UCC congregations participate in California LGBT wedding expo
Written by Emily Schappacher
August 20, 2013

Attendees visit the booth of Sierra-Arden UCC during the LGBT Wedding Expo in Sacramento, Calif. Photo courtesy of: The Sacramento Bee

Among the booths of vendors at a California wedding expo offering catering, DJ and floral services were two United Church of Christ congregations offering a safe space for LGBT couples to exchange their vows and legally marry. In an unconventional way of showing support for marriage equality and the LGBT community, Pioneer Congregational UCC and Sierra-Arden UCC showcased their same-sex wedding ceremony services last week at the first Sacramento LGBT Wedding Expo.

"We were bringing the church to the people in a venue where they don't expect to see a church necessarily," said Joe Lenihan, member and wedding site coordinator of Pioneer Congregational UCC. "The attendees were both surprised and delighted because we were there."

Pioneer Congregational and Sierra-Arden UCC, both based in Sacramento, were among more than 70 vendors offering everything from salon services to wedding gowns to cupcakes. Benefitting the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, the event also featured a fashion show, live music, and champagne, cake and food tastings. But more than that, the expo offered LGBT couples an opportunity to celebrate and plan for their upcoming nuptials in a state where gay marriage had been banned until June, when Proposition 8, California's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, was overturned.

Models wear wedding attire during the LGBT Wedding Expo in Sacramento, Calif. Photo courtesy of The Sacramento Bee

"It was a very pleasant and upbeat event," Lenihan said. "It's a way to expose the church to a larger base and make it known that we will, in fact, marry same-sex couples, which we have been willing to do for the last 10 years."

Pioneer Congregational UCC has been Open and Affirming for the past 10 years, and performs about 40 weddings a year, including a number of holy unions and commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples. While the congregation has exhibited at wedding expos in the past, this is the first event they have participated in geared specifically toward LGBT couples. Lenihan hopes that the recent ruling on Proposition 8 brings more LGBT weddings to the church, but he notes that many of the expo's younger attendees seemed to be more interested in non-traditional wedding venues, like a park or a gazebo, than a church.

"The crowd was mostly people 35 and younger who have no exposure to any sort of church," Lenihan said. "But it's good to introduce ourselves to people walking by and show them what we have to offer."

One of the things Pioneer Congregational UCC has to offer is a truly beautiful sanctuary. In their booth, Lenihan displays a large, framed photograph of a wedding ceremony taking place at the church. One of the oldest congregations in Sacramento with a history dating back to the Gold Rush, Lenihan thinks the photo does a good job of providing a visual for people anticipating one of the most important days of their lives.

"The photo lets people know what happens on the inside – and it's not hard to appreciate the simple beauty," Lenihan says of the church's sanctuary. "Hopefully it will catch the eye of folks who are looking for a wedding venue or just a healthy place to worship."

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Ms. Emily Schappacher
Communications Specialist
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216-736-2177
schappachere@ucc.org

Ms. Connie N. Larkman
Managing Editor & News Director
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