Supreme Court's Prop. 8 ruling sets stage for boom in gay weddings

Published: Friday, Jun. 28, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 30, 2013 - 3:30 pm

The Supreme Court has spoken; now it's time for the florists, ice sculptors and limousine drivers to take over.

By declining to rule on Proposition 8 and effectively clearing the way for gay marriage in California, the court has set the stage for a boom in the wedding business.

Caterers, innkeepers and DJs said Thursday they expect business to perk up once the final legal paperwork clears and the ceremonies begin.

"I've probably booked 17 weddings in the last 24 hours," said Jeffery Gordy of Prefer a Chef, a Sacramento-area catering service. "This is probably the best business decision the government has ever made."

The Williams Institute, a UCLA think tank that researches gender identity law, estimated that 37,000 gay and lesbian couples will wed over the next three years in California. That would generate $492 million worth of wedding cakes, floral arrangements, hotel bookings and other wedding-related expenses, the institute said.

The protracted legal drama around same-sex marriage could influence how much gets spent. Gordy said many couples "think it's their right to make a statement" by throwing a big wedding. "They're going lavish and a little more public."

Susan Crane of Party Concierge, a Sacramento business that supplies ice sculptures, balloons, floral arrangements and other wedding amenities, agreed that the long legal battle over gay marriage could translate into greater attention to detail.

"They've probably waited so long," Crane said. "I think they're going to be special celebrations."

Because California is a vacation destination, it could make the dollars add up even more.

"You're going to have people traveling (to California) and having bigger weddings," said Bernadette Coveney Smith of 14 Stories, a gay-wedding planning and consulting firm in New York and Boston. "There's going to be a big increase in gay wedding tourism."

Smith noted that about 18,000 gay couples got married in California in 2008 during a five-month window when it was legal, before voters outlawed same-sex marriage by passing Proposition 8; that encompassed roughly 13 percent of the weddings conducted in California during that same period.

"That's just an indication of what's to come," she said.

Not everyone is convinced that same-sex weddings will generate a huge business boom.

"Will there be a little bit of catering business in terms of wedding receptions? Sure. A big impact? I don't think so," said Anthony Dimond of HorwathHTL, a hospitality and lodging consultancy in Sacramento.

Many couples may opt for something low-key, like "going down to City Hall and then going out to dinner," Dimond said.

People in the wedding business, however, say they expect the financial fallout to be anything but low-key.

"I'm sure it's going to boost business for everyone," said Shannon Clark of Mix Master, a Sacramento limousine and DJ company.

That anticipated bump hadn't arrived as of Thursday for most vendors. Rick Francis, general manager of the Grand Island Mansion in Walnut Grove, said he hasn't yet received any inquiries from gay couples.

A likely reason: There's still uncertainty about how soon the wedding bells can start chiming.

It could be at least 25 days before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifts the legal stay preventing county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. That timeline may be delayed pending further legal action by Proposition 8 proponents.

But the general expectation is that same-sex marriage will be legal again in California in the very near future. And once the weddings begin, the economic impact will make itself felt.

Richard Markel, president of the Sacramento-based Association for Wedding Professionals International, predicts a 10 percent increase in wedding business in the weeks and months to come.

"They won't just be running to the courthouse" for a simple ceremony, he said.

He said the advent of gay marriage is prompting many vendors to make subtle changes in how they do business. Markel, who runs bridal shows, said he's tweaking his promotional brochures so they're not "as gender oriented" as before.

Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Dale Kasler



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