Maryland’s wedding industry eager for same-sex business -- Gazette.Net


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Now that voters have ratified new legislation authorizing same-sex marriage, the Maryland wedding industry eagerly awaits more business.

Although the General Assembly approved same-sex weddings in March, many couples have waited because of the referendum, business owners say. They expect to see more weddings come January, after voters on Tuesday OK’d the measure, 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent.

Full Moon Marketing & Events in Reisterstown tried to get a jump on the market in June, when it launched marlandgayweddings.com, a directory for vendors that welcome same-sex couples.

Same-sex weddings can have some subtle planning differences from opposite-sex weddings, said Wendy Braswell, co-owner of Full Moon, who operates the business with Malinda Davis, a lesbian who was married in Washington, D.C., last year.

Hiring wedding vendors can be almost like “coming out over and over again” for same-sex couples, as they have to explain to vendors that they need two bouquets or a cake with two men on it, she said.

Full Moon’s directory uses pre-qualified vendors who pay a fee to list themselves as friendly to same-sex couples. The site also educates vendors on how to market to same-sex couples without being offensive and how to be aware of the subtle differences, Braswell said.

The site has 20 vendors, broken into different categories, with Full Moon hoping to gain 1,000 within the year, she said.

She anticipates that older same-sex couples will be rushing to get married first, as they have been waiting for a long time, while younger couples may wait.

“People in the wedding industry understand the economic impact this is going to have,” Braswell said.

But she added that making cold calls to vendors to see if they work with same-sex weddings can be “a little awkward” and that the industry may continue to “struggle in that capacity” for a while.

Shinnamon Photography in Baltimore was one of the site’s first vendors and has received many calls since joining, said Valerie Shinnamon.

“People want to celebrate right now, so I expect more business with the new year,” she said.

Crimson & Clover Floral Design in Baltimore is ready for the influx of same-sex couples, said owner Amy Epstein McManus.

“It opens the industry,” she said. “I’m surprised the wedding industry hasn’t taken more of a stand.”

Epstein McManus said she has already gone through her store’s website to ensure the wording is same-sex-friendly and welcoming.

She said she also thinks the measure’s passage will encourage more gay men to get married, as she primarily has worked on women’s weddings so far. Epstein McManus said gay men tend to spend more than lesbians on floral arrangements.

Crimson & Clover has worked on eight same-sex weddings.

Charles Nusinov & Sons, a jewelry store in Parkville, has been running ads including same-sex couples for the last few months, said its vice president, Sydney Nusinov. He said the business was looking forward to more sales.

“Now that same-sex marriage has been fully implemented, we expect to see a gradual rise in the number of weddings,” said Michael Greene, president of A Platinum Plus Limousines in Jessup. Greene also is vice president of the Maryland Limousine Association, which represents 400 businesses.

He said he plans on fully advertising to earn the same-sex business.

Carolyn Searfoss of DJ Furniture in Sparrows Point is looking to the prospect of more post-wedding sales.

“I think this will be very helpful for business, since people will be buying houses and want to furnish them properly,” she said. “It’s a whole new line of business.”

Marriott International in Bethesda also has a site devoted to helping same-sex couples find a wedding venue. The hotel chain has earned top ratings on the Corporate Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign.

lrobbins@gazette.net