargo before the law went into effect but plan to do more business in Moorhead.

In fact, at the end of August, they're moving across the river.

"Why would you not choose to contribute to the community that will protect you?" Metz says.

Equal treatment

Affairs by Brittany owner Brittany Krueger hasn't noticed a rush of same-sex couples in her Detroit Lakes, Minn., store, but she's anticipating one.

And she's ready.

"It's more business for us and more customers for us to be able to help," she says.

Krueger has noticed that the same-sex brides and grooms she's helped put in dresses and tuxes have seemed more relaxed.

"Before, you'd help people, and it would take a little bit of conversation to even figure out that they were the party that was getting married," she says.

For lesbian couples, she says it's too early to tell whether there'll be a change in attire from the traditional white ball gown.

Whether both wear dresses or one wears a dress and the other a suit depends on their individual preferences.

"Sometimes both women wear dresses; maybe one wants that big, frilly, poufy ball gown, and one wants one that's a little bit more simple," she says.

Aside from figuring out gender-related differences, she says in her experience, gay weddings aren't that different.

"They still use Pinterest, read the bridal magazines, look at the wedding blogs," she says.

Justin Kavlie and Preston Johnson of the Fargo-based Grassfire Studios agree.

The wedding videographers approach same-sex weddings the same way they would any other.

Gay or straight, they capture the same important moments.

"We look at ourselves as storytellers. Every wedding is a great story," director Johnson says.

They filmed a lesbian couple's Minneapolis-area ceremony in 2011 and one of the 18 that took place Thursday at the Clay County Courthouse.

Johnson and producer Kavlie think Minnesota's law change will give them more opportunities and visibility.

"We certainly anticipate that it'll be a natural part of our business, and we're really excited about that," Johnson says.

Metz and DePaolis, both 28, of West Fargo, got married at the courthouse but plan a celebration for the spring.

When they started planning, "It wasn't even an option to get legally married anyway, so we wanted to do it right for the family that was coming up," Metz says.

Jan Jorgensen and her longtime partner were also among the couples who married Thursday, just after midnight.

The 57-year-old Fargo woman says they wanted to be part of the historical event, but they're planning a catered reception for September.

"I think those businesses that do cater to weddings are going to have to realize that we have money - remember, a lot of us don't have children, so we do have more disposable income," she says.

She thinks most wedding vendors will become more gay-friendly over time.

But neither she nor couple Metz and DePaolis are looking for any special treatment.

"When you're talking about your wedding day, you don't want to be treated like a gay couple - you just want to be treated like any couple," Metz says.

Figuring it out

Autumn Wilson of the Fargo-based Autumn Wilson Photography has had one inquiry and one booking for the fall.

One of the couples wasn't expecting to be able to get married anytime soon.

"When the marriage law passed, they were like, 'Oh my goodness, we should actually do this, soon!' " she says.

Since booking her first same-sex wedding, other wedding photographers have started referring clients to her.

"It's a new experience for everyone, so we're all just kind of figuring it out," she says.

Photographer Laura Coon, however, hasn't yet noticed any real changes in the local wedding industry.

And she's surprised.

"My feeling is that it's still seen as a little taboo in the Fargo-Moorhead area, so maybe same-sex couples are keeping their upcoming nuptials smaller and private and therefore not hiring as many typical wedding vendors," she says.

But she'd love to see that change, and be there to document it.

"Same-sex marriage is definitely going to change the wedding industry as we know it," she says.