Md. Wedding Planners Eagerly Await Same-sex Marriage


COLLEGE PARK, Md. (March 16, 2012)—When Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the Civil Marriage Protection Act on March 1, same-sex couples were not the only ones excited about the new law.

Some Maryland wedding planners, caterers and wedding photographers are backing same-sex marriage in part because they hope it will create a larger market for their services.

"I feel there will be a fast and large influx of weddings when the legislation passes. I know there are couples out there that have been waiting for this moment and they won't want to wait a moment longer to have their special wedding day," said Allison Barnhill, of Annapolis, who has designed wedding invitations for nearly 10 years.

In 2010, there were 16,987 same-sex households in Maryland, 10,903 of which were unmarried, according to the U.S. Census.

"Overall, I think this legislation will be a boom for the wedding industry in Maryland. 'Since most of the wedding vendors are small businesses, this will be a great benefit because so many have struggled due to [the] downturn in the economy," Barnhill said.

Onida Cruz, a wedding and event planner that serves Maryland, New Jersey and New York, said she expects to attract new clients if Maryland voters approve a referendum on same-sex marriage this fall. 'If the referendum passes, same-sex couples will be able to marry beginning in January.

"Many of my past clients have contracted my company for their special events. This past year I have less new clients, because of the residual business I haven't felt the burn much," Cruz said. "By legalizing same-sex marriages, I am hopeful that business will increase."

Besides the economic benefit for the wedding industry, some said they were also happy that same-sex couples could soon have the right to marry.

"Not only do I believe that it is a civil right to be able to decide who you want to marry, I think from an economic standpoint, it can only be a positive influence in the community," said Annapolis-based wedding planner Charlotte Jarrett.

Jarrett founded Charlotte Jarrett Events in 2010 and booked her first same-sex wedding last month, which will take place next year in Washington, D.C.

"Everyone should have the right to marry whoever they want," she said. "I've been patiently waiting for the day I get to plan my first gay wedding, and finally that day is here."

Wedding photographer Natalie Franke said she shot her first same-sex wedding in October 2010 in Maryland and found that, "It was just like any other wedding."

"Many of my same-sex couples have had to overcome a lot to make their relationship last in the face of adversity," Franke said. "I'm hoping that this legislation will grow the wedding industry in the state of Maryland by giving more couples the opportunity to legally wed."

Same-sex couples may have more disposable income to spend on their special days than heterosexual couples.

In 2010, unmarried same-sex couples in the United States had an average household income of $103,980, according to the U.S. Census, while unmarried heterosexual couples had an average household income of $62,857. Same-sex couple income data for Maryland was not available.

If voters approve same-sex marriage later this year, some wedding planners also hope same-sex couples from other states will decide to marry in Maryland.

"So many couples marry in New England, since that area was the leader in legalizing gay marriage, and it really became a true destination spot, nearly overnight. I hope that our metro area can become a similar destination," said Janice Carnevale of Bellwether Events, who has been planning weddings in the Washington area since 2002.

"I specialize in weddings period, gay or straight," she added. "I hope, since my livelihood is dependent on people getting married, that legalizing gay marriage in Maryland will cause an uptick in gay weddings in the state."

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