» Gay Weddings By The Numbers: The Year Since Marriage Equality

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, 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.

From a market perspective, one of the most interesting results of our post-marriage equality existence is that the economic impact story will finally be revealed rather than projected. As we cross the threshold of June 26, 2016 – one year since the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v Hodges decision – we can now offer our first concrete snapshot of what did happen nationally for same-sex couples and the wedding market.

Gay Weddings By The Numbers: The Year Since Marriage EqualityIn addition to our 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples and Wedding Trends – a highly disciplined national study of more than 1,400 LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ recently married couples, conducted by the research teams at WeddingWire and Community Marketing & Insights, along with the unmatched same-sex wedding market experience of yours truly (17 years) and Bernadette Smith of the Gay Wedding Institute (12 years) – Gallup and a scholar from the Williams Institute have offered some analysis of what has happened in the past year.

The headliner, of course, is that Gary Gates, a recently retired distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute of UCLA, analyzed our Contemporary Couples report and the Gallup report, concluding that same-sex couples spent more than $1.3 billion on their weddings in the past year. I think it’s safe to say that the economic impact in this past year was clear.

But what can we expect moving forward?

To answer that question, here are some economic and demographic highlights that may impact your decision-making as you consider your approach to expanding your services to be inclusive of all couples:

  • Gallup estimates that approximately 123,00 same-sex couples married in the U.S. in the past year.
  • The Gallup poll showed an increase in couples living together who reported being married as having grown from 38% pre-Obergefell to almost half of all same-sex couples (49%) post-Obergefell.
  • Gallup estimates that 3.9% percent of adults in the U.S. identify as LGBT.

Given the above, it’s important to note that Gallup, in looking at its poll results between June-Nov of 2015 and Nov 2015-June 2016, sees the spike in same-sex marriages may be leveling off. This is certainly a trend that I expected to see that is, once federal marriage equality occurred, any couples who had been waiting for this milestone would be prepared to get married in relatively short order and more ‘typical’ market rhythms would be upon us.

So, while we saw 123,000 couples spend $1.3 billion in the past year, can we count on this as a stable predictor?

In short, no. But, consider that a match.com survey found that 63% of gay singles said that they definitely plan to get married and only 41% of straight singles said the same. So, as we see same-sex weddings level off, keep in mind the marriage enthusiasm gap and how that will play in the market.

Tempering Expectations From Here

As you consider your business objectives, it’s important to keep in mind that, if LGBTQ-identified persons represent less than 10% of the population, then it’s reasonable to expect to see that trend reflected in your overall book of business. In other words, if you’ve booked 20 clients this year and 2 of them (10%) are LGBTQ-identified, you are on par. Some businesses may draw a higher percentage of same-sex couples for any number of reasons, but the average business should position itself to understand that investing in inclusivity and seeing results means having appropriate expectations for the number of same-sex couples you might book while also recognizing that opposite-sex couples also value inclusivity not only on principle, but also because they may have LGBTQ-identified family members who will be secondary beneficiaries of your services.

Showcasing Inclusivity Doesn’t Hurt

I’ve often been asked about how non-LGBTQ prospective clients would react to seeing LGBTQ-inclusive images on a website. While it’s safe to say that there may be some variation based on your specific market (these are national generalizations), I think you may be surprised by the answer.

In our survey of Contemporary Couples, we asked respondents the following question: “When you see a national brand or product advertisement featuring a same-sex couple as part of its imagery or message, how it does make you feel about the company?”

Not surprisingly, 98% of same-sex couples reported feeling positively about it (it’s 100% if you add in those who had a neutral reaction). It might surprise you, however, to know that a majority of opposite-sex couples (53%) said that they felt positively about seeing same-sex couples in ads as well. And, when you include those opposite-sex couples who reported feeling neutral about it, the number jumps to 90%. Ninety percent! In other words, 0% of same-sex couples report negative feelings and only 10% of straight couples report negative feelings. Seems like there’s very little to lose when you look at it this way! The majority of all couples are with you.

In closing, if you haven’t read the full report on Contemporary Couples, please do. There’s some wonderful data about wedding trends for all couples to inform the decisions you’ll be making in the year ahead.