Netherlands' first gay wedding fair
Glitz, glamour and romance at Netherlands' first gay wedding fair.
Amsterdam--Esther Lamers and Wendy Kanters saunter single-mindedly through the stands vaunting matching wedding gowns, pink limousines and gay-friendly honeymoon cruises at the Netherlands' first-ever gay and lesbian wedding fair.
"We went to a normal wedding fair once but it was .... well, very hetero," Lamers, 47, told AFP at the fair held in Amsterdam on Sunday, 14 February.
"Every time we showed some interest in a pair of rings, for example, we first had to explain that we were gay. Here, we feel more at home."
The couple plans to wed on June 26 and came to Amsterdam to find rings, a woman's tuxedo and other paraphernalia for the big day.
Dubbed "Gay Bride", the fair boasted 75 stands selling products and services ranging from cakes, discos and photographers to sets of wedding gowns or suits, special "pink gold" wedding bands, and holiday packages to gay-friendly countries like Thailand.
There was disco music, glitter balls, oysters, balloons and flowers -- and a massive pink limousine in the middle of the display area.
Visitor Chris de Wild Propitius added an emotional touch to the party atmosphere when he got down on one knee on the centre stage to propose marriage to his partner of three years Jan Koehoorn, who tearfully said: "Yes" to loud cheers.
"I am very happy, nervous, immensely surprised," gushed Koehoorn, who said he hoped to get some wedding ideas while at the fair.
"We have very different ideas of what we want for our wedding -- he wants beer and bitterballen (a Dutch deep-fried snack), I want a more formal sit-down affair. Maybe we can find a compromise here."
A firm favourite with visitors was a display of wedding cake toppers of same-sex dolls in wedding attire.
"This is a unique product and in high demand," said Jaschenka Snaar, who manned the stand and said she was excited to be part of such an historic event.
"Still today, even in the Netherlands, gay couples are sometimes stared at. It is important that they have a comfortable place where they can go for their wedding planning."
The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, in 2001.
Since then, 12,102 gay and lesbian couples have tied the knot in a country that prides itself on a liberal tradition -- 1.7 percent of the total number of marriages registered between 2001 and 2008.
There were between 800,000 and a million gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the Netherlands, according to spokesman Philip Tijsma of gay rights body COC.
"This fair is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate that gay marriage has existed for nearly 10 years," he told AFP.
"It also fills an important gap -- gay couples are not always so comfortable at a 'normal' wedding fair."
A recent study by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research found that nearly 50 percent of Dutch people are offended by two men kissing in public, Tijsma said.
"Gay couples don't need different shops, they need a different approach," added fair organiser Marguerite de Wit.
"They want a travel agency to book them a honeymoon to countries or hotels where gay people are welcome. And instead of a matching suit and dress, they need two suits or two wedding dresses that match."
Baker Micha Jonker said he had brought more wedding cake samples than he would to any other wedding fair.
"With other fairs, it is normal for the clientele to come from the immediate area, but because this one is so unique we are expecting people from all over the country, perhaps even further afield."
Organisers had planned for about 1,500 visitors -- more than 100 came in the first hour.
AFP/ Mariette le Roux/ Expatica