California Wedding Industry Loves Prop 8 Ruling

PHOTO: Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrate during a block party on Castro Street on June 26, 2013 in San Francisco, California.

Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 means that gay and lesbian couples in California can now marry.

That prospect has kicked the Golden State's wedding industry into high gear.

While there's no sure count on how many gay couples live in California or how many will marry, the Williams Institute, a research center at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Law, estimates that nearly 40,000 same-sex couples could marry there in the next few years.

That means an opportunity to bring in more dollars for everybody from wedding planners to caterers to florists, especially when you consider that the average wedding is approaching $30,000.

"We're hoping to see an influx," Lindsay Jones, the owner of San Francisco Bay Area-based 2 Friends Events said. "We've done some [same-sex weddings] in the past, and I think it's a great opportunity. It opens doors for both couples and businesses."

About 18,000 gay couples got married in just the four months after gay marriage was briefly legalized in California in 2008, according to the institute.

The institute thinks that California could gain $46 million in tax and fee revenue from new weddings, and that the economy could see a boost of nearly $500 million over the next several years.

And it's not just wedding-related vendors that stand to benefit. California could become a destination wedding location for out-of-state gay couples, which could help airlines and hotels. Guests who fly in will shop at local stores and sample food from area restaurants. Even jewelers and wineries stand to get a boost from couples seeking the perfect ring or custom outfit.

Michelle Heston a spokeswoman for Fairmont says she expects to see an "onslaught" of couples interested in holding weddings at the company's California properties in the coming months.

"We've been doing same-sex ceremonies and commitment celebrations for a long time and we anticipate that number to grow exponentially," she said. "The minute the Prop 8 ruling was put forward we began working on packages and promotions" that cater to the LGBT community.

That's a scenario that's played out in states around the country that have legalized gay marriage.

New York saw a bump in revenue after it legalized gay marriage in 2011. The opening of the wedding industry to new markets also generated new businesses.

Niche magazines like Wedding Pride cropped up. They offer tips on everything from how to get the most fragrant flower arrangements (Go locally grown) to celebratory features about the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act.

So it makes sense that California companies are looking to do the same.

Discover Los Angeles, a tourism site, published their "Essential Los Angeles Wedding Guide" mid-June and wasted no time in updating it after the Wednesday Proposition 8 ruling with an eye toward the LGBT community.

"The Supreme Court's landmark ruling on June 26, 2013 has paved the way for same-sex marriage in California," reads the introduction. "With its gorgeous weather, world class hotels and spectacular scenery, Los Angeles is the perfect city to host an unforgettable wedding."

Angela Nelson of Lulu Events in Napa is also already planning to roll out some promotions.

"We would love to do ceremonies in the future," she said, "and are very excited about the [ruling]."

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