Weddings are big business. From the proposal to the attire to the event to the honeymoon, there are a lot of dollars being spent. So, more companies, like jeweler Tiffany & Co., have changed their marketing to reflect changing attitudes and capitalize on the legalization of same-sex marriage in more states.
Tiffany, the 178-year-old Fifth Avenue retailer with those iconic blue boxes, features a gay couple in its new “Will You?” advertising campaign. The two men, who are a couple in real life, are shown sitting on a typical New York City brownstone stoop and the text indicates that one is proposing.
While being commended for showing a same-sex couple, the Tiffany move is clearly a marketing one versus political one. The retailer is aiming for a piece of the same-sex marriage wedding ring and gift registry business. So are a lot of other companies. Target and Banana Republic have used same-sex couples in their marketing materials.
How much money is at stake for the wedding industry? Bloomberg Business Week estimated that it is a $51 billion industry. They estimated that the industry employs about 80,000 people, from florists to caterers to musicians to planners and more. The related businesses, such as travel and retailers like Tiffany, add exponentially to those numbers.
Theknot.com, a Web site dedicated to marriage related things, conducts a yearly wedding study. As reported in Business Week, theknot.com surveyed 17,500 couples in 2012. They found that same-sex couples plan to have slightly smaller nuptial events than heterosexual couples. However, they typically spend more money overall and on a per-guest average.
One research study conducted in North Carolina by the Williams Institute estimated $64.4 million in same-sex wedding spending in that state over three years. Published in October, the study estimated that the 9,000 same-sex couples in the state would spend about $5,535 per wedding, numbers way less than nuptial events in New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles would cost.
Another Williams Institute study calculated that same-sex weddings injected $90 million into the Massachusetts economy from 2004 to 2009. According to reports, over 12,000 same-sex couples were married within the first five years after the same-sex marriages were legalized in the state.
What about business owners who are opposed to same-sex marriage, citing religious objections to homosexuality? They clearly will not benefit from word of mouth and people attending an event asking who did the catering. But more than that, they face economic and legal problems if they do refuse to join in the burgeoning same-sex wedding push. They are discriminating, which is against the law in most states.
There was a case in Oregon where a bakery refused to service a same-sex couple in 2013. The owners cited their religious objections. However, the resulting backlash has forced them to close their bakery and they now face paying $150,000 in civil rights violation damages.
While the couple in the Tiffany ad represents the trend, the long-term impact of same-sex marriage remains to be seen and could affect far more than marketing for weddings. Sad to say, there will undoubtedly also be an inevitable big business in years to come in same-sex couple divorces.
By Dyanne Weiss