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“A huge untapped market:” Milwaukee plays host to first LGBT Wedding Expo

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- It's a historic wedding expo because of the couples it's targeting. 54 vendors took part in the LGBT Wedding Expo, held Thursday, November 13th at the Radisson Milwaukee West, near Mayfair Mall.

In October, the United States Supreme Court rejected requests from five states, including Wisconsin to immediately review bans prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from getting married. That made same-sex marriage legal in Wisconsin, because lower appeals court rulings striking down the same-sex marriage bans were enforced, following the Supreme Court's decision.

Now, many same-sex couples are excited to start planning their weddings.

"They were estimating spending in the first three years to be about $34 million, so it's a huge untapped market," Jason Rae, the executive director of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce said.

Caley Hartman drove down to Milwaukee from Appleton for Thursday's Wedding Expo.

"I've been shooting weddings for the last three or four years and quickly discovered that that's my niche," Hartman, who owns "Willow Marie Photography" said.

Hartman brought along several samples of her work -- and one of them in particular stood out.

"I'm very proud of the (same-sex wedding) I've shot so far. I like to show them off because they're a fantastic couple and I hope to get a bunch more today," Hartman said.

Rae said as far as he's aware, Thursday's event was the first wedding expo geared towards LGBT couples -- at least in the Milwaukee area.

54 vendors who work in the wedding industry were on hand as couples worked to plan their big day. Rae calls this wedding expo a huge moment for the LGBT community and an opportunity for businesses in Wisconsin.

"The LGBT community has a lot of spending power and a lot of ability, but most importantly, the LGBT community wants to do business with those that share their values -- so they're willing to go out and say 'who can I support that supports me?'" Rae said.

That spending power is something vendors like Hartman are acutely aware of.

"It's going to be enormous for this first few years at least," Hartman said.

The LGBT Wedding Expo continues until 8:00 p.m. Thursday.

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