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Same-sex bridal magazine born of frustration

By Shaunte Dunston, CNN
After Kirsten and Maria Palladino wed, they launched a new life -- and a new business catering to other same-sex couples.
After Kirsten and Maria Palladino wed, they launched a new life -- and a new business catering to other same-sex couples.
  • Couple worried about vendors' reactions while planning their wedding
  • They e-mailed instead of calling vendors to protect their own feelings
  • Kirsten, a journalist, and Maria, a graphic designer, decided to start own magazine
  • Equally Wed showcases gay weddings for anybody planning their own

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Kirsten Ott walked down the aisle in a white strapless gown with an embroidered bodice and cascading ruffles. Maria Palladino, dressed in a white suit, waited for her at the end of the aisle with a minister. Surrounded by their family and close friends, the women committed to each other for the rest of their lives.

A beautiful reception followed. It had all the makings of a traditional wedding, but instead of calling themselves bride and groom, the couple used the terms bride and "broom."

"Broom is a combination of bride and groom," said Kirsten, who took Maria's last name when they wed.

The "broom's" cake was a giant crab, Maria's favorite sea animal. "It was gorgeous and realistic," Kirsten said. "It actually stole the show from the wedding cake itself."

Both were relieved the special day they had planned for so long finally arrived.

Organizing a wedding can be challenging, what with finding the right photographer, the perfect cake, the prettiest flowers and, most importantly, the venue. It was even harder for Kirsten, because she had to find vendors who accepted same-sex marriage in Atlanta, Georgia, where the union isn't legally recognized.

"Our biggest obstacle was our fear, not knowing how we would be received by an industry so focused on heterosexuals getting married, " Kirsten said. "We e-mailed a lot of vendors instead of calling them, because we didn't want to get our feelings hurt. There were a few that didn't write back."

Kirsten and Maria turned to wedding magazines for inspiration while planning their 2008 wedding. But Kirsten said something important was missing. "There are tons of wedding magazines when you go into a wedding section at a bookstore, but we weren't in any of them. Not one single gay couple. It was disheartening."

Over time, the couple found vendors, like a photographer who had worked for a transgender couple and a gay-friendly wedding venue. Ironically, it was the Mary Gay House in Decatur, Georgia.

"We did a lot of research before we contacted most of our vendors, reached out to ... we knew about more of the gay-friendly companies in town or we would ask around."

Planning their wedding inspired the newlyweds to start their own wedding magazine geared toward engaged same-sex couples. Kirsten, a journalist, and Maria, a graphic designer, used their career backgrounds and personal experience to launch the online magazine Equally Wed.

"We do the work for you, call or visit these locations and talk to the owners about how open they are to same-sex couples, no rejection."

The Palladinos discovered that more wedding vendors across the United States are now offering their services for two brides or two grooms. The magazine has a staff that spans the country. Employees find companies that cater to same-sex weddings and welcome couples to their honeymoon destinations. They list gay-friendly vendors that will make the cake, design the flowers or take pictures of the ceremony.

Jeweler Rony Tennenbaum in New York designs wedding rings for same-sex couples.

"Most of the time they are opposite in the likes and tastes. One might be aggressive, rugged and one wants classier," Tennenbaum said.

Tennenbaum also said it's important to break same-sex wedding stereotypes.

"It's important not to make rings that a straight person might think a gay couple wants. Gay couples don't need to wear triangles ... it's not about symbols, it's about signifying love."

Le Tux Shop in Atlanta tailors suits for women. Other shops design clothing for bridal parties made up of women who want to wear dresses or pants.

"That's kind of why we wanted to do Equally Wed. [It] was to showcase normal gay weddings for anybody that's planning their own. It helps to have a model to look at, [to] help you feel like what you're doing is OK," Kirsten said.

Maria said most gay weddings are similar to straight weddings, but there might be a question about which bride will walk down the aisle or which groom will propose.

"Just some of the little things that come out in the details of planning."

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in five U.S. states -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa and New Hampshire -- and in the District of Columbia, while civil unions are permitted in New Jersey.

Maria said, "For us it doesn't matter if we were doing it in Alabama or doing it in Massachusetts, we're providing the fine details of a wedding day."

Kirsten said she believes even though same-sex marriage isn't recognized in most states, that doesn't mean couples can't have a wedding.

"It's a ceremony in front of your friends and family, committing to this other person for the rest of your life ... it doesn't matter what sex you are or who, the sex or gender of the person you're marrying."