The nation’s wedding market is not robust. Yes, there will always be people tying the knot, but overall marriages have been on a steady decline throughout the country due to the economy and other social factors. The number of Idaho marriages in 2000 was 15,057. In 2013 the number was 13,613, a 9.59 percent decrease. Carley Roney, co-founder and editor in chief of TheKnot.com, a wedding planning site, recently said that gay marriage is the only thing that has the potential to change the size of the wedding industry.
In October the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA, predicted in a study that more than 1,000 same-gender couples would decide to marry if it became legal to do so in Idaho. That is 1,000 reasons the wedding industry in Idaho should be very pleased that is now legal in our state for gay couples to wed.
If those 1,000 people marry, they will invite an average of 40 out-of-state guests to the wedding. These guests will purchase hotel rooms, eat at restaurants and participate in other leisure activities while they visit our beautiful state. The authors of the Williams Institute study estimated that out-of-state wedding guests of same-gender couples would spend about $500,000 per year.
As a small business, Red Letter Event Planning is always looking out for the next market to target or a niche that fits well. One niche that has been very successful is working with destination wedding clients. The recent legalization of gay marriage in Idaho opens the door to same-gender couples from other parts of the country who want to marry among our gorgeous mountains, lakes and myriad other outdoor locations. Tourism is an economic engine in Idaho. The tourism industry in Idaho brings in over $1.7 billion and employs more than 26,000 Idahoans. According to the XO group, the company that owns Theknot.com and other wedding-related websites, destination wedding events tend to last longer than typical weddings. About 60 percent last three or more days. Destination weddings are good business for Idaho regardless of gender.
Our neighbor to the West, Washington State, legalized same-gender marriage in December 2012. In 2013 the state reported that 14 percent of the weddings performed were for couples who had traveled to Washington from other states. I imagine there were some Idaho couples who made the trek across the border and spent their wedding dollars with businesses in another state.
Before states began to legalize same-gender marriage, it was very common for same-gender couples to hold commitment ceremonies with 30-40 guests and an intimate reception following the ceremony. These ceremonies, while beautiful, were not as elaborate as weddings, and tended to have smaller budgets. Data from the Wedding Report, a research group for the wedding industry, shows that in Idaho last year, the typical couple spent $21,000 on a wedding and invited about 125 guests. An average wedding has at least four different vendors, including a wedding planner, florist, photographer, DJ or band, caterer, bakery, minister, videographer, rental company, and transportation. These vendors have employees and pay taxes.
Wedding-related businesses must include all genders in order to maximize their profits. The key to operating a successful business in the wedding industry is to stay on top of the latest industry trends and to best position your business for changes in laws and society norms.
To position your business effectively, review and change marketing materials to ensure they do not alienate any couples. Make sure your organization promotes a philosophy that every wedding couple is unique. As a professional wedding planner, I recommend vendors who are accepting and open to working with any and all couples. A wedding is stressful enough without couples having to wonder if their vendors are silently judging them. Wedding professionals should be open to working with same-gender couples in order to capitalize on this growing market.
Robyn Bruns owns Red Letter Event Planning, a Coeur d’Alene-based event planning firm that started in 2005. Robyn is an accredited bridal consultant designated by the Association of Bridal Consultants.