This is an awesome article from the San Francisco Chronicle. Not only does it expose the massive amounts of money that California can look forward to raking in, but it feautures me and my beautiful B, with a short little story of our plan to spend some money in the Gold Rush state.
State sees economic windfall in gay weddings
Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Think of it as the Summer of Love meets the Gold Rush.
When same-sex unions become legal in California later this month, throngs of gay and lesbian couples, both from in the state and around the country, are expected to hasten to the altar.
Beyond the hearts and flowers of the occasions are monetary realities that have everyone from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to tourism officials to bakers, jewelers and DJs anticipating a windfall. A multitude of weddings is likely to be good business at a time when many folks are in belt-tightening mode.
"Clearly, there will be a boomlet," said Robert Witeck, CEO of Witeck-Combs Communications, a Washington firm that specializes in marketing to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender customers. "I expect that couples (who travel to the state to wed) will spend at least a week to 10 days to really experience California, and not just dip their feet in like going to Las Vegas and getting hitched."
Same-sex couples could spend about $692 million on weddings in California over the next three years, according to a report from the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law. That assumes that about half of committed gay couples in the state, plus a percentage of gay couples from elsewhere in the nation, will choose to wed, and uses fairly modest assumptions about what they'll spend on their weddings and travel. And it doesn't even include what friends and families traveling to California for the weddings might spend.
"It's going to mean something significant to the wedding industry - florists, photographers, caterers - all those folks who depend on that kind of business," said report author M.V. Lee Badgett, an economist who is research director of the Williams Institute. "They will get a big boost at a tough time."
Tourism boost likely
Tourism should also get a boost, especially California destinations that can claim romantic cachet as a great place to tie the knot. San Francisco, with its gay-friendly reputation, its history-making City Hall same-sex weddings in 2004, and its centerpiece role in the California Supreme Court ruling, is clearly angling for that crown.
"We think San Francisco really stands to gain a lot from this," said Joe D'Alessandro, CEO of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is creating a campaign to convince gay and lesbian couples to wed in the city with the tagline, "Celebrate liberty, justice and marriage for all. Come to the city where it all began."
Unlike the 2004 San Francisco weddings, which participants knew could be cut off at any time, last month's court decision stands at least until election day in November, when voters will decide on a resolution that would ban same-sex marriage. Because the initiative doesn't spell out that the ban would be retroactive, most experts say same-sex weddings that occur this summer would remain legal no matter what voters say.
"This gives people the time to plan a normal wedding, to bring their families, to plan something they've been dreaming about for decades," said D'Alessandro, who is planning a Labor Day weekend wedding with his partner - in San Francisco, of course.
Still, the election may increase the sense of urgency to tie the knot this summer.
Carolyn Schnelle, who runs Memorable Event Planning in Concord, said she has seen an immediate response from couples who want to get married before November. "It's not quite a mad rush, but some couples are trying to act fast, before something changes," she said.
Rylle Jones and Vicci Stillwell, both 51, of Concord are one such couple. After 11 years together, Jones, a social worker supervisor and psychotherapist, and Stillwell, a legal analyst, are planning a September wedding with about 75 guests. They plan to spend about $10,000 for the event, which they'll hold in their backyard. They've already started interviewing photographers, DJs and caterers.
Although they had a commitment ceremony in 2003, this feels different.
"It's such a special thing for us, an enormously wonderful opportunity," Jones said. "We want to really celebrate in every way, both human rights and our relationship. We want to really go for it. We won't spend like crazy, but we have lots to celebrate and we want to do it right."
Couples from around the country are making plans to come to California before November.
Leah Williamson, 31, and Brenda Straley, 42, live in Troy, N.Y., and wanted to formally proclaim their coupleship after 2 1/2 years together. They had considered traveling to Vermont for a civil union or to Canada for a wedding, but the California Supreme Court decision clinched it for them.
"Since my family lives in California, we decided that would be perfect," said Williamson, a legal secretary who will become a lawyer later this month. They'll hold a September bash at her parents' home in the foothills town of Coarsegold (Madera County). They expect it to cost about $10,000.
"I definitely see the economic impact of something like this on the state of California," Williamson said. "Weddings are a multimillion-dollar industry. To bring in another whole set of people, not only to do fun things like food and DJs but to pay to purchase marriage licenses is huge, a great way to make money for the state."
Even though Schwarzenegger doesn't support same-sex weddings, he definitely agrees with that point.
"I'm wishing everyone good luck with their marriages, and I hope that California's economy is booming because everyone is going to come here and get married," the Republican governor said in Sacramento last month, according to press reports.
Political consultant Waymon Hudson, 29, and his partner, Anthony Niedwiecki, 40, a law professor, had planned to travel from their Oakland Park, Fla., home to San Francisco in late June for their sixth anniversary. Now they'll use the occasion to get married as well.
"Even if we had not already planned to come there, we would have been on the first plane we could have" once same-sex weddings were legalized, Hudson said. "We're already planning a trip back. I think when a state welcomes you like this, in such a big part of your life, you are more willing to go there, because you know you're welcome."
Same-sex weddings by the numbers
How much will gay and lesbian couples spend to get hitched in California? A report adds up the possible economic impact over the next three years.
Total outlay for same-sex weddings by California residents and nonresidents
Spending by California couples on their
weddings. Assumes 51,319 couples (half of existing committed same-sex couples) will choose to marry, and estimates they will spend $7,645 per wedding.
Spending on weddings and tourism by 67,513 out-of-state couples. Assumes each couple spends an average of $2,962 on the wedding and $1,351 on hotel and food.
License fees for 118,832 couples, assuming an average of $73.50 for fees.
Source: Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law
Here is the link to the article on the Chronicle website.
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