Business Gains Slim from Gay Marriage

New York City Gay Pride Parade 2011, Greenwich Village, New York City - 4Vivienne GucwaSupporters of same-sex marriage during a parade last month. An anticipated spike in business for wedding planners, florists and others because of the new law has so far failed to materialize.

The legalization of same-sex marriage in New York meant many things to many people. It meant freedom to marry for lesbian and gay couples who had been waiting to do so in their home state. It meant a landmark civil rights victory for New York legislators. And to many in the wedding industry, it meant cash.

But they may have seen the dollar signs a bit too soon.

There were 659 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples who wed on Sunday, the first day that the law was put into effect, but those numbers have not led to a bump in profits.

Wedding planner Jeannie Uyanik, executive director of C&G Weddings, thought that the expectations of business owners were overblown from the outset, making the lackluster increases seem even more disappointing.

“Even before the law was enacted, there were people who were going to get married no matter what. It didn’t matter if they had to go to Canada or Amsterdam or Massachusetts: where there’s a will there’s always been a way,” Mrs. Uyanik said. “This in and of itself is not going to change the wedding industry. There’s going to be that small blip — probably of just a year — but at that point its really going to normalize.”

New York City Gay Pride Parade 2011, Greenwich Village, New York City - 36Vivienne Gucwa Supporters cheered the new law last month.

One East Village flower specialist said that he never expected a sharp increase solely because of the change in law, even though he is completely booked from prior commissions.

“Summer is always a slow time for booking things so it doesn’t usually even happen in the straight world until people come back from summer break or their summer holidays,” said Lewis Miller, owner of Lewis Miller Design on 12th Street.

Sarah Pease, owner of Brilliant Event Planning on Lafayette Street, found her business to flow along the lines predicted by Mrs. Uynaik. Brilliant Event Planning specializes in arranging custom proposals and planning weddings, and Ms. Pease said that since the bill was passed she has received a number of new same-sex couples as clients.

“I definitely have had an increase in business but I wouldn’t say it was a landfall or anything like that,” Ms. Pease said. “I expected that these couples who have waited a very long time aren’t going to pick up and run to the finish line right away.”

One existing area of the industry that has increased is the niche market. There have always been Web sites that list gay-friendly vendors or suggest the proper etiquette for those not already in the know, but the legalization has prompted many to add some urgency in their advertising.

“This week alone I have been solicited by at least 15 Web sites in the last week that list gay-friendly vendors, saying that ‘This is the time, don’t miss the boat!’ I was like are you kidding me?!’ There’s a lot of hype,” Mrs. Uyanik said. “We’ve seen a ton of businesses pop up just catering to the gay community which I think is a really dangerous thing to do because if you know what your doing and then you specialize, that makes sense but not the other way around.”

New York City Gay Pride Parade 2011, Greenwich Village, New York City - 26Vivienne Gucwa Same-sex marriage supporters last month.

The other inevitable area that will see profit margins increase is the physical locations where receptions will be held. Citing the Bowery Hotel and Astor Center as venues in the East Village that will likely see a jump in receptions, Mrs. Uyanik says that on the larger scheme, there will be no significant net profit.

“I think its actually more of a negative for other states then a positive thing for New York because fewer New Yorkers will be going up to Vermont to get married now,” Mrs. Uyanik said.