Two big rulings released today by the U.S. Supreme Court gave more ground to same-sex marriages in the U.S. One decision overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act and another rejected the appeal of supporters of a California ban on gay marriage.
As a result, same-sex marriages recognized as legal in states where they are permitted will now be entitled to federal benefits. In the California case, the decision clears the way for same-sex marriages to resume, observers say.
Same-sex marriages are now legal in 12 states; they remain illegal in 35 states.
France legalized same-sex marriage last month; such marriages are on track to be approved in England and Wales.
WHERE'S THE WORK? But do legal rulings change the realities of the professional wedding planner? In a recent online poll conducted by Special Events, 36 percent of respondents say they have seen new business in same-sex weddings, 24 percent say they have seen no change, and 40 percent say they have never produced a same-sex wedding.
One reason that same-sex weddings are not a breaking news story for professional event planners is that many have long produced some version of a commitment ceremony for a same-sex couple.
Frank Andonoplas, MBC, head of Chicago-based Frank Event Design, has "been doing commitment ceremonies here in Illinois for a long time, but they were few and far between," he says. But, "since civil unions became legal [in Illinois] in June 2011, it has increased. I expect this to increase even more when marriage is legal in Illinois—stay tuned." He says his business in same-sex ceremonies has gone up 15 percent since civil unions were sanctioned.
OHIO SAYS NO Kasey Skobel-Conyers, head of Bliss Wedding and Event Design of Columbus, Ohio, tells a different story.
"The State of Ohio still does not recognize same-sex marriages," she says, "although I have more than a few clients who are waiting for it to be legalized, and we'll be planning full steam ahead on their weddings."
Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Georgia, home state of Erica Prewett, head of A Big To Do Event. But she has completed one commitment ceremony this year and has a second in process.
TRADITIONS IN THE MAKING As same-sex ceremonies gain ground, planners are grappling with which customs of traditional weddings to keep and which to revamp.
As for same-sex ceremonies, "Ceremonies in the round seem to be popular," Prewett says. "Also, I am finding that the guest count is smaller than traditional weddings, but the love in the room is a thousand times higher."
Kevin Covey, founder of Kevin Covey Wedding and Event Coordination of Brea, Calif., notes a similar vibe. Same-sex ceremonies are "usually non-religious, and typically more heartfelt as emotions are usually very high," he says.
Prewett adds, "I love to suggest that both partners walk down separate aisles toward each other and meet in the middle versus one partner getting 'the walk down the aisle.' I also like to suggest that if one or both sets of the parents are supportive, that they walk their child to the middle of the aisle and the partner picks up from there versus the traditional 'who gives this man/woman away' part."
Andonoplas doesn't see much difference between designing same-sex and non-same-sex ceremonies.
"I really try to keep it as much as the same as I do for a non-same-sex couple. Love is love," he says. "Most couples don't way to 'gay it up.'"