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27 Dec 2013

The First Full Year of Marriage Equality: Planners Hope to Make Palm Springs a Gay-Marriage Destination

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Helen Macfarlane and Siouxzan Perry were married in a small post-Christmas ceremony—but have plans for a big Hawaiian-themed party in the new year. Helen Macfarlane and Siouxzan Perry were married in a small post-Christmas ceremony—but have plans for a big Hawaiian-themed party in the new year.

Siouxzan Perry, a graphic designer and website developer, was the manager of Tura Satana, the lead actress in the 1965 B-Movie classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

“She passed away in 2011 on my birthday,” said Perry.

Perry was devastated by the loss of her client and close friend. At Perry’s home, Tura Satana is in every room in some way—paintings, photographs, film props, movie posters and even some of her personal items.

While Perry has always been open about the fact that she’s a lesbian, she was in no rush to date. She explained that past romances have included drama, ex-girlfriend issues, and other things she didn’t want to deal with.

Then Helen Macfarlane entered her life.

“I met Helen on Facebook through a friend. I do something called ‘LP of the day.’ I’ve been doing it for five years now: I put up an LP everyday that’s absolutely hideous, and I just let everybody go with it,” said Perry.

Macfarlane, a commissioned artist and language interpreter, felt immediately connected to Siouxzan after reading her Facebook page.

“We just started to have contact. I knew she was a real person, and it wasn’t a catfish situation,” said Macfarlane.

There was only one problem with their online romance: Macfarlane, a native of New Zealand, was living in Austria, and had been for 30 years.

Perry was hesitant at first to meet Macfarlane.

“Before I knew it, she came out to visit, and she fell in love with the desert—and with me! She went back, and it took about two years to make preparations to bring her here,” said Perry.

Then came June 2013, when U.S. Supreme Court rulings struck down much of the Defense of Marriage Act, and reversed Proposition 8 in California, again legalizing gay marriage here. Macfarlane was out of the country and in the process of returning to the United States when Perry called her with the news.

They decided it was time to make that leap themselves.

“We want to be married, not just because we love each other and we know that we want to be together, but also because it will help with Helen with getting her green card and getting sponsored so she can work here,” Perry said. “Right now, she’s here on a six-month visa, and everything is going through Austria. It’s a pain.”

They are having two weddings: They enjoyed a small ceremony on Dec. 26, and early in the new year, they will go all out with a Hawaiian-themed event, featuring Hawaiian food, Hawaiian music and tiki-related items.

Meanwhile, the gay-marriage rush has led to good times for local LGBT wedding planners and officiants.

Richard Cadieux of Palm Desert, known as the “Wedding Professor” (right), said that he couldn’t be happier with the boom in business. He said he’s performed more than 900 wedding ceremonies for couples both straight and LGBT over the past 13 years, and he’s enjoyed the increase in business since June.

“On Nov. 22, I did 27 (weddings) back to back in Palm Springs under the Marilyn statue,” said Cadieux. “In November, I did 47 total. In December, I did 18. Ever since July, my business went up 400 percent.”

Cadieux said many couples rushed to tie the knot before the year’s end.

“There’s a thrust of people who are beating the clock before Jan. 1 because of tax purposes—and there’s been pent-up excitement,” he said. “The first year, I know, is going to be the heaviest year; the second year will trail down, and the third year will tail off from there.”

Still, there is the potential for Palm Springs to become a gay-wedding hub, of sorts, Cadieux said.

“We hope as a tourist destination that people come from states where it’s too cold, even if (marriage there is) legal or not, and that we develop a tourist destination for weddings here,” said Cadieux.

Cadieux has noticed trends developing regarding LGBT wedding ceremonies—some of which have been surprising.

“The ones who are spending the most money are girls,” he said. “Recently, there were a couple of women from Long Beach who were taking over the Farrell Compound. It was probably a $40,000 wedding.”

The first wave of same-sex couples who are getting married has included many couples who are older and have been together longer—25 to 50 years or more, in many cases. The Rev. Lisa Phillian, of Rainbow Weddings—she prefers to be known as The Reverend Lisa—provided one example of an older couple she married earlier this year.

“There was a gentleman—his name was George,” she said. “… He came with his oxygen tank and his partner. We made a makeshift chapel in our living room and married them in front of it. A month after they were married, his husband, Kenny, called me and said George had died. I send out 150 Christmas cards each year, and six have called me this year to inform me that their partner has passed since their weddings.”

At the same time, The Reverend Lisa has witnessed more elaborate weddings that have included the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and hot-air balloon rides in Temecula—and there was even one on a helicopter pad at a Beverly Hills hotel.

“What we try to promote to our clients is romance,” she said. “Every couple I have ever married has said they’re just doing it for the taxes, and it’s a piece of paper. Out of 150 couples, at least 125 of them have stood and cried, so it’s not just a piece of paper.”

Both Richard Cadieux and The Reverend Lisa offered some advice to couples considering taking the leap.

“A wedding is more than just flowers, cake, a venue and a reception,” said The Reverend Lisa. “Hire a good planner, and allow your event to be pleasant. Your day should be special—whether it’s small or large. … The right planner makes a difference. Also, do it in reverence. We sometimes jump at something because we’re afraid it’s going to leave. (Gay marriage) is not leaving this time.”

Richard Cadieux emphasized the importance of the wedding’s attendees.

“Talk to your partner about the guest list,” said Cadieux. “Get realistic so that feelings don’t get hurt. … I knew Harvey Milk when I was living in San Francisco, and he said, ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are!’ My experience is when there are a number of straight guests who have never been to a same-sex wedding, they see who we are. … If (people getting married) can invite some people who have not seen love in a same-sex marriage, it will affect their consciousness, and we will gain our rights across the country faster.”

Below: The Reverend Lisa: “I send out 150 Christmas cards each year, and six have called me this year to inform me that their partner has passed since their weddings.” Photo by Jehd Tienzo.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Keith Pullman Saturday, 28 December 2013 08:19 posted by Keith Pullman

    There could be even more people having weddings if polyamorous marriages were legalized. California has already set the state by recognizing a child can have more than two parents. There is no good reason to deny that we must keep evolving until an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, monogamy or polyamory, race, or religion is free to marry any and all consenting adults. The limited same-gender freedom to marry is a great and historic step, but is NOT full marriage equality, because equality "just for some" is not equality. Let's stand up for EVERY ADULT'S right to marry the person(s) they love. Get on the right side of history!

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