Gay Marriage Expected to Boost Local Economy

Courtesy Eau Palm Beach

Courtesy Eau Palm Beach

Study shows marriage equality will create up to 2,600 full and part-time jobs in Florida

Just six days into 2015, the year has already proven to be a landmark one for the LGBT community.

Late into the night, the ban on same-sex marriage was lifted and couples across the state celebrated by tying the knot with the loves of their lives. However, some are planning on forgoing the courthouse and going through the motions of planning a wedding — all good news for Florida’s economy.

“Anybody who does weddings, venues, caterers, hotels, restaurants — everybody is going to gain,” Peggy M. Lewis said. “A lot of people would love Fort Lauderdale and Miami as a destination site.”

Lewis owns Florida Ceremonies, where for 13 years she has served as a life cycle celebrant and writes ceremonies for different life occasions. Before gay marriage was legalized in other states, about a third of her clients were same-sex commitment ceremonies. Then, when states started to legalize gay marriage, people flocked to Massachusetts, New York, and other states where they could legally get married.

However, with the ban lifted, the customers are flocking back. She said in the two weeks following the legalization, she’s had many serious couples call to hire her for their wedding, including an Australian couple who will be traveling to Captiva for their nuptials. She estimates her business will see up to a 40 percent boost.

And it’s not just the more than 48,000 same-sex couples in Florida that would be adding to the economy — Florida has plenty to gain just by being the Sunshine State. According to the 2012 Wedding Destination Study, the top three most popular places in the continental United States to get married are Florida, California, and Nevada, and 70 percent of Americans choose to stay in the country for their destination wedding. The study was conducted by XO Group, parent company of the popular wedding website, TheKnot.com

The Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at UCLA, estimates more than 24,000 same-sex couples will be married in the next three years and that Florida could benefit from as much as an extra $182 million in spending because of it. Plus, the researchers believe it could generate more than 2,600 full and part-time jobs.

Laura Ortino, social catering sales manager at the W Fort Lauderdale, recently took over the hotel’s weddings and is certified by the 14 Stories Gay Wedding Institute.

On Feb. 5, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitor’s Bureau is hosting a “Love is Love” wedding celebration at the W Hotel, a longtime partner with the Human Rights Council. On that day, 100 gay and straight couples are invited to be married on the beach, followed by a champagne reception. All the couples will also be given a free night at the hotel as a part of the “Love is Love” package.

“W Fort Lauderdale has been a longtime friend of the LGBT community and supporter of marriage equality in Florida,” Ortino said. “We’ve been excitedly waiting with the community for the ban to be lifted officially and had been receiving inquiries over the past several months.”

For the honeymoon, the Grandview Gardens in West Palm Beach is a unique getaway and staff is expecting more gay couples to choose the location for their post-wedding celebration. Especially because the owners are gay themselves.

“South Florida’s hospitality businesses will be positively impacted by marriage equality because many gay and lesbian couples who live in other states will rather either elope in the tropical paradise of Florida — a type of Las Vegas affect — or have their honeymoons here,” said Rick Rose, co-proprietor at the property.

The Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Manalapan recently introduced its Modern Family two-night-stay package in honor of gay marriage, including a private airport transfer, couples massage, dinners, chilled champagne, and other extravagances on the property. Also, the hotel recently celebrated the redesign of its 309 guest rooms by Jonathan Adler. He married his husband, fellow designer Simon Doonan in 2008, and the couple are part-time residents in the area.

“We’ve always marketed the property towards the LGBT market,” said Nick Gold, public relations manager for Eau Palm Beach. “Now that [gay marriage is] legal, I feel that the floodgates are now open.”

Already, a dozen local and out-of-state couples have reached out to the hotel for their weddings, and one is already booked for May. Also, vendors had been in touch with hotel staff in anticipation of gay marriage becoming legal.

A running theme among all these businesses is that they’ve always been gay friendly. Before the ban was lifted, the W Fort Lauderdale was host to many wedding receptions after same-sex couples returned from being married in states where it was legal. At the Grandview Gardens, many LGBT organizations hosted their special events there, including Compass, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Equality Florida, and the SMART Ride. Eau Palm Beach’s spa was awarded Best For LGBT by Spafinder Wellness in 2013.

“Who wouldn’t want to get married in such beautiful weather, particularly in the winter months on the beach or at a lovely 5-star resort? There’s endless opportunities and there’s a whole new economy that’s starting here with gay weddings,” Gold said.

 

Originally published in South Florida Gay News.

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