This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.com, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.
In the early days, it was a scrappy attempt and heartfelt appeal to get wedding professionals, wholesalers, and the mainstream industry to hear our message. “Gay and lesbian couples need help, too,” said my straight mom and company founder, Gretchen Hamm.
It was 1999 and most same-sex couples were having small, intimate ceremonies and scrambling for resources to help them plan their unions. Oh, and none of those ceremonies were legally recognized. Same-sex couples were having ceremonies because they chose to, not because they felt pressured to do so or because they received any legal benefits as part of the ritual.
But, my, how times have changed!
In the early 2000s, in the first “dot com” boom, our sites at the time, TwoBrides.com and TwoGrooms.com, were bringing in 2,000 to 3,000 users a month. Couples were looking for invitations and cake tops and the like, and many gays and lesbians felt safer (or had no other choice than) accessing resources online. In fact, at the time, we made sure to let couples know that we would not mention our company name on the return mailing address when we shipped products, lest some couples feel unsafe or “outed” with the delivery.
Fifteen years later, the landscape has changed dramatically.
In the time since we re-branded ourselves as GayWeddings.com (2005), we have seen a steady expansion of just about every aspect of what we do — from site traffic to number of wedding professionals in our directory to the number of states which recognize marriage equality. In 2006, we served almost 72,000 visitors. In 2012, we served almost 300,000. In 2006, we had hundreds of “gay-friendly” wedding professionals in our new directory. Today, and thanks to our partnership with mainstream industry technology leader, WeddingWire, we have more than 60,000 “LGBTQ-friendly” wedding pros in our vendor directory. In 2006, Massachusetts was the only state to recognize marriage equality. Today, 14 states and the District of Columbia recognize marriage equality, and the recent Supreme Court rejection of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act has paved the way for the IRS to open its programs to all legally married couples, regardless of where they reside in the US.
For me personally, I was a (not legally married) newlywed who was cheering her mom on with a business venture that no one believed would last or matter. But, this year, my partner and I celebrated 20 years together and we’ll (finally) get legally married in Washington, D.C., next month with our young son serving as our best man.
And, as I reflect back on how much things have changed in the time since my mom founded our company as “mother-approved shopping sites,” and on the kinds of conversations that I’m having today with engaged couples, their families and wedding professionals, I realize that we are at the end of an era.
The same-sex wedding market niche as we have known it is changing, and changing quickly. And, because of the many new opportunities for legal recognition and family, industry, and social acceptance enjoyed by our community, I would say that it is changing for the better.