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Gay Marriage: A Boost for Maine's Wedding Industry?
11/07/2012   Reported By: Jennifer Mitchell

This week, Maine became the first state in history to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.  Proponents of Question One celebrated their victory with jubilant posts on Facebook and Twitter. Some couples even got engaged.  So what now? As Jennifer Mitchell reports, wedding businesses are not entirely sure what to expect, but have high hopes.

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Originally Aired: 11/7/2012 5:30 PM

Wedding planner Diane York hasn't had the chance to plan a same-sex wedding. "And I have so many gay friends I would love to," she says.

With the passage of Question One, York and her Portland-based business are likely to get that chance. Currently, York plans about 20 to 25 weddings each year - weddings that can take up to a year to produce. As a planner, she says she is eager to adapt to what same-sex couples want for their weddings, and to help them realize their visions.

Still, she says there are details that are going to have to be worked out, such as the license. "Because on a traditional marriage license, they have groom's part/bride's part. I'd like to know how that's going to be worded."

The actual wording on the license will be up to the state, but the language will have to be gender-neutral, according to Yes on One Spokesman, David Farmer.

According to Forbes magazine, weddings pump over $70 billion into the U.S. economy each year.  And Forbes predicts that a nationwide passage of same-sex marriage would generate an immediate windfall of another $17 billion.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said earlier this year that an extra $259 million in New York City alone could be traced back to the state's year-old same-sex marriage law. Maine businesses are hoping for similar success.

"Maine already is a wedding destination for heterosexual couples," says David Weeda, owner of Williams Pond Lodge B&B in Bucksport.  And he says it's already a popular place for same-sex couples celebrating their partnerships.

But having the license, Weeda says, means that Maine can finally offer a traditional marriage to couples who have been denied that union, and that won't go unnoticed elsewhere.

"I anticipate that it means a lot more happy guests who will be coming to Maine to get married, have their honeymoons and enjoy the same sorts of privileges and benefits that have been afforded to all people," he says.

"I had taken a stand that I would perform no weddings until I could marry any loving couple," says Becky Gunn, minister at the Bangor Unitarian Church. Her years-long ban on weddings ended Tuesday night with the passage of Question One - and the engagement of a same-sex couple.

"They are feeling that they are recognized as equals within the community," Gunn says. "And they feel that so much progress has been made. They no longer have to fear being who they are."

They'll be getting married next July. And if they're anything like the average engaged couple in Maine, they might be spending some significant money. According to wedding planner Diane York, the average couple in Maine spends about $20,000 on a wedding - that's slightly less than the national average of $27,000, but still a big chunk in the small business pockets of florists, photographers, and foodies.

The Maine Division of Elections has 20 days to certify the vote legalizing same-sex marriage.  Gov. Paul LePage has another 10 days to issue his stamp of approval, and then couples will need to wait 30 more days for the new law to take effect. 

In practical terms, that means that same-sex couples can start planning the big day for sometime after the first of the new year.



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