With the recent Presidential Election, as polarizing as it was, another equally hot issue made it way onto the books with the passage of laws in three more states legalizing same sex marriage.

Right now, same sex marriage is legal in nine states: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Washington and Vermont, plus Washington D.C.

This is great news if you support marriage freedom (like I do) and not so great news for traditionalists who oppose same sex marriage. Many wedding vendors seem to fall somewhere in between.

Here’s why you should be paying attention…

Gay Weddings = Big Money for the Wedding Industry

The Williams Institute studies clearly show that same sex weddings are good for the economy, and good for the wedding industry in particular.

Check out these stats:

  • Same sex weddings would create an additional $16.8 billion in revenue for the wedding industry if they were legalized in all states.
  • The New York City comptroller’s offices estimates a $142 million boost to the city’s economy as a result of same sex marriage legalization.

Undoubtedly, it’s good for our pocket books. But what can you do to serve this new market?

Before you dive in and decide that same sex weddings are your ticket to more profits, there are a few things you need to consider.

Look Before You Leap into Same Sex Weddings

1. The same sex wedding market is too small to exclusively support most local wedding businesses.

Not all same sex couples will throw a big party when they get hitched. In fact, same sex couples typically spend less on their weddings than the national average. In addition, there simply aren’t enough same sex weddings happening in many local areas for a wedding vendor to serve that market exclusively.

Before you decide to specialize only in serving the same sex wedding market, be sure to investigate the number of these weddings happening in the market you serve. For most wedding businesses, it’s likely that same sex weddings will be an addition to your income, not a replacement.

2. Same sex couples want to be treated just like any other couple, but you’ll need to make some changes.

Gay couples often have a fear of rejection when hiring wedding professionals. If your website and marketing doesn’t appear “gay friendly,” they’ll pass you by.

You’ll need to make sure the wording on your website, in your emails and marketing is gender neutral. Instead of “bride and groom” they want to see “partners.” Similarly, the language in your paperwork needs to change. References to the bride only create the impression that you work exclusively with traditional couples, and same sex couples will be less likely to contact you.

You’ll also have to make adjustments to the words you use when meeting with the couple to be inclusive of all couples getting married, without being offensive.

3. Marketing to same sex couples can negatively impact your message with traditional couples in some areas.

I like to think we’re all open-minded and progressive, but that simply isn’t the case. When you cater to the same sex marriage market, there are some traditional couples who will be offended and turn away from your product or service. This is especially true in more conservative areas of the country.

On the other hand, embracing same sex weddings will score points for you with the more liberal minded, diverse heterosexual couples searching for a wedding vendor.

Be sure to consider the population and mindset of your marketplace before taking action.

What do you think about the impact of same sex marriage on the wedding industry?

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Stephanie Padovani

Stephanie is a Hudson Valley wedding insider, blogger, writer, and wedding business coach. Want to book more weddings at higher prices? Quit dealing with price shoppers? Transform your wedding business so that it supports the life you really want? Look her up! They don't call her the Wedding Business Cheerleader for nothing. :)

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15 thoughts on “Same Sex Marriage and the Wedding Industry: Hype or Salvation?”

  1. Steve Rubin says:

    I’ve done one commitment ceremony and have no problem (and even enjoyed) working with a same sex couple. Love is love. Though I’m a long married straight man (baby boomer generation) I am very open and see this as a business opportunity.

    Unforfutnately, this couple is no longer together and they were not connected to the gay community for the most part. So what I’m trying to understand is what is the best way to reach that audience. I don’t do anything different in my current marketing (and don’t know that I would) but would have a very welcoming message. I do show images from that one ceremony / portrait sessions on my site, but don’t “call it out”. Any advice on how to best reach this segment of the market (especially in NC). Travel for this type of wedding is no problem for me.

    1. I’ve got an article in the can on this very topic! Coming soon…

  2. Mark says:

    All spiritual argument aside, do you think it might be true that the reason that less people in general are getting married is because as the meaning of marriage is expanded, the less real meaning it has at all?

  3. Asha says:

    Wedding Vendors are loosing their soul over money. You do not need same sex marriage to increase your profits in the wedding industry. I am totally against same sex marriage. I’m a premier wedding planner in Trinidad and Tobago and I will never work with a couple that’s having same sex marriage. Marriage is from God and it was never meant to be between persons of the sex same.

  4. How to market to same-sex couples without alienating the primary straight client base is one of the questions I get most often and we spend a lot of time on this topic during GayWeddingInstitute.com courses and webinars. There are pretty easy ways to get the right balance! Gay weddings are GREAT for business. NYC alone saw $249 million in its first year of same-sex marriage.

  5. Patricia says:

    Hi Stephanie
    I’m from Scotland and the issues you highlight are identical here. I am completely supportive of same sex marriages which are called civil partnerships here. However, the numbers are small and in fact, we”ve only had one civil partnership in three years. Over 90% of our bookings come from a traditional bride marrying a groom. (The rest of the bookings come from parents and other relatives. ) I want to appear welcoming to civil partnerships so I mention them on our home page – simply, ” we’d be delighted to provide the transport for your wedding or civil partnership.” To give credibility to that, I also advertise on a local gay wedding directory. But the vast bulk of my business is for a traditonal wedding with a bride and groom so my marketing is definitely focused on that. My standard paperwork asks for the names of the Bride and Groom. I change that if required. I’ve put Bride 1 and Bride 2 rather than Partner but I’ll think about that after reading these posts. I think the main thing is to be alert to the possibility that an enquiry is about a civil partnership. My experience is that the gay couple usually check out suppliers at wedding shows but bring a sister or brother to buffer the situation. They look like a heterosexual couple and you have to ask the right questions and pick up the clues they are giving you. I am sure that they are afraid to be rejected. I believe that a future bride loves being called a bride and usually ask ” Who is the bride?” not “Who is getting married?” but I switch to terms like
    “Who is the happy couple? Where’s your other half/ partner today?” if I suspect that it is a civil partnership.
    I just want to show respect to all people . It’s a different topic , but I extend this respect to much older couples. I NEVER assume that the young woman in a group at a wedding show is the bride. I was a second time around older bride myself and was asked “Is this for your daughter?” by one vendor and I have never forgotten the embarrassment. By the way, I said Yes and left to go to another vendor.

    My husband and I do not expect civil partnerships to have much of an impact on our client base but showing respect and awareness makes us feel better and if we can contribute to making another couple’s big day special that makes us feel good.

    1. This is a great way to deal with a potentially tricky situation, Patricia.

      When at bridal shows, I used to ask, “Who’s wedding are you planning?” so that I didn’t assume the young woman was the bride. As for same sex couples, I find myself using the word, “partner,” rather than boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife in everyday conversation, just so that I’m not making a potentially offensive assumption.

      It takes retraining to get into the habit, but it’s worth doing.

  6. Tim says:

    Great article! We do most of our business in Iowa (where same sex marriage has been legal for a few years). We haven’t done a lot of tweaking of our website and marketing materials, though we’ve used the word “couple” instead of “bride and groom” more.

    We don’t do a lot of pandering to gay couples. We simply treat same-sex couples as any other couple – unique individuals who are in love and want to have a great celebration at their wedding reception.

    Same sex weddings account for a relatively small percentage of our weddings (about 5%). For us, same sex marriage legalization means an increase in bookings and profit (and equal rights for our gay friends).

  7. Darin says:

    Stephanie,
    Where do you get your information. Washington State just pased same sex marriage this election and it has not gone into effect yet. Are you sure your not talking about Washington DC.

    1. Darin, this number is predicted for Washington State. I added the link to the source inside the article. Thanks!

  8. I find this topic to be an extreme cause for confusion. I am personally and professionally pro same sex marriage but as a vendor I think its a huge struggle to get this right.

    To gender neutralise our entire marketing campaign seems to go against everything else I’ve been taught about targeting and marketing to our niche or ideal client. I would love to be confident enough to take this inclusive approach without fear of diluting the message I’m trying to get across. The plain fact is that 80% of the time I’m booked by a Bride who’s marrying a Groom and I cant afford to confuse the brides looking for my services with mixed messages.

    We have been approached recently by a same sex wedding magazine to advertise our services, after some research we didn’t go ahead with it, partly due to my concerns outlined above but also that the majority of featured vendors were members of the gay community and targeted their services specifically to the same sex wedding industry. Whilst I strongly believe that a same sex couple, much like a mixed sex couple, are looking for a vendor based on their talent rather than sexual orientation these featured vendors were marketing a much stronger message to their chosen niche than I ever could.

    We have chosen to leave our message as it stands at the moment but would welcome feedback and education on how to be more inclusive whilst maintaining my brand message. Kathy at Bride Appeal recently posted an interview with Bernadette Coveney Smith of http://gayweddinginstitute.com/ which US vendors may be interested in.
    http://brideappeal.com/BlogRetrieve.aspx?PostID=303804&A=SearchResult&SearchID=5581589&ObjectID=303804&ObjectType=55

    1. Michelle, this is an excellent point, and one we’ve also struggled with.

      Our entertainment business is hired by 99% heterosexual couples, and 80% of the time the person who contacts us is the bride. Therefore, most of our marketing material is geared towards the bride, not the groom or same sex couples.

      We’ve encountered the same challenge with this website, “Book More BRIDES.” Occasionally, we’ve gotten flack for it because we’re leaving out the groom and same sex couples. However, because wedding vendors are still dealing with the bride most of the time it still makes sense for us to target our market and communicate this way.

      We’ve reached a compromise by using the phrase “bride or groom” more often rather than exclusively referring to the bride. It’s a tricky balancing act that I think each of us has to evaluate individually. Adding more inclusiveness is a good thing, but allowing it to dominate our marketing would not be a healthy business decision, for us.

  9. Bill says:

    Why is it considered ‘open-minded’ only when someone agrees with your opinion? I’m not signaling you out, but the vast majority of people claiming to be open-minded are un-interested in having any discussion with someone with an opposing view.

    As for ‘gay marriage’ being a boon to the wedding industry, crunch some numbers and you’ll see it doesn’t add up. 2% of the population (up to 5% in cities like SF) that has the least monogamous life style and until recently had little interest in marriage can not even come close to $70 billion in revenue. The entire wedding industry is only $75 billion ($30k per wedding x 2.5 million weddings in US and Canada). So it’s at best it’s $750 million assuming every gay couple gets married.

    Our companies experience backs up this reality. We’ve had over 350 weddings in the last two years and one of our primary advertising spots is Offbeat Bride which is definitely open to same sex couples. We’ve had a total of 3 of these couples use our service.

    Sorry to throw cold water on you, but I keep seeing this bad info spread and it’s just another example of hyping to wedding vendors something that isn’t reality.

    1. No cold water is thrown, Bill. This is exactly the type of discussion I was hoping to provoke.

      You’re absolutely right. The numbers don’t jive.

      On further examination, the statistic on the Williams Institute website about same sex weddings adding $70 billion to the wedding industry is FALSE, hopefully just a typo. The true number reported by the study is $16.8 billion in additional revenue. I’ve updated my post accordingly. (They also use the liberal estimate of $70 billion in spending for the wedding industry, while the more conservative Wedding Report estimates closer to $55 billion.)

      Even so, the economic increases reported by Massachusetts and NYC aren’t hype; they’re actual measured increases in revenue for the wedding industry.

      This suggests that the wedding industry could expect a 3-5 year boost in revenue that would taper out over time, resulting in only a modest increase in overall expenditure in the industry.

      That’s also what I’m trying to suggest in this article. Same sex weddings can be an additional revenue stream, but it’s not enough to save a dying wedding business and it won’t be enough for 99% of vendors to subsist on exclusively. However, it IS good for the economy, though the gains may be more modest that those reported by the Williams Institute and may not be reflected in the bottom line of any individual wedding business.

      I also suspect (completely my opinion, no stats to back this up) that in many cases same sex couples will be spending money on their weddings outside the traditional wedding industry. For example, not hiring a “wedding” photographer but hiring a portrait photographer instead to avoid rejection by a traditional wedding specialist. So they’re spending money, but not necessarily with US inside the wedding industry.

      Thanks for bringing this to my attention so that I can dig deeper.

    2. Carol Colman says:

      Hi all – it is great to get a range of perspectives on this issue. My personal belief is that the more people who can get married, the more who will, so the size of the entire wedding-related pie will increase. Over time, we will learn whether same sex weddings tend to be more or less elaborate than the “average” wedding celebration, but in the meantime, a couple is a couple is a couple, and I want to support anyone and everyone who wants to celebrate their commitment. By the way, Bill, if you are doing 350 weddings over two years, I would love to talk about doing business with you. Please email me carol@carolcolmancreations.com so we can chat privately.

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