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Say I Do: Marriage Equality Means Big Business

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By Marene Gustin

“You know that song ‘I Was Country when Country Wasn’t Cool’?” asks Sandra Bubbert of The Acadian Bakers. “That’s me! I’ve been baking wedding cakes for same-sex couples for 36 years. I never turned anybody down. If Mickey Mouse came in here, I’d bake the little rat a cake. Love is love.”

Still, Bubbert, like other Texas wedding vendors, expects to see a bump in business since the Supreme Court’s historic June ruling that declared state bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Possibly a very big bump.

Just how big? According to statistics compiled by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at UCLA Law, Texas could see as much as an additional $181.2 million in wedding spending over the next three years.

And possibly more. Look at the statistics compiled by the Gay Wedding Institute: engaged same-sex couples are expecting an average of 80 guests at their wedding. Female same-sex couples spend more on their weddings than male same-sex couples. For those already married, female same-sex couples spent 15 percent more than male couples. And 88 percent of same-sex couples do not have their ceremony in a place of worship—great news for wedding venues and restaurants.

Need more reasons to start courting the LGBT wedding market? How about the fact (from Witeck Communications) that gay and lesbian buying power has been estimated at $830 billion nationwide? Or that Forbes estimated (back in 2006) that gay marriages could potentially boost the overall wedding industry by $9.5 billion in America. Indeed, $259 million was spent in New York City alone during the first year of same-sex marriage in New York State, according to retailer New York & Company.

Wedding cake topper and flowers
Boosting Business: Allowing Texas same-sex couples to marry in their home state will benefit local wedding vendors such as bakeries, florists, event venues, and bridal shops.

At the recent 30th Annual Bridal Extravaganza Show, one of the largest bridal fairs in the country, the Houston Chronicle reported that vendors welcomed same-sex couples with gusto. “Who Made the Cake!, a Houston cake design studio, brought in a multi-tiered cake called Love Around the World that featured same-sex couples traveling together, two men riding in a gondola, and two women in a hot-air balloon.”

Travelling to destination weddings has always been good business for the vendors who plan them; gay and lesbian couples spent $70 billion on travel last year, according to Community Marketing, Inc. While that probably won’t change much, allowing Texas same-sex couples to marry in their home state will certainly benefit local wedding vendors such as bakeries, florists, event venues, and bridal shops.

“We’re already seeing an increase in business,” says florist Glenwood Weber of Glenwood Weber Designs. “In fact, we had an order today.” Weber thinks many people were uncertain about the ruling and were waiting to start planning weddings. “But they’re making plans now—we’ve seen a big increase in traffic on the wedding portion of our website. People were just so happy about the ruling, and now they’re getting excited planning their weddings.”

Michael Morreale and Fabian Valencia began planning their wedding last year, before it was legal in Texas.

“We were going to go to Boston for the legal ceremony and then come back here for a celebration,” says Morreale. They booked the grand ballroom at the Sheraton Brookhollow for October. “We are having a lot of out-of-town guests, so we wanted a venue that was convenient for them. The Sheraton was very friendly and accommodating, even though when we booked it marriage wasn’t legal here yet. Now that it is, we are having the ceremony in the ballroom, as well as a seated dinner and dancing.”

Morreale says they didn’t hire a wedding planner because they’d been to a lot of weddings and pretty much knew what they wanted. “We just called the florist and cake people and entertainment we wanted,” he says. Finding LGBT-friendly vendors was an added bonus, Morreale says. “Everyone was very professional and friendly.”

Marene Gustin is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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