Two grooms, one wedding planner

By Juan Forero
Sunday, September 12, 2010

IN BUENOS AIRES Sergio Donoso is gay and says he loves feathers. So on this day, in Andrea Pipkin's party favors shop, he draped a white feather boa around his neck, donning plastic neon sunglasses and a goofy silver-topped hat.

"I'm going with the feathers," Donoso, 38, said. "I don't care if it's gay or not, I like it, and that's it."

His advisers cooed in approval.

"Precious, just precious," Vanesa Marini said, checking off her to-do list.

And so it was all afternoon as Donoso, with Marini and her business associate, Miriam Perez, at his side, careered across the capital preparing for Donoso's October wedding to Natalio Kusnir. The men have been partners for 17 years but now, after Argentine lawmakers in July made same-sex marriage legal, they will take the plunge.

The law has prompted wedding planners across Buenos Aires to retool for a new market: gay couples, who say they are partying in joyous style after Argentina became the first Latin American country to permit couples of the same sex to exchange vows.

Gay leaders say there have been more than 140 same-sex weddings nationwide, with another 120 expected before the end of the month.

For Donoso, the change in law meant rushing to wedding providers on a recent rainy day, choosing cupcakes from the Delicias Gourmet bakery, visiting a caterer and renting party hats from Pipkin's shop. Marini and Perez were there, taking copious notes, offering counseling and making the arrangements.

Their business is called Gay Planners, founded in 2009 as efforts to legalize same-sex marriage gained momentum in Argentina. Now, they anticipate planning an average of four weddings a month.

"The market is wide open for weddings, and our workdays have been nonstop," said Marini. "We are now offering lots of packages, options so they can celebrate with everything they have."

This is a strongly Catholic country where a pioneer image of manhood is celebrated, whether it's the rugged cowboy taming the frontier or the stoic immigrant who worked the stockyards. Argentina's famous populist leader, Juan Peron, heralded his iconic countrymen and showed little patience for homosexuals.

"They're a sign of decadence," Peron once told a biographer.

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