Dollars & Sense


Weddings for same-sex couples generate substantial economic gains. Because these unions are currently legal in eight states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, and Maryland), as well as the District of Columbia, their impact has literally meant millions of dollars in additional revenue. The details are eye-opening, yet not surprising, if you consider that the wedding industry alone accounts for approximately $70 billion annually. Forbes projects that “if same-sex marriage rights were granted nationwide, same- sex weddings would generate $16.8 billion in expenditures.” And that figure might be low.

The Williams Institute conjectures that in Iowa, the legalization of same- sex marriage has provided an economic boost to the state since 2009, when Iowa extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Spending in areas ranging from wedding arrangements to tourism supplied an additional $12 to $13 million to the state and local economies. In comparison, New Jersey estimates that by this year, same-sex weddings have impacted its econo- my by $15.1 million in revenue. And when New York became the sixth state to allow same-sex unions, the city developed NYC I DO, a global market- ing campaign designed to promote New York as the gay wedding destination.

The data for Austin and Texas, by contrast, is virtually nonexistent. These celebrations do take place (Austin even took part in the Gay & Lesbian Wedding Expo last year), yet the exclusion of legal same-sex weddings not only means that data on economic impact is overlooked, but it is also a strong reflection of the political climate in our state. With the strength of data in other states, there is no doubt that same-sex weddings could create hundreds of jobs and boost the Texas economy. Weddings increase business for such services as flowers, cakes, hotels, jewelry, clothes and photographers. Lee Badgett, of the Williams Institute, stated, “This is clearly a win-win situation. It’s good for the larger economy, there’s a trickle-down to state and local governments, and people get to celebrate their relationships.”

As advocate groups lobby politicians on the topic of same-sex marriage, one thing is clear: From an economic stand- point, each state that recognizes same- sex weddings has a lot to gain (which means those that don’t have a lot to lose). According to the Williams Institute, “Gay marriage is literally the only thing that has the potential to change the size of the wedding industry.”  And that means money!