Before the Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality on June 26, 2015, Christa Ritchie and her team at the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) were already planning ways to reach out to LGBT travelers. In November of 2014, the CVB formed the Louisville Convention and Vistors Bureau LGBT Hospitality Task Force to find ways to bring more LGBT tourists and travelers to Louisville. Then, just before the SCOTUS ruling, the committee had convened and, as Ritchie remembers, â€œWe collectively said â€˜letâ€™s do something if this passes.â€™â€ As the world knows, the Supreme Court did indeed rule in favor of marriage equality; consequently, the CVBâ€™s Say â€œI Doâ€ in Lou campaign was born.
As soon as the Supreme Court decision was made, the task force was back at it, trying to determine what exactly the CVB could do for LGBT guests to the city. Ritchie recalls the breakthrough, â€œWe said â€˜Letâ€™s do a campaign that welcomes LGBT weddings to Louisville. Letâ€™s do a wedding!â€™â€ Say â€œI Doâ€ in Lou is an online video contest sponsored by the CVB along with several local businesses. To enter, couples create a short video describing their love story â€“Â how they met, details of the proposal or why they want to get married in Louisville â€“ and post it on the Visit Louisville Facebook page.
From August 12 to 16, voters can select their favorite video to help pick the winners, who will win the ultimate wedding package. The couple will receive an all-expense-paid Louisville wedding â€“ valued at $20,000 â€“Â that includes nuptials on the deck of 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen and a reception at the inaugural Louisville Pride Festival on September 19, being touted as the â€œWorldâ€™s Largest Wedding Reception.â€ Other winnings include items and services from The Henry Clay, A Thorough Fare Events, Fleur De Lis Events, VOICES of Kentuckiana, Cake Flour, Jaco Limousine & Transportation, Pizzazzle Events, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience and more.
Although the contest is certainly geared toward celebrating and welcoming LGBT weddings, anyone can enter. â€œThis is open to everyone!â€ Ritchie exclaims. â€œAll couples!â€ The contest also extends to those outside of Louisville, as this is a national campaign. Immediate targets in addition to Louisville include Indianapolis and Nashville, though the CVB is working with a national PR firm to try to get the word out around the country.
Despite the rapidity with which the contest developed â€“ the SCOTUS ruling was June 26 and the contest launched July 13 â€“ Ritchie is optimistic the CVB will find the perfect couple to win the package. She and the CVB are expecting national coverage of the campaign and look forward to showcasing the inclusiveness and diversity of Louisville on a national scale. â€œI just hope that whatever perception people have of Louisville, a campaign like this will show that we are welcoming, that we are inclusive and that thereâ€™s so much fun stuff to do no matter who you are,â€ Ritchie asserts of the contest.
With eye-catching artwork that was created remarkably fast by Louisville advertising agency Red7e, the contest is already making a splash in Louisville and beyond. For Ritchie, no matter who wins, the contest in and of itself will hopefully make an impression on people across the country. â€œI hope that it shows that Louisville is welcoming and inclusive and everybody can come to Louisville and feel welcomed and find fun things to do,â€ she describes. â€œThere are so many options: bourbon, the arts, our one of kind attractions! But [the contest] also shows that Louisville is progressive. And thatâ€™s a brand platform we at the CVB want people to see: that itâ€™s a welcoming, progressive and fun place.â€
Beyond attracting contestants, the campaign and its hashtag are wildly catching fire around the city. For example, the Louisville Marriott recently designed an LGBT-themed ad that included the hashtag #SayIDoInLou. It has no direct connection to the contest but rather brings the hashtag into a more common usage to illustrate Louisville as a warm and inclusive city thatâ€™s a great place for a wedding no matter who you are. And, possibly, thatâ€™s the future of Say â€œI Doâ€ in Lou; Ritchie is uncertain if the contest will be recurring, but she hopes it will make an impact and highlight just how welcoming this city is. She says with a smile, â€œWe want to encourage anyone â€“ everyone â€“ to say â€˜I Doâ€™ in Lou!â€ VT
Couples of any orientation may submit short videos â€“Â 60 seconds or less â€“Â of their story to enter Say â€œI Doâ€ in Lou. More details as well as posting guidelines can be found at facebook.com/LouisvilleKentucky. Submissions will be accepted through August 11.