How Will the Passage of California's Proposition 8 Impact the Event Industry?

By Alesandra Dubin November 5, 2008, 5:55 PM EST

On Tuesday, the majority of California voters punched their ballots in favor of Proposition 8, a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Earlier in the year, the Williams Institute at UCLA conducted a study suggesting legal gay marriages could result in millions of revenue dollars over the next three years throughout the financially bereft state. So what now for Los Angeles County, where voting was split right down the middle, leaning only by a fraction of a percent in favor of the measure?

“I don't think it will have that much of an impact. The special event industry has more to worry about with the economic slowdown than with the passage of Prop 8,” Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation senior vice president and chief economist Jack Kyser said today. “It's interesting because there were a lot of people expecting great big elaborate wedding ceremonies [when same-sex unions were legalized], but the ones I heard about were relatively low-key." 

Event producer Randy Fuhrman, who had participated in a gay wedding expo at the Luxe Hotel in July, agreed that the effects might be minimal. “It's sad, of course, and there's a lot of disappointment. But you couldn't depend on gay weddings to be a major part of the industry, although some people had tried to brand themselves [as gay-wedding experts],” Fuhrman said. ”I don't think it would have ever been mainstream. The disposable income to do a wedding was just not there since most [gay couples planning weddings] were looking to do everything themselves [piecemeal] without [financial] support from parents.”

Producer Cara Kleinhaut of Caravents suggested that a bigger impact might have come if the proposition was defeated. ”[A no vote] might have sparked people to have more lavish celebrations, particularly [monied] gay couples in Hollywood, but people aren't going to be celebrating so publicly because Prop 8 passing says to the world that their marriage isn't real. If it was defeated, we would have seen a real big celebration and an outpouring of events, but the mood is grim right now and people aren't celebrating at all, especially in this economy. It's a pity—we would have loved to have seen it.”

In West Hollywood, with its high concentration of gay residents and visitors, hotels like the Ramada Plaza had been advertising gay wedding packages before yesterday's vote—but had not found them to be particularly effective tools in driving sales. “During this period, I had more wedding groups than ever before, but not many rooms were picked up,” said sales manager Zoe Caratas. “We will lose some room nights per year, but I didn't see that big of an impact up until now even though we were offering a package and special rates. I take it we won't hear many requests for the package now.”

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