» What Can Wedding Pros Expect from Gay and Lesbian Couples in New York?

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.
Congratulations New York!

If the results we saw when Washington, D.C. legalized (and California briefly legalized) same-sex marriage is any indication for the New York market, it will be important for wedding pros to thoughtfully approach the growing market of engaged, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered) couples.

We believe that these are the vendors who stand to gain the most and, in turn, offer the greatest help to the LGBT community.

In the twelve years that we have nurtured and observed this market from our perch as the original same-sex wedding pioneers, we have seen each legal victory bring rhythms of excited stories of booming business projections; wedding vendors realizing that there are couples who need compassionate and competent services and products; spontaneous business decisions to get front of this market; and inevitable questions about why some marketing efforts failed and why each Wedding Pro didn’t walk away with some life-changing percentage of the projected windfall.

The reasons for these trends are complex, and we’ll be discussing them in depth during our upcoming GayWeddings.com / WeddingWire webinar on July 6.

In the meantime, here’s a bit more context for you:

  1. Washington, D.C. experienced a dramatic increase in marriage applications in 2010 (a rate double the annual average of previous years), and an astounding 18,000 couples made it to the altar in California in the brief window of legal marriage in 2008, indicating that, if you legalize it, they will come.
  2. The California ‘Marriage Rush’ in 2008 was a result of concerns that legislation might be over-turned, and couples found these fears realized because of a ballot measure called Proposition 8 (or Prop 8). Thus, California produced a brief and bright-burning spike in the wedding market.
  3. Local couples who have legally married in Washington DC live in Maryland (where out-of-state marriage is recognized), Virginia (which has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage), the District itself, and other nearby states (where the legal landscape is largely unfriendly).  Many of these couples had already had their big wedding events with all of the trimmings and, as such, celebrated in 2010 with intimate dinners and small receptions. Additionally, many couples took their wedding receptions elsewhere to celebrate with their friends and family their home communities.
  4. New York has consistently performed as one of our top markets (in sales and in web traffic), and is the most populous state currently recognizing same-sex marriage (we’ll keep California out of this equation because of that pesky little Prop 8 problem). With Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC I Do campaign, New York City is actively pursuing same-sex couples in a way that no other jurisdiction has done to date.
  5. Manhattan is also home to a large and vibrant LGBT community, and there will be many same-sex couples from the tri-state area (CT, NY, NJ), who line up for marriage applications on July 24, 2011 as part of celebrating this important milestone for partnership recognition rights.

But what do examples of trends like this and the big dollar projections mean for New York as a whole?

We expect to see some complex market trends evolve over the next 12 months in New York because it, like Washington D.C., serves a tri-state area and has a large population of couples who have already had their big weddings.  Couples may take their receptions elsewhere or choose more intimate celebrations without all the wedding trimmings, but “day of” wedding planners and service providers, officiates, tourist-oriented businesses, and restaurants may see substantial and related revenue gains – particularly in the next few months.

Further, New York is not just Manhattan, it also includes areas like Long Island, Albany, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and the Hudson Valley – all jurisdictions with different resources and different levels of comfort and experience on the matter of same-sex marriage. Market response in these areas will take shape unlike the obvious market in Manhattan and may prove to be the areas where we see the largest revenue gain per capita for weddings pros who “get it right.”

In sum: our advice?

  • Make sure that you have updated your New York business to be reflective of all couples you wish to serve.
  • Recognize that Wedding Pros who tailor thoughtfully their services for elopement packages, vow renewal ceremonies, and intimate, convenient receptions stand to gain the most, particularly in the next few months.
  • Know that what works in Manhattan may not work in Buffalo.
  • And, finally, educate, prepare and position yourself to serve couples with expertise, knowledge and care over time. Don’t offer that which you aren’t prepared to deliver. The rule of thumb in the gay wedding market is the same as in the heterosexual market, if not more so: when it comes to expanding your business, positive referrals can make the most difference of all.