Since the New York State Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage late Friday night, there's been plenty of conjecture regarding how gay nuptials might impact the local event industry, as well as the state's overall economy. Before the bill was approved, we gauged the expectations of designers, planners, and others and as a follow-up, asked more to weigh in on the potential effect it could have on the business of hosting events, both social and corporate.
“I know there will be a tremendous surge in business, including people who had previous union ceremonies. It’s going to be a busy six months. Our phones are busy, and we’ve already booked several parties and weddings,” said planner and designer David Monn. “In addition, I predict a huge surge in the New York economy, as I’m sure people will move here to have their relationship honored, as this makes New York an even more appealing at a place to live.”
Even if the state doesn't see a jump in population, others expect the bill will boost the city's attraction as a destination wedding location. “If you live in San Antonio or Minneapolis and want to have the wedding of a lifetime, it all points to New York,” said Bentley Meeker, owner of an eponymous lighting and production company, who has worked on several civil-union events. “That's where I think the legalization really matters. Where better to get married on planet Earth than New York, with its globally iconic status, incredible venues, and the world's best talent pool in decorators, planners, hotels, cuisine, and culture?”
Indeed, a number of companies are already promoting specials and discounts, getting an early start on what is anticipated to be a flood of affairs after the law takes effect on July 24. W Hotels put together what it's calling the “Right to Unite” package, which includes car service to and from city hall, a Flip camera, Champagne, and a custom wedding cake, a suite at a W Hotel, and a suit press, shoe shine, or dress steam. Plus, couples who book the W Union Square or W New York for their wedding reception will get a free two-night stay at the W property in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Brooklyn-based floral studio Rose Red & Lavender will take 10 percent off flowers and decor for the first 10 same-sex couples to hire the company, while the Skylight Group announced Monday that any weddings—gay or straight—booked at any of its three venues through 2011 will receive a 20 percent discount. There will even be a ”pop-up chapel” set up around Central Park's Bethesda Fountain on Saturday, July 30.
Furniture rental company owner Bobby Taylor believes that in addition to such promotions, same-sex marriages could prompt more event sites to become available and existing spots could add extra amenities. “I still think there are a lot of venues out there that are going to open up, places that people have been thinking about opening,” he said. “I think it's going to regenerate venues and make people think a lot more about their spaces, because if this is the big new opportunity for the industry, people are going to capitalize on it and hopefully look at upgrading their spaces.”
Moreover, as Taylor points out, weddings aren't just limited to a ceremony and reception. “It's a new side of the business that will hopefully open up a new wave of not just weddings, but social engagement events, moments leading up to the weddings. More restaurants will be busy, more custom or private homes booked. I think it has a lot of legs other than just the day,” he said. In fact, Gotham Hall is already set to host the Rainbow Wedding Network's New York City LGBT Wedding Expo on August 6.
With this in mind, one could see the potential for corporate events planners to face more competition in terms of the availability of vendors and venues. However, almost everyone we spoke with dismissed the idea. “The beauty of the social and the corporate mix is that, more often than not, corporate events are midweek and social events take place on Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” said Mike Warren, director of catering at CPS Events at the Plaza, which handles event rental of the storied hotel's grand ballroom, terrace room, and meeting spaces. “Some of the law firms might do a partner dinners on Saturday night, but most of the time, it's midweek. So [more weddings] won't have that great an impact on the corporate event community.” Additionally, Levy Lighting's Ira Levy argues that “corporate events still haven't returned to prerecession volume and budgets.”
And the surge could be short-lived. “I think we'll have a rise in inquiries in the next four months and then we'll see a small decline and the trend will balance itself out,” said Shai Tertner, owner of design, catering, and planning company Shiraz Events. Tertner has already had requests from gay couples looking to wed and expects to see a 30 percent boost in business.
Correction: The original version of this story included incorrect information about the “Right to Unite” package offered by W Hotels.