Same-Sex Wedding Study Offers Insights Into the Diversity of Wedding Planning and Traditions

In the past year the number of states with marriage equality has increased from 6 to 14, with Hawaii, Illinois and others soon to follow. And of course the June 2013 United States Supreme Court decision gutted DOMA and established federal recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples. There is a great deal of marriage equality momentum, and all this wonderful news has a big impact on the LGBT community, the wedding industry and the travel industry.

To date, most of the research reported on same-sex marriage didn't actually ask same-sex couples about their wedding experiences, both in the past and their plans in the future. Community Marketing & Insights and the Gay Wedding Institute partnered to talk to almost 1,000 same-sex couples, both those already married and those now engaged. Combining the knowledge of an LGBT research organization with a wedding planning company, we produced this study to answer the burning questions about what really happens during the planning of a same-sex wedding. We asked about which traditions were followed (or not), where couples found their team of wedding vendors, the size of their wedding party, honeymoons, and much more.

This is the widest-reaching wedding study of same-sex couples ever conducted, and the results reflect the diversity of the LGBT community -- from those who eloped at City Hall to those who had a more formal celebration.

What we learned is fascinating. By and large, same-sex couples are quite nontraditional in their wedding planning. Of course, this should not surprise anyone. The LGBT community does not come from a tradition of marriage, which allows us to write our own rules for celebrations. Also, traditional gender roles of marriage planning are turned upside down when couples are of the same sex.

One thing we learned is that gay men and lesbians plan ceremonies very differently. In every category tested, female same-sex couples were more likely to participate in "wedding ceremony traditions" than male same-sex couples. For example, 66 percent of women purchase engagement rings, compared with 19 percent of men. Also, female same-sex couples are far more likely to follow wedding traditions such as having rehearsal dinners or first dances at the reception. And most interestingly, lesbians spend 15-percent more on their ceremonies than do gay men. We also learned that female same-sex couples have more support from their parents -- both emotional support and financial support.

Another thing we learned is that economic impact of same-sex weddings started slowly. Again, this is no surprise. When marriage equality was achieved state by state, there was a rush of same-sex couples to City Hall, leading to hastily planned weddings (which means less spending). But as marriage equality becomes more standard across the United States, same-couples will have more time to plan their weddings and receptions. When the study looked at economic impact, we found that those now engaged plan to spend far more on their weddings than same-sex couples had spent in the past. And most importantly, those who get legally married spent three times more than those who obtained a civil union or domestic partnership. Seventy-six percent of couples receiving a civil union or domestic partnership did not have a traditional wedding with a ceremony and a reception. This may mean that states that do not offer legal marriage receive less of an economic impact. We see this today on the East Coast as couples from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina are traveling to states such as New York or Massachusetts, or to Washington, D.C., to get married and receive federal recognition.

Same-sex couples hold their ceremonies in a wide variety of locations, especially restaurants, hotels and event function spaces, but no type of space dominates over others. The economic impact is quite widespread across the community.

However, only 22 percent of same-sex couples used a religious leader as their officiant, and only 12 percent of same-sex marriages were held in religious spaces. This suggests that religious organizations could do a better job of reaching out to same-sex couples who might not yet feel welcome (even though many denominations are very welcoming to same-sex couples).

The study results are fascinating for all, whether in the wedding or travel industries, or not.

You can request a complimentary copy of the report at

The full press release text can be found here.

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