Same-Sex Marriages at the National Cathedral

Many people see the Episcopal Church as the closest thing there is to the Catholic Church. Which is why their increasingly progressive stance on same-sex marriage gives me hope. This week, the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. announced that same-sex marriage ceremonies could be performed there. The National Cathedral is the second largest Cathedral in the country and dubbed by Congress as the “National House of Prayer.” It’s a symbol of Christian faith in America. And now it lets the gays marry.

The Episcopal Church has become increasingly progressive in the U.S. and is the largest U.S. denomination to support same-sex marriage. We all know Bishop Robinson was named the first openly gay Bishop of an Episcopal diocese in the U.S. when he was named New Hampshire Bishop in 2003. Several other dioceses in New England have permitted same-sex marriage for a few years now. And last year, the Church itself said that priests could bless same-sex relationships – not the same as marriage but we’ll take it. 

 But until this week, the National Cathedral remained silent. But when they spoke, they spoke with eloquence and inspiration, “We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God—and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation.”

Knowing Your Market Within the Gay Wedding Market

With any industry, it's important to know your market when defining your client base and establishing your marketing plan.  If you want to reach the lucrative gay and lesbian wedding market, knowing the needs of this market is no different.  But beyond the broad "gay and lesbian wedding market", there are a bunch of sub-groups.  For example:

  • Older gay and lesbian couples will be attracted to a different set of images, a different style of website and different company values than a younger couple.
  • Gay male couples will be attracted to different types of images and language than lesbian couples.
  • and then there are sub-cultures within these groups (ie, leather bears) but I won't go into detail about that.
One of the reasons that the 2010 U.S. Census results will be so valuable is to help identify the number of male and female "married" partners in a given area and their average age.  

The 2005 U.S. Census American Community Survey told us that D.C. has about 3800 same-sex couples, 72% of which are men, with an average age of 42.  We can also learn about their average household income using this data.

Knowing that D.C. has a high number of partnered gay men in their 40s should inform your marketing strategy if you are in this area.

What is your specific market within the gay and lesbian wedding market?

What to Expect When Gay Marriage Becomes Legal

Since gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts seven years ago, I've been watching what happens in other states as it becomes legal there.  Here's what you should expect when gay marriage first becomes legal:

Protests. Unfortunately, gay marriage is a divisive issue and there will be significant protests on both sides of the issue and an attempt to ban gay marriage.  As licenses are first issued, you can expect protesters outside of the building where licenses are issued.  Already in New York, there is one City Clerk who swears she will not issue licenses to same-sex couples.

Longtime couples.  The first wave of people to get married are typically couples who have been waiting for years for that right. These couples may have been together 20, 30 or 40 years and may have kids.  One of the reasons they'll go first is because they have a fear of the right to marriage equality getting stripped away as it was in California and Maine.

Tourists.  There will be an influx of destination gay weddings from neighboring states - especially since New York is the most popular tourist destination in the U.S. for LGBT individuals.  Couples will come in for two or three days to get their license and head back to their home area.

Bewilderment and anxiety.  The couples who don't get a quick license at City Hall will think to themselves, "wow, I never thought I could married, now what kind of wedding do I want?"  It's stressful and confusing.

Horror stories of bad vendor experiences.  Couples will begin to navigate the wedding industry and find that there are lots of references and photos of just a bride and a groom and that some vendors are not comfortable working with them - or flat out refuse to. 

Big weddings.  After gay marriage is legal for awhile, has stablized and starts to sink in, the couples who are of a more typical marrying age and may have more support from their families, will start to marry.  This means bigger weddings, more money spent and a normalization of gay weddings.

You should know that, in Massachusetts, 64% of same-sex couples married in the first year, 21% married in the second year, and 15% married in the third year.

If gay marriage is legal in your area, what have you observed?

Why Maryland is Losing Money

The first day gay marriage was legal in the District of Columbia, at least 37 same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses were from the State of Maryland.  And that was just the first day.

Since Maryland now recognizes gay marriages performed in other states, same-sex couples from Maryland will naturally go to D.C. first and foremost for their gay wedding plans and spend their gay wedding dollars in the District rather than over the border in Maryland.  The Wedding Report indicates that the average cost of a wedding in D.C. is twice the national average, at around $42,000.

Virginia, to D.C.'s south, doesn't recognize these same-sex marriages at all, so is truly missing a big financial windfall - but at the same time, their residents are less likely to marry in DC because their marriages won't be recognized when they return.

Maryland's new policy is great news for its gay and lesbian residents but the state's economy is missing a lucrative opportunity.

Have you seen same-sex couples from Maryland prepare for big weddings in DC now that gay marriage is recognized?

Weekly Gay Marriage Roundup Vol 10

Gay divorce?  Unthinkable!  But as goes gay marriage so goes gay divorce.  There were some interesting bits of news this week regarding gay divorce.  Let's check it out:

News Across the U.S.

Do you know any couples who have had a legal gay marriage ceremony and are now seeking a divorce?  Do they live in a state where gay divorce is possible?

Why 400 Gay Weddings Failed

As the news became official that the District of Columbia was going to legalize gay marriage, a startup company called GLBT Wedding Services created an event designed to set the Guinness world record of the most number of couples married at the same time.  The previous record was 168 straight couples and the company was aiming for 400 same-sex couples.  It's a very sweet idea and if it worked, would have been pretty cool to see.

Unfortunately, only 10 couples participated.

There's a lesson in this that should be noted as gay marriage becomes legal in other places.   Mike Crawford says it best in this Washington Post article:  "We have been waiting a long time for gay couples to be able to marry, so people are focused on creating events that are going to be really special," says Mike Crawford, co-chairman of DC for Marriage. "And it's hard to be special when you're getting married with hundreds of couples you don't know."

The bottom line is this - gay marriage is rare, sacred and historic.  There aren't very many places where it's legal and only roughly 10% of the population is LGBT.  Gay couples aren't to be tokenized as gay marriage becomes legal.  Marriage is an important institution.  It means something special.  

And you have to be authentic to reach this market.  

How do you feel about large group marriages - even if you're straight?  Is that something you would ever do?

What Gay Marriage Means for DC

Gay marriage is official in DC and has been for a few weeks now.  Jobs are expected to be created by the increase in revenue to the Capital. Yes, that's right:  the gay wedding industry is so strong that it can create jobs.  Here's more you should know:

  • DC is the 6th most visited city in the country by gay and lesbian tourists
  • Approximately 8.1% of DC residents are gay or lesbian (in 2005, about 33,000 people)
  • This is about 4,000 couples. 
    73% are male; 27% are female. 
    The average age is 42.  
    8% of same-sex couples are raising children under the age of 18.
  • Same-sex couples labeling themselves as unmarried partners have the highest rates in DC with same-sex couples representing 14.12 of every 1,000 households. 
  • Gay marriage is expected to provide a boost to the DC economy by over $52.2 million over three years and creation of approximately 700 new jobs. 
  • This includes $5.4 million in new revenues for the city; 
    over $4.8 million in sales tax revenues and hotel tax revenues; and
    approximately $650,000 in marriage license fees for D.C. 
  • Approximately 65% of this revenue will come from non-DC residents who travel to legally marry.
How has business been for you since gay marriage became legal in DC?

Data provided by Community Marketing, the American Community Survey and the Williams Institute.

Weekly Gay Marriage Roundup Vol 7

This is the week that gay marriage began in the nation's capital.  Truly a historic day.  Let's start with that and explore the other gay marriage and wedding news of the week!

Across the U.S.:
And across the world:

What's going on in your neck of the woods?

Weekly Gay Marriage Roundup Vol 5

It seemed like there was something newsworthy about gay marriage every day this week, with the highlight being the decision in Maryland.  Read on to see what I mean:

And around the world:

Friday's Gay Wedding & Marriage News

This is the second post in a new weekly Friday blog series on gay weddings and gay marriage in the news:

What are your thoughts on the news this week?  Do you think gay marriage in DC will quietly go into law?  How to you feel about the bill in California that further clarifies the separation of church and state, and religious and civil marriage?