sayidoThe Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) wants the LGBT world to know the River City wants its weddings. To get this message out, the CVB will launch a social media and digital ad campaign on Monday called “Say I Do in Lou.” Via ads on the CVB’s online pages, including Facebook and Twitter, the campaign will promote the message that Louisville is a welcoming, inclusive city.

There’s also a kicker to this campaign, says Christa Ritchie, communications manager for the CVB. The campaign will culminate with an all-expenses paid weekend getaway (or staycation, should the winners be Louisvillians) and wedding for one lucky LGBT couple. The CVB is currently working to line up sponsors for the wedding.

“We want to do this campaign to welcome LGBT couples that can now get married,” she says. “Now they can come to Louisville to do it.”

The wedding festivities will take place the weekend of Sept. 18-20, with the ceremony on Sept. 19. The reception will be held at the inaugural Louisville Pride Festival, also Sept. 19, and the CVB is calling this, tongue-in-cheek, the “World’s Largest LGBT Wedding Reception.”

Louisville advertising firm Red7e created the digital and social media ads, all of which were done in short order given it’s been just a few weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. “We wanted to follow on the heels of the excitement,” Ritchie says.

As for the free LGBT wedding and getaway portion of the campaign, here’s how it will work: The CVB will encourage LGBT couples to download short videos that tell their love stories, including details about their proposals, why marriage is special to them, and the like. The couples will post these videos on the Visit Louisville Facebook page. Viewers will vote for the videos they like best, and then the CVB’s LGBT Hospitality Task Force — which includes representatives from the Fairness Campaign and Louisville Pride Foundation — will select the winner. Couples must be over 21 and U.S. residents to win.

Video submissions will be accepted from July 13 through Aug. 11, and the public can vote on the videos from Aug. 12-19.

The CVB also will use a #SayIDoinLou hashtag to spread the word.

Same-sex weddings are big business and could generate millions of dollars for Louisville in the next few years. According to data from the Williams Institute, a think tank affiliated with the University of California at Los Angeles, Kentucky could reap over $23 million in same-sex wedding-related spending, including tourism, within the first three years following the legalization of same-sex marriages. Just over 26 percent of Kentucky’s same-sex couples are in Jefferson County, so by a conservative estimate, Jefferson County’s share of this bounty could run to $6 million.

Chris Hartman, director of Louisville’s nonprofit Fairness Campaign, says the city of Louisville and the CVB are simply being smart and thinking strategically by working to become an LGBT marriage hub. This will not only boost Louisville’s wedding industry, he adds, but could yield longer-term benefits in the form of encouraging a more progressive, diverse workforce to move to Louisville. “This exposes more folks to Louisville as a welcoming place,” he says.

Part of this welcoming vibe plays into what he said was Louisville’s “storied” history as a city that passed the first fairness ordinance for its LGBT citizens in 1999, the first of its kind in Kentucky. This fairness ordinance protects LGBT residents from workplace discrimination. Louisville is now one of eight cities in Kentucky with such an ordinance.