Excerpted from "Much ado about gay commitment ceremonies" By Maria Puente, USA TODAY 5/16/2004
No matter what happens politically and legally on the gay marriage issue, one thing is clear: It's great for the wedding business. The surge in gay unions - and media coverage of the controversy - has sent thousands of wedding planners into a swoon over the prospect of tapping a huge new market: 16.5 million gay men and lesbians, with a total buying power of $450 billion. The situation remains fluid: Massachusetts today becomes the first state to make it legal for gays to marry, though state voters could overturn that. Efforts continue to ban gay marriage in the U.S. Constitution.
But for now, there are plenty of couples celebrating, and the events, of course, require food, flowers, favors and all the rest of the folderol that comes with a wedding.
Contrary to stereotypes, not all gay people are as skilled at party planning as the Queer Eye guys. So who will help the happy couple find a gay-friendly reception hall, DJ and caterer? How to word the invitation to a gay wedding? And where do you buy a cake topper with two grooms or two brides?
This is where your local wedding planner comes in. These days, even wedding planners who disapprove of gay marriage in theory can't afford to be gay-unfriendly.
Indeed, a survey of his members found that only a handful of 1,500 respondents declared opposition to gay weddings. Even in politically conservative Orange County, Calif., gay-friendly wedding planner Nancy Levy has been deluged with calls from gay couples. She says only three of the 45 vendors she works with - such as florists, photographers and caterers - refused to do a gay wedding.
"Everybody knows this is where the money is, because gays generally have more disposable income," says Levy, co-owner of Wedding Town USA, whose business partner, Unitarian minister Deb Gordon, officiates at gay weddings. The two planned a dozen gay nuptials in the last year, have another five coming up and are organizing three gay wedding expos around the state over the next year.
Such things as food and flowers will be the same in any wedding. But many same-sex couples want to keep their money in their community, so they seek out gay-owned vendors. Emily Sherwood, 46, will marry her partner of 22 years, Ruth Davidson, 45, in a small wedding in their Lynn, Mass., home on Saturday. One of her main concerns was finding gay-friendly vendors. "I wanted to be sure of getting a friendly reception."
Also, her wedding will feature participation by friends and family - a common theme of many gay weddings, says Mark Kingsdorf, the gay proprietor of The Queen of Hearts Wedding Consultants in Philadelphia. (His motto: "Fairytale weddings don't just HAPPEN, they're planned.")
"There is a lot more emphasis on the actual ceremony, religious or not," Kingsdorf says. "They want to acknowledge the obstacles they've overcome and to recognize the people who were there for them."
Excerpted from usatoday.com 5/16/04.
About the author
Deborah "Minister Deb" Gordon, Ed.D. is a graduate of the Candler School of Theology of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia with a Master's degree in Theological Studies. She has performed over 250 ceremonies as an ordained minister.