News / Arts & Entertainment

Same-Sex Weddings are Big Business in Nation's Capital

Surge in ceremonies brings economic opportunity to Washington, DC merchants

Cuc and Gwen were among the first gay couples to tie the knot the day same sex marriage became legal in Washington D.C.
Cuc and Gwen were among the first gay couples to tie the knot the day same sex marriage became legal in Washington D.C.

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Penelope Poulou

The gay community is not alone in welcoming the legalization of same sex weddings in Washington D.C., the move has also opened up new business opportunities in the nation's capital.

Cuc and Gwen were among the first gay couples to tie the knot the day same sex marriage became legal in Washington D.C.

"It was cold. It was windy but there was such a joy in the air," says Cuc. "Just strangers who didn't know us were so joyous for us and genuinely congratulatory. After that day, I kind of looked around and said, 'Now I really feel I belong here.'"

All in the family

They also want to start a family. Washington, D.C. has a Second Parent Adoption law that allows the gay spouse of a biological mother or father to become an adoptive parent.

"This morning we were at a fertility clinic and Gwen was outside talking a phone call. So, I walked up to the receptionist and I said 'When the doctor calls us in, can I bring my wife in?' And she didn't blink an eye," says Cuc.

Pat and Jane, another gay couple, already have a baby.

"It's my great grand baby we're raising, says Pat. "So, she's going to be part of it."

The couple has been together for 25 years. But they've just  filed a marriage application and expect to be wed in June.

Jane jumps for joy while showing off her ring. "It's legal!"

Waiting list

Since March 3, DC's Marriage Bureau has been inundated with applications. Hundreds of gay couples are on a waiting list.  

"Right now, they are booked until June," says Nicole. She and her fiancee, Lenore are at the marriage bureau to file a marriage application.

Like Nicole and Lenore, who came from the southern state of Georgia, gay couples are arriving in D.C. from all over the country. Local businesses are taking note. 

Nancy Goodman and Spencer McCormick run Main Events Caterers.
Nancy Goodman and Spencer McCormick run Main Events Caterers.

Kathryn Hamm is a gay wedding coordinator.  She says a decade ago few companies  were focused on gay ceremonies. But that is changing.

Business opportunities

"You've got main street vendors looking to expand a little their market. You've got folks who are opening businesses, particularly planners, looking to specialize in this market," says Kathryn.

According to Forbes magazine, the $70 billion-a-year wedding industry would grow another $16 billion if gays were allowed to marry in all 50 states.

Jeweler Jonathan Mervis is aware of the numbers. He has created a new wedding ring collection for gay couples.

"I think just the fact that having a collection that is specifically for the gay market is symbolic that we're accepting, we're open," says Jonathan. "The line of jewelry is a little bit more heavier and more solid than some other jewelry."

Jeweler Jonathan Mervis has created a new wedding ring collection for gay couples.
Jeweler Jonathan Mervis has created a new wedding ring collection for gay couples.

Caterers too are gearing up. Nancy Goodman and Spencer McCormick run Main Events Caterers. They used to cater what were called commitment ceremonies. But the weddings are welcomed.   

"A lot of gay marriages are very nice, high-end weddings," says Nancy. "Because they are very excited that they finally are been able to do this."   

Embracing change

Stephen Robinson, a florist in Old Town Alexandria Virgina is gay. He says some businesses are turning down gay weddings.

"There still are people who are not willing to put themselves out there yet. But I think businesses are realizing that our money is just as good anybody else's money and we're willing to spend it," says Steven Robinson.

According to Forbes magazine, the $70 billion-a-year wedding industry would grow another $16 billion if gays were allowed to marry in all 50 states.
According to Forbes magazine, the $70 billion-a-year wedding industry would grow another $16 billion if gays were allowed to marry in all 50 states.

But it's not just about money. Americans like Lenore say gay couples should have equal rights in all 50 states.

"We live in 2010. There should be no more 'first.' First women, first black, first ethnic this, first that. We should be better than that as a country. We live in the United States of America. This is supposedly the most powerful country in the world. In a lot of things we are really behind the times," Lenore says.

For the moment, only five states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage.

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