The $51 Billion Wedding Industry Toasts a Post-DOMA Bump
On June 24, two days before the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, theknot.com, America’s most-trafficked wedding website, released a glossy, digital gay weddings magazine. It features inspiration pictures (check out Antonio and Jason’s “regal and lush” wedding at the Plaza), an etiquette guide, and Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who has his own line of gay-marriage-supporting bow ties. On the day of the ruling, Banana Republic asked same-sex and heterosexual couples to “celebrate equality and love for all” by sharing their love story on the brand’s Facebook page for an opportunity to win $500 gift cards “perfect for outfitting your upcoming nuptials.” The Marriott hotel chain is launching an LGBT marketing campaign in the DOMA ruling’s wake, and a section of its website is now devoted to same-sex weddings and civil ceremonies.
American weddings are a $51 billion industry that employs nearly 800,000 people, according to the market-research firm IBISWorld. A 2009 study from the University of California at Los Angeles’s Williams Institute estimated that New Jersey would generate $15.1 million in new revenue if the state legalized gay marriage. That same year the New York City Comptroller’s Office estimated that the city would gain more than $200 million in revenue from gay weddings over a three-year span. Jody Hall, owner of Seattle chain Cupcake Royale, says her wedding-related business has doubled since gay marriage was legalized in Washington State in November. Long a supporter of gay marriage initiatives, she now realizes “it’s inadvertently been a great business strategy.”
Bernadette Coveney Smith, president and founder of 14 Stories, the first company in the U.S. to specialize in same-sex wedding planning, predicts that post-DOMA, states with legal gay marriage will see a quick elopement bump. Couples from Texas, Georgia, and other states where same-sex marriage is still outlawed will travel to Massachusetts and New York, which will see “a big increase in hotel room bookings and officiants and wedding planners” employed. Chris Rovzar, the editor of Vanity Fair’s website, is planning a 200-person wedding for September 2014. His fiancé, Cub Barrett, is from New Jersey, where gay marriage still isn’t legal, so they’re doing it in Rovzar’s home state of Maine, which will support the local Boothbay Harbor economy.
According to theknot.com’s yearly wedding study, which surveyed 17,500 couples in 2012, same-sex couples have slightly smaller nuptials than heterosexual couples, but they spend more money per guest, more money overall, and have a higher household income.
When Coveney Smith started her business nearly a decade ago, she says, vendors were wary of featuring same-sex couples on their websites for fear of alienating straight clientele. Not so anymore. On his trip to Maine to look at venues for his rehearsal dinner and wedding ceremony, Rovzar says not a single person “asked where the bride was. Everyone was so matter-of-fact about it.” Lately, Rovzar has been pinning lobster-patterned save-the-dates on Pinterest. The institution of marriage may evolve, but obsessing over wedding details is a tradition that holds fast.