The Most Popular Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony Reading

I can promise you that you'll be hearing the following words in thousands of same-sex marriage ceremonies to come:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

Those words were written by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his majority ruling affirming the right of same-sex couples to legally marry in the United States. For years, we've been seeing an excerpt from the Goodridge ruling (in Massachusetts) as a big part of same-sex marriage ceremonies, but I believe that ruling, written by Justice Margaret Marshall, will be usurped by this from Justice Kennedy.

Same-sex couples commonly make some reference to marriage equality (or previously, the lack thereof), in their ceremonies. It puts their marriage in context and lets the guests know that they do not take their rights to marry for granted. Watch out for this for years to come.

Full Marriage Equality Comes to All 50 States

This morning the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) finally ruled in cases which were challenging state bans on marriage equality. They said that states were not allowed to deny marriage recognition to same-sex couples who have federal marriage recognition. What does this mean?

GREAT news! It means that full marriage equality will soon be coming to every single state in the U.S.A. Not immediately (though it will immediately come to Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan) - but likely before the end of the year.

Some backstory on the cases: To recap, same-sex couples in several states (Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan) sued their state governments for marriage recognition. These are couples who traveled somewhere else to get married - somewhere that it was legal like New York, Massachusetts or Illinois. Then they returned to their home state hoping for marriage recognition only to discover that their home state would not recognize their legal marriage. 

This lack of recognition is due to the 1996 federal law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which says that states don’t have to recognize same-sex marriage ceremonies, performed in other states. These couples sued their states so that they would be recognized as legally married couples where they reside. 

In many similar cases in other states, the judges ruled in favor of the couple and that is how marriage equality came to places like North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and so on. But in the cases in Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan the judges did not rule in favor of the couple and those couples then filed an appeal and those appeals made their way all the way up to the Supreme Court which ruled today.  

What does this mean for us in the wedding industry? Well, there will surely be more gay weddings in every single state, certainly Ohio, Michigan and Indiana – but also in other states whose bans will still end, states like Texas, Georgia and Louisiana. Can you imagine the amazing, over the top gay weddings to be held in Texas and New Orleans? An estimated 70,000 same-sex couples in those states will marry in the next three years, generating $546 million in revenue for the states and creating 6200 jobs. 

In those states (as in all the others), most of the people marrying in the first “wave” (the first few months) will be older couples who have been together a long time and probably won’t be planning a huge celebration. They may be having intimate dinner parties or going out to restaurants instead of planning large traditional weddings. But those larger weddings will come, especially as Millennials become engaged and envision a more traditional wedding experience. 

Since same-sex couples will be able to marry in their home state, elopements will slow way down, so those of us who have relied heavily on same-sex couples traveling to our location for the right to legally marry (people like officiants, especially) will see a big drop-off in business as couples stay home instead. 

As marriage equality becomes more “normalized”, we’ll start to see more couples choosing to have destination weddings than ever before. LGBT people travel twice as much as straight Americans and spend 50% more per trip (source Community Marketing) so we can expect them to be huge destination wedding travelers. Mexico, Puerto Rico, some other Caribbean locations and even Europe (very popular among gay men) will see huge spikes in gay destination weddings. 

Don’t forget there is still work for us to do. Marriage equality is just the beginning and only 56% of Americans are in favor of it. A same-sex couple could legally get married in their state but also be legally refused services by a wedding venue or wedding photographer just based on their sexual orientation. Or even worse, they can lose their job for being gay in 29 states. 

Those of us in the wedding industry must do all we can to be fierce advocates for our clients and make sure that no matter where they live they had the most safe, supportive, positive experience while planning their wedding. That is my life’s work. 

Please join me on a FREE webinar FRIDAY, June 26 at 4pm EST to explain the consequences and repercussions of this ruling.  

LGBT Marriage Equality and Relationship Recognition in Europe

It's interesting to see where Europe stands on marriage equality. It's first important to differentiate between registered partnerships and full marriag equality. Some countries only recognize same-sex couples as registered partnerships, which means that many rights afforded to married couples are not enjoyed by same-sex couples in a registered partnership. Other countries in Europe such as Italy do not recognize same-sex couples at all. 

It's intriguing to get a full run down of LGBT relationship recognition in Europe. The Netherlands was the first country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage and many countries followed suit soon after. There is public support for same-sex marriage in many countries but most of the decisions about actually legalizing it are made by the government. It's unusual to see how in Ireland it is the people who are deciding via a ballot measure this Friday. This info-graphic from Maria Assia Photography gives you a quick overview of where Europe stands on same-sex marriage in 2015.

Marriage Equality is Sweeping the Nation

If you missed the news this week, marriage equality is sweeping across the U.S. In short, every remaining state in the U.S. has bans on same-sex marriages, bans that have been challenged in court. Those bans have largely been overturned but then appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided to keep their hands out of it, leaving the lower court rulings to stand. 

Because the Supreme Court decided not to touch these cases, the rulings of lower federal circuit courts stand. This means that LGBT couples can now legally marry in the following 26 states (up from 19 last week!): California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.

Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Idaho, Alaska, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming could be next, for a total of 34 states. 

While this is absolutely incredible, remember that in 29 states some who is LGBT can be fired for being gay, and in those same states, they can be discriminated against without it breaking the law. Most of those new states with marriage equality are places where same-sex couples will feel vulnerable choosing wedding professionals because they simply don't know who they can trust. How do they know they can trust you?

Think about that question. We can obviously help but think about how you want your business to be known....

The States and Countries Where Gay Marriage is Now Legal

In the following map, you can see the states where gay marriage is legal, or soon will be (it goes into effect in Rhode Island and Minnesota on August 1).  Those are the purple states.  The pink states have something else, either civil unions or statewide domestic partner benefits.  The states that are white offer no protections or benefits to same-sex couples.


This next map shows you where in the world it's legal for a same-sex marriage (the blue countries). 

Finally, this last map shows you where in the U.S. same-sex couples can be legally discriminated against...these white states are places you can be fired for being LGBT or denied services (including wedding services) for being LGBT.


The Wedding Industry Impact

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a ruling overturning the federal portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a discriminatory federal law which prevents same-sex marriage from being recognized by both the federal government and individual states where it’s not legal. They also declined to rule on a case challenging Proposition 8, the discriminatory ballot initiative which banned same-sex marriage in California after 18,000 couples legally married. What does this mean?

Let’s start with Proposition 8. Because SCOTUS declined to issue a judgment, that means the previous ruling by the Court of Appeals goes into effect and same-sex marriage will return to California. Soon (date TBD, but in about a month) once again, same-sex couples can legally marry in California. Equality will be restored and the gay weddings can resume! Amazing. 

The other good news is that SCOTUS overturned the federal portion of DOMA. This does not mean that gay marriage is legal nationally. What it does mean is that same-sex marriage will be recognized by the federal government, giving same-sex couples who live in states where it's legal the 1100+ rights that married straight couples get, rights such as social security benefits, Family Medical Leave Act, tax benefits, and many more. 

Keep in mind that the state portion of DOMA was not challenged. This means that a same-sex couple from Texas who marry in New York will still not be seen as legally married by the state of Texas.  And each individual federal agency has their own standard of issuing benefits - some look at the Place of Residence (in  which case Texans, for example, would not get those benefits); and others look at Place of Celebration (in which case those Texans would).

There will surely be more gay weddings in California. And there will be more gay weddings in the states where it’s legal, states such as New York, Maryland and Washington. More same-sex couples from states where it’s not legal will travel to make it legal, just for those federal benefits (because some will apply). Some will bring a big group of family and friends and have their reception in the legal state, and some will simply elope and have their party at home. The wedding industry is going to benefit either way. 

 Because of the couples traveling to make it legal and spending their wedding dollars outside of their home state, there will be increased pressure on the states where it’s not legal to play catch up. After all, they are losing money. All of the studies of the economic impact of same-sex marriage, couple with these losses, will mean that states will start to legalize same-sex marriage at an exponential rate. 

Now, with all that said, get your business ready for gay weddings!  Our next webinar series starts next week and there are a few speaking engagements also coming up!  Drop a note if you're interested in bringing us in for a speech or workshop.

Election Results are Good News for Gay Weddings

What a historic night for marriage equality.  Not only did voters pass marriage equality laws in two states:  Maryland and Maine (and probably Washington, too) - but it was the first time marriage equality was ever approved by voters.  That law will go into effect for January 1, 2013 in Maryland and this December 6 in Maine!

That's two months to get your business ready!  Stay tuned for special crash course dates for Gay Wedding Institute certification.

Our Love is Just Like Everyone Elses

There was a contest in Chicago recently giving away a free wedding to a deserving couple.  A same-sex couple participated and won.  This quote in the video below from that couple really moved me - even though I hear this type of quote all the time:  "We are the only same-sex couple a lot of our friends and family know so if they were to see us in a wedding scenario, it would just prove to them that our love is just like everyone else's."

That's what same-sex couples are looking for...keep in mind that most of the guests at their wedding will be straight...I urge you to urge them (the couple) to make the ceremony as impactful as possible so that those guests have tears in their eyes, love in their hearts and support of marriage equality on their minds.

One of the ways that can happen is if your clients hire a Celebrant to officiate their marriage ceremony, or someone else who can write a very powerful and meaningful ceremony script...

Gay Wedding Tips if You're New to this Site

This site is intended to be a resource for wedding professionals and media who are interested in learning more about same-sex weddings.  That said, since I actually PLAN lots of gay weddings, I don't have as much time to keep this updated as I'd like!  Here are some resources to get you started:

  • The Gay Wedding Glossary - the only one in the world, with loads of terminology and information on laws and so forth
  • Data - We collect our own gay wedding data, but there's also some from the Williams Institute, Forbes and others
  • Our App - it's a free download for iPhones and iPads and is a great tool for wedding planning
  • Webinars - I teach quarterly webinars which cover everything you need to know about gay weddings (and more!)
Additionally, here are some of the most popular blog posts from the past 3 years of blogging about gay weddings for wedding vendors:

Question: Should I Start Marketing Now Even though Gay Marriage is Not Legal in my State?

Question:  How can vendors expect the wedding market to change and be prepared for it as more states legalize gay marriage? What is the wedding market like in areas where gay marriage isn't legal? Should vendors be marketing to gay couples even if they live in areas where gay marriage isn't legal or there isn't a high population of gay people? 

Answer:  First of all, vendors should be aware that it's going to change and that they need to be prepared and get ready now! They don't want to be behind when the tide turns in their state. It's much better to be pre-emptive than to have to play catchup!  Our certification course is a great primer to prepare your business for gay weddings. 

Same-sex couples who live in states where same-sex marriage is not legal frequently travel to states where it is (like Massachusetts and New York) and have a legal ceremony, then have a big party back home. Those big parties can sometimes have big budgets and be very much like a wedding, so there is absolutely no harm in marketing now.

Do you  have any burning questions for me?  Ask them here and I'll answer in an upcoming post!