Weddings have always solicited a certain sweetness, as they mark the ceremonial union of two individuals joining together for what they hope will be a lifetime. Couples spend several months-and sometimes years-in anticipation, planning for the occasion by meticulously brooding over dresses, locations, floral arrangements, cakes and all other necessities.
Partners in same-sex relationships are different only in the aspect that some of them have had to wait decades to wed, for reasons that go beyond indecisiveness.
With the legalization of same-sex marriage in states that include New York, Iowa, Vermont and most recently, Washington, Maine and Maryland-as well as the District of Columbia-many same-sex couples are more than excited to tie the knot. Their unions can legally be recognized in at least nine states.
“Being able to legally wed my partner is progress for the civil rights of those in the LGBT community. It’s been a long time coming,” said Cory France, a South Carolina native and D.C. resident. “I’m so happy to be able to marry the one I love in DC or Maryland, especially seeing as though it may never happen in my hometown.”
Several businesses in the DMV that are tied to the wedding industry are happy to welcome these couples and the money they spend into their establishments.
Carley Roney, co-founder and editor-in-chief of TheKnot.com, the go-to online portal for wedding inspiration, believes that the increasing number of states that legally recognize same-sex marriages can only have a positive impact on her business.
“The same number of people have been getting married every year for the last 20 years,” Roney said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “Gay marriage is literally the only thing that has the potential to change the size of the wedding industry.”
According to a 2012 report by The Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles Law School-published days before Maryland and other states passed laws recognizing gay marriage-same-sex couples in the three states that are the latest to recognize same-sex unions could spend $166 million on weddings over the next three years.x
These calculations are built on 2010 U.S. Census data and each state’s average wedding expenditures. The economic profits that other states such as New York and Massachusetts garnered after legalizing same-sex unions also paint a picture of the financial impact the new law could have in Maryland.
The Williams Institute says that during the first four years after the gay marriage law was passed in 2004, the Massachusetts economy reaped a $111 million boost.
And in 2012, CNN Money reported that New York City’s economy increased by $259 million in just one year due to same-sex marriage.
For the DMV, recognition of same-sex marriage in D.C. and Maryland means a boom for florists, wedding planners, hotels, catering companies, bridal shops, bakeries and many other establishments in the coming years.
One such business that already has begun to see the impact of gay marriage legalization is Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes,a brainchild of Duff Goldman, star of Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes” and the shop’s executive chef.
According to Mary Alice Yeskey, director of marketing for Charm City Cakes, the shop is a favorite among same-sex couples planning to wed because it never made orientation an issue. They have created cakes for same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies since the shop’s launch in 2002.
“I think that couples really responded to that because to us it doesn’t matter who you are in any way in terms of your background or who you love,” said Yeskey. “If you want a really awesome cake, we’re happy to make it. We work hard to let our customers know that we absolutely cater to everyone and that we hold no judgments.”
Like many other establishments in the three newest states to legalize gay marriage, Charm City Cakes experienced an overwhelming and unexpected boost in orders as soon as the law went into effect on Jan. 1.
“Typically, January is a pretty slow month,” Yeskey said. “Yet, for so many couples that have been waiting decades and decades for this to happen, it’s a big deal. We had a very busy January, which is not normal for us.”
According to Yeskey, same-sex weddings in which Charm City Cakes has participated usually run on opposite ends of the spectrum, some being intimate and others being large-scale extravaganzas, depending on the couple.
“Some are so excited that they can finally get married that they want to have like 300 people or the other end of the spectrum is where they’re like, ‘we’ve been married in our hearts for 20 years, so we’re just going to have our children and our parents at a very intimate setting,” said Yeskey. “Whatever is in anyone’s hearts, we’re happy to cater to that.”
France falls into the intimate category when it comes to his ideal wedding. Having a legally recognized union is still the most important aspect of the trend to him.
“I’ve never been an extravagant person, and neither is my boyfriend,” he said. “I see myself as having a very small wedding, witnessed by those who have been a support system for both my lover and I. However, should I decide to have a big wedding, I have that option. It’s all about choice and freedom to express your love to the public.”