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A Gay Wedding Windfall for New York

Same-sex nuptials are boosting sales for companies across the state

When the New York Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage on June 24, Michael Watts rushed to celebrate at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, birthplace of the gay rights movement. The next morning, after a more sober assessment of the news, he bought advertisements in three gay publications for his catering business. “Congratulations New York! It’s time to start planning,” read the ads for Cocktail Caterers, the company Watts founded in 2005 with his domestic partner. Since then the company has received 50 inquiries about feeding nuptial guests, up from three in all of 2010. “People are realizing, ‘Hello, there’s a market in this,’ ” says Watts.

As thousands of gay couples have lined up to exchange vows in New York, they’ve been courted by florists, caterers, event planners, and other businesses trying to capitalize on the new market of same-sex brides and grooms. Even the Manhattan Clerk’s office, which issues marriage licenses, has started selling wine stoppers and coffee mugs adorned with two grooms or two brides in its gift shop. “There are no rules” with same-sex ceremonies, says David Beahm, who plans high-end parties, including the nuptials of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in 2000. “Most grandmothers haven’t been to a gay wedding.”