I never thought I would be a bride. Even before I knew I was gay, when I was a supposedly straight tween growing up in suburbia, when my best friends would talk about their “dream weddings” of the future, I just couldn’t relate. I like weddings — who doesn’t love a big party celebrating love? — I just never thought I’d have one. And now, here I am: a bride! Truly no one is more surprised than I am.
There are lots of ways to have a wedding, to get married, to throw a party, to legally bind yourself to another human. It should go without saying, but just in case it doesn’t: I do not think that marriage is any more or less special than any other means of making a family. It’s just a thing I’m choosing to do with my fiancée. And, lez be real: there is a dearth of media surrounding queer weddings. So I’m choosing to write about planning my queer wedding, just a little bit here and there. Hopefully, you’ll find the content useful if you are also planning a queer wedding (or perhaps dreaming about one).
Like many experiences on this planet, I barely knew anything about Planning A Wedding until I actually started, you know, planning one. So the thing about weddings is that they can be very simple (like, signing paperwork at the courthouse) or they can be very elaborate, but no matter how you do it, people are going to try to get you to spend So Much Money. If you’re throwing a party (traditional or otherwise) to accompany your wedding, you are actually going to want to hire a lot of vendors. But how do you choose them? How do you even know which ones you need? Well, my friends, I guess that’s where a Bridal Expo comes into play! I hadn’t heard of such a thing. And yet, I found myself waiting in line to attend one just a few weeks ago. I’ll get into that in a bit, but first, let me tell you about my wedding plans:
I felt very strongly that I did not want to hire a wedding planner, and I am very, very, very lucky that my best friend is an incredibly creative and competent individual who has planned several weddings already and who volunteered to be my unofficial maid of honor/party planner (we’re not having an official wedding party, so there is no maid of honor — but I have affectionately titled this pal the CEO of my wedding, to give context for the scope of how much work she’s doing). The function will take place on my friends’ property in the woods, and I’m basically doing all the decorations/tablescapes/set up myself and with the help of friends. We’ve hired a friend to do the catering, we splurged on the most incredible queer photographer whose work I have admired for years, and we’re going to make the wedding cake ourselves.
So when my best friend, who is so invested in planning the wedding that her phone and The Algorithm have decided that she is the bride, got an Instagram ad for the Bridal Expo happening in Portland, I was skeptical. Why would we need to go to a giant event with vendors trying to charge us So Much Money for things we already had taken care of? But my pal insisted that we might see some great inspirational stuff there. Also, we could sample all the cakes. Okay, sold.
When we arrived at the Expo, there was a giant line of people waiting to get inside. I’d say we were two of maybe ten people wearing masks, which felt bad. The event was free, but I’d had to give my email address to “sign up.” I later learned that was a terrible ploy, because even though I carefully refrained from giving my email to any vendors that day, it has become clear that the organizers shared everyone’s emails with every vendor. I will be receiving pleas from some man named Keith to see if I want him to cater my wedding from now until I perish. Bummer for me and for Keith.
One hot tip I would give everyone planning a wedding, no matter how tiny, if you’re going to use even one vendor or go to an event like this one: make an email address specifically dedicated to your wedding. I thought that was a silly idea because I didn’t care that much about the wedding (lol, that has changed, but I was once a sweet summer child, you know?) and also didn’t think I’d be interacting with that many people. I was wrong, first of all, and second of all, especially for an event like the Expo, I wish I’d given a specific email address that I could just walk away from once the wedding is over. Instead, it’s me and Keith for life, babyyyy. Okay, but I digress. The Expo!
It was kind of exactly what I thought it would be, which was: fun, funny, overwhelming, weird, exciting, eye-rolly, useful. I know that some people are just so sincerely Into It when it comes to weddings and I don’t want to make anyone feel bad, but some stuff is just unequivocally cringey, and I can’t hide my true feelings. White women appropriating dream catchers to make “bridal headdresses” and telling me “everyone in LA loves them?” That is fucking weird and bad! People offering “wedding coaching” services, which is “like therapy for your wedding” for when you need to wrangle the groomsmen into photos but they’re “so hungover from going to the strip club and you want to kill them?” Y’all, the straights are not okay.
But mostly, the Expo was a lot of vendors doing a very good job at selling their services, and I can appreciate that. The things I was most invested in: floral arrangements (we’re doing our own, but it was fun to see inspiration), photobooths (we’re going to have a DIY one, but I was fascinated by all the ways technology has changed since my Bat Mitzvah), cake samples (this is self-explanatory, yeah?), a bridal boudoir photoshoot situation (wayyyy too expensive, especially when I can just have my friends take nude photos of me in cute lingerie, but I think for folks who don’t have those kinds of relationships or drag closets and do have the budget, this is very cool!), and, weirdly enough, a porta potty company!
The land where I’m having my wedding has three (3) compost toilets, and my friends who own the land politely suggested that I might want to get some porta potties for the weekend of the wedding so no one has to deal with everyone’s extremely literal shit. Well, did you know that not only do they have wedding-themed porta potties (yes, they are white) — they also have bathroom trailers?! I rented something called The Farmgirl, and the woman on the phone told me the only problem is sometimes brides complain that the guests talk more about how great the toilets were than they do about the bride and the wedding itself. But you know what? If my guests are raving about the toilets at my wedding instead of complaining about having to sprinkle hay into a bucket they just pooped in while in formal wear, I’ll take it!
The crowd at the Expo was eclectic. It was clear some people had driven a very long distance just to attend, which endeared them to me. There were a lot of kids (which surprised me), a lot of brides, a lot of families, and, honestly, a lot of queer couples. My best friend and I got mistaken for brides together a million times — which makes sense, because we were wearing matching party dresses and kept referring to “our wedding” — and not a single vendor was weird or homophobic. Take this with a grain of salt: I do live in Portland, and the queers do sort of run the show around here — but still, when dealing with The Wedding World, I was pleasantly surprised. I was also pleased that not a single vendor seemed fat-shamey or body negative, another pleasant surprise in The Wedding World.
So would I recommend that you, a person planning a wedding, go to a Bridal Expo? It depends. If you’re hiring a wedding planner and don’t particularly want to be super hands-on, it might be a waste of your time. If you’re doing a DIY scenario and don’t want your email shared with literally hundreds of vendors and also know you won’t be using any of them, it also might be a waste of your time. But if you, like me, are planning your own wedding and still want a few “bridal” experiences, even just to see what all the fuss is about, and you’re also open to being inspired by what’s there (and potentially unexpectedly finding the porta potty toilet rental of your dreams, lol), and you also feel confident in your ability to say “no, thank you” when people try to sell you things you don’t want or need, then perhaps a Bridal Expo is, indeed, for you! And if you’re planning your own wedding and are actively looking for vendors for specific things or want to compare options, I think a Bridal Expo is definitely for you and strongly recommend it (although I really do think you should make a specific email address for the wedding process — trust me, you’ll thank me later).
If anyone has questions about the Expo, please feel free to ask in the comments. I’ll do my best to jump in and answer them. And if anyone has requests about other Wedding Content for Autostraddle to publish in the future, let us know! When I’m not driving around the Greater Portland Area buying cheap rugs off OfferUp (for our outdoor dance floor, obviously) or scouring Goodwills for mismatched floral plates and silverware, I’d be thrilled to write more about planning this wedding. Though I never thought I’d be a bride, now that I’m going to be, I’m having a pretty nice time planning it all! I think my tween self would be confused but delighted for me.