Although New York's special event professionals are looking forward to a boost in business since the state sanctioned same-sex marriages last week, few expect a landslide in wedding bookings. Instead, many are anticipating innovative events as same-sex couples move away from traditional wedding trappings.
"We are not sure exactly how this will play out, but we do anticipate an uptick in business rather than a massive increase," notes Paul Neuman, president of New York's Neuman's. "We expect that it will be from new clients as well as existing clients."
"I’m not sure that I’m expecting a boom per se," says David Beahm, head of New York's David Beahm Designs "but I do think that we’ll see increased traffic and interest in our services, especially our destination weddings business. I believe a lot of gay couples have a select group of close friends and family and would love to share a special destination that tells their story."
While same-sex marriages are now acknowledged by the State of New York, "Such unions and their resulting celebrations have been taking place for some time now," notes Alan Shukovsky, director of social catering with New York's landmark Waldorf=Astoria hotel. "With the exception of the emigration of gay couples from neighboring states converging on City Hall to legalize their marriage, I expect little significant additional impact on our wedding business."
Shukovsky adds, "I very much look forward to the profound spirit of commemoration that this landmark decision inspires and the celebrations that The Waldorf will have the privilege of bearing witness to."
THE CANADIAN EXPERIENCE
Indeed, the same-sex wedding market will mean incremental rather than monumental business if the situation plays out in New York as it has in Canada, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2005.
Mary Crothers, head of Toronto-based event rental company Chair-man Mills, told Special Events in 2009 that same-sex weddings increased her business by 5 percent after Canada approved the unions.
SAME-SEX NOT SAME OLD
What will be big, many event pros tell Special Events, will be style changes in same-sex weddings versus traditional weddings.
"We believe the business will be more sophisticated than the normal wedding business--older, more established couples, less family involvement, and couples with strong identities and personalities," Neuman says. "No more ‘wedding by committee’ with the parents and kids fighting over the details."
Olivier Chang, founder of New York's Olivier Cheng Catering and Events, also expects to see some interesting new dynamics in wedding planning.
"Usually in weddings we do, one partner tends to be the one making a lot of the decisions, so now will both parties put across their interests more fairly?" Cheng asks. "I think so, and from the food side, there will be differences, primarily by gender. We will see some new, unknown trends in food and presentation develop. Stay tuned!"
Neuman also predicts new takes on venues: "The standard, glitzy wedding venues will probably give way to quirky, more artistic venues," he says. "That is also a good turn for us; we like small, interesting weddings in out-of-the-way places."
Beahm predicts that the industry will see "a whole new client" in same-sex couples. "While today’s brides are educated, many come to us for advice, but I think our new clients will have more definite opinions and ideas already formulated," Beahm says. "They will be asking us to act as producers--not as hand-holders."
ALL IN THE MIX
Sarah Pease, owner and creative director of New York's Brilliant Event Planning, has been "privileged" to plan same-sex weddings and marriage proposals in the past, she says, "and had a blast." She expects the new wave of same-sex weddings will be a mix of traditional and distinctive elements.
"The ritual of getting married involves many of the same elements--regardless of race, gender, culture or sexual orientation," Pease says. She also foresees a rush of wedding media to address same-sex ceremonies: "Many taste-makers, such as blogs and magazines, will want to include same-sex couples in their marketing and editorials."
Pease adds, "I am so excited that this bill will give me the opportunity to create weddings that will really reflect a unique love story."