ROGERS PARK — The couple behind wedding planning service Crafty Broads said they've seen a "significant increase" in same-sex clients this wedding season now that gay marriage is legal in Illinois.
Cindy Savage and Julia Zayas-Melendez, who held their wedding ceremony in Chicago in 2010 and were legally married in Massachusetts two weeks later, said that before the law was approved about 10 percent of business came from same-sex couples. Now it's as much as a third.
"We've seen more gay couples than we used to," said Zayas-Melendez, 34, from the Crafty Broads storefront at 1329 W. Loyola Ave. "And the ones we've spoken to have been much more excited about it because it feels real finally."
Two women who got married are now hoping Illinois' same-sex marriage law will bolster their wedding planning business:
The couple — with more than 30 years of theater stage managing experience between them — began planning weddings in 2010.
The first was their own.
From the wedding cake to the location, which was the pier at the end of Pratt Boulevard, they did it all and found their history in theater gave them a knack for coordinating the theatric production that is a wedding.
"Wedding planning is an idea that I have sort of toyed with getting into, but I never quite had a reason to actually do it until we got married and I did it and it was really fun," said Savage, 32.
Since founding the company in their Rogers Park apartment, where they designed and sewed their own wedding dresses, they moved Crafty Broads to its Loyola Avenue storefront a year ago.
And business is steady.
Melissa Herrick, 37, and her now-wife Jennifer "Jiff" Fortner, 34, enlisted Crafty Broads' services in a pinch shortly after a federal judge ruled same-sex couples could marry ahead of the June 1 enactment of the state law.
"I was incredibly overwhelmed, like any bride would be," Herrick said. "Cindy was just immediately like comfort. We ultimately went with them because of their attitude and willingness to make me feel like, 'Yes, you can have a beautiful wedding five weeks out.' "
She and Fortner married on March 1 and were the 29th same-sex couple to receive a wedding license in Illinois.
Savage says the law hasn't "changed how we do our business."
"It's just like a sigh of relief," she said. "It's so nice not to have to worry about [getting a marriage license]. Everybody can go down to the City Clerk, get their license and do it like everyone else."
Savage and Zayas-Melendez met and fell in love all at the same time during a theater production's reception in 2006.
"Before that moment I have absolutely denied the possibility of love at first sight from across the room," Savage said. "I still kind of staunchly deny it. But it actually happened to me so I can't really continue doing that."
The couple say their own love story has taught them how to approach the sometimes sensitive nature of a same-sex wedding — from disapproving family members to the fit of a tuxedo on a transgender man.
"That struggle is universal for everyone involved in the [LGBT] community, whether you're gay or lesbian or transgender. All of that is really hard to handle," Zayas-Melendez said. "It's really nice when we can talk to a transgender man who's no longer wearing woman's clothes and tailor him something, and explain, 'How do you want to address these curves that you have?'
"I think it makes a difference."
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