WIPA at the Fabulous Park Plaza Hotel

The legendary Park Plaza in Los Angeles rolled out the red carpet (literally!) on February 7, when they hosted the first WIPA event of 2012. Presented in a flourish of color, design, networking and education, this afternoon luncheon packed a lot of punch in one afternoon.
Greeted with a red carpet leading toward the Park Plaza iconic grand staircase, guests were presented with an impressive collection of tall cylinders accented with owls, retro fabrics and whimsical textures. The floral design by Shawna Yamamoto was cleverly leaning toward a vintage theme (think Mad Men 60s mod, in colors of avocado, marigold, and Pantone’s color for 2012 – tangerine). The linens from La Tavola offered a splash of color on the cocktail tables and guest tables, while Copper Willow informed and texturized with fine stationary pieces and coasters. Even the menu, offered by Summit Catering, was designed to answer the question: “What would Betty Draper serve?”, perfectly presenting what the holiday party at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce might have on the conference table (next to the martinis, of course – which were also well represented, this time with the sweetness of cotton candy, provided by Tasty Clouds.) And what dessert display is complete without coffee creations, presented by The Cappuccino Connection? Add to that the comfy lounge pieces from Lounge Appeal suggesting that networking can happen in deluxe (relaxed!) style (and accented with the swanky tunes from Gerry Rothschild Band) no one was in a hurry to return to the office…!
And while the vintage-inspired theme took place in a historic venue, the educational topic couldn’t have been more timely: on the day that California’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional, event planner Bernadette Coveney Smith shared her expertise on The Emerging Gay & Lesbian Wedding Market. Her company, 14 Stories, was the first firm in the nation to specialize in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) weddings and their goal is to provide LBGT couples greater comfort when navigating a traditionally straight wedding industry.
The statistics Bernadette offered were enlightening:
* As of this presentation date, only seven states have legalized gay marriage, another five have civil unions and four have gay marriage initiatives in the legal pipeline.
* While every state has nondiscrimination policies, a majority of states have no protection for discriminating against gay couples. Many LGBT couples undoubtedly still face discrimination, and are still encourged to fiercely fight for your rights to get justice from the government and society.
* The median household income of gay and lesbian couples is $86,400 and they spent $70 billion on travel last year
* California has four of the top ten tourism destinations for gay travelers: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, San Diego – when gay marriage becomes legal in California, we can expect a boom in the wedding industry. Which begs the question: is your business ready for the emerging LGBT wedding market?
The wedding industry is heteronormative (i.e. operating on the assumption that all people are heterosexual). Simple, innocent, statements or comments can be divisive and alienating: “bride and groom” rather than “couple” or “spouse” or “partner”, for example. Bernadette suggested we take a look at our marketing materials and contract phrasing and determine if a same-sex couple will find the message off-putting or a inhospitable. Also consider that 50% of same sex couples do not read wedding magazines. How will your business reach that market? Is there anything on your website that indicates an open door to all couples? Is your staff and preferred event professionals all friendly to gay couples and their right to marry? It may be wise to offer a recommended resources list for LGBT clients that offer legal services or family law attorneys who are experts in the legalities of same sex partnerships, CPAs who specialize in preparing tax returns for same sex partnerships, a designer or clothier that specializes in suits for women (or a great tailor who will be respectful of women cliental), as well as those event professionals you know to be 100% supportive of LGBT unions. When planning a gay wedding, the couple essentially has to “come out” over and over again to the various event professionals and service providers they interview and consider: is there anything you can do to advocate on their behalf and improve their experience?
Bernadette’s presentation was jam-packed with statistics, ideas, samples and strategies, and summarizing in one paragraph does not begin to cover it! Luckily, much information and educational opportunities are available on her website, www.14stories.com.
The afternoon could not have taken place without the expertise and talent of the various event professionals dedicated to the success of the event and to the WIPA organization, led by co-chairs Nahid Farhoud from Wedding Elegance by Nahid, and Michelle Nowak from Good Gracious! Events. The archive and testimonial to the day would be incomplete without the artistry of Gene Higa Photography and Vantage Point Custom Films. And none of us would have had reason to gather this afternoon if not for the directive and mission of WIPA to champion knowledge, integrity, quality, & education in our wedding industry.
A Huge thank you to our guest blogger Melissa Kay Allen. She is the Director of Special Events and Marketing at the historic Ebell of Los Angeles. She is a regular contributor of wedding advice at WeddingAces.com in addition to her regular posts on the event industry and other musings at MelissaKayAllen.com and has appeared at various workshops and speaking engagements. Melissa is an amateur mixologist (i.e. she enjoys cocktails), a certified (if not certifiable) chocoholic, and mom to two shih-tzu puppies, Gimlet & Sidecar.
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