Help with planning same-sex marriages

Stephen Joseph and Ross Alexander of Philadelphia have been together 10 years. So many of their friends have gone through two or three ceremonies - civil unions, domestic partnerships, marriages in other states.

"So we just decided we would wait until it was legal and do it once," said Joseph, 44. He thought he had the wedding plans pretty well in hand, but he went to the Same Sex Wedding Expo at the Convention Center on Sunday and now has many more ideas, a blessing and a curse.

More than 300 couples and 50 businesses - caterers, florists, photographers, jewelers, venues, bakers, and more - assembled in the grand ballroom.

"May 18, gay marriage became legal in Pennsylvania and we began planning this in June," said Lisa Drozd, owner of the American Bridal Show Co., which has been doing wedding expos for 20 years.

"There are still businesses that don't want to do business with same-sex couples," she said. "Couples can come here and have assurance that every business here is welcoming and open."

"I like that it's all LGBT friendly so we don't feel judged," said Angelica Jimenez, 26, of Hammonton, there holding hands with Sarah Philpot, 23, also of Hammonton.

Dick Owens, catering director at Adventure Aquarium, was there to promote his venue. Have the wedding next to the shark tank and overlooking the Philadelphia skyline!

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But he had a special motivation for being there.

"This is my husband," he said, introducing Harry Richards, who was helping him. "Coming today is a very personal thing for me."

The two men married in New York City in 2012.

"We couldn't wait," Owens said. "We thought Pennsylvania might never come around."

"This demographic cherishes the wedding, the right to marry," Owens added. "A lot of gay couples have grown up thinking it would never be an option. This is very special."

Mike Kulp, 36, came down from Lehighton, Carbon County, with his partner, Ashby Mason, 34. "Up by us, it's not as open as it is here," Kulp said, noting that a baker in Pottsville last year refused to make a cake for a gay couple. "Granted," he added, "things have changed a lot. We have a gay campground five miles from my home."

He wasn't at all surprised that 50 vendors came.

"You know gays are going to spend the money to make their weddings fabulous," he said.

Kulp was also accompanied by a friend, Jennifer Hoser, a wedding planner in Lancaster who runs Old Arch Events. She has done gay weddings since the law changed.

"I think most of them want the same traditional things as heterosexual couples," she said, "but over the top. More bling. More glitter."

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