"We are all sacred and we all belong, so let’s just bake a cake for everyone who wants a cake to be baked!"
Earlier this month, Andrew Garfield finished a Tony Award acceptance speech with the above quote. Garfield won for his portrayal of Prior Walter in “Angels in America,” a two-part play exploring homosexuality in the 1980s, and was referring here to the recent Supreme Court decision that sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
The SCOTUS ruling is an unfortunate reminder that there are cakes not being baked. And, there are flowers not being arranged, venue doors not being opened, and photos not being shot for some couples whose lifestyles may look different from those of their desired vendors. According to a recent study from WeddingWire and its acquired long-standing partner GayWeddings, many LGBTQ couples are still dealing with the lack of a fully-inclusive global wedding market when planning their big days.
"As much as things have changed with the advent of marriage equality, these couples continue to fear being rejected by wedding vendors — an experience not usually shared by straight couples," says Kathryn Hamm, Education Expert and Diversity & Inclusion Specialist for WeddingWire. "Sometimes service refusal takes a direct form of being told that a vendor won’t work with a couple because they 'don’t believe' in gay marriage, but it can also come in a more ambiguous form, like unreturned calls or emails."
While it's important to recognize that we've still got a ways to go, June is Pride month, and thus a time for celebrating all of the incredible progress we've made towards equal rights and representation for the LGBTQ community.
To that end, let's look at some happy data from WeddingWire's WedInsights concerning LGBTQ weddings.
1. Increased Parental Involvement
Results showed that top challenges for couples included:
- Determining Budget & Guest Size
- Making Decisions
- Keeping Track of Expenses
- Knowing You're on the Right Track with Planning
- Finding Vendors
But all of those hurdles are leapt more easily when you have a support boost from Mom and Pop, and, thankfully, LGBTQ couples have seen a significant increase in parental acceptance (up to around 60 percent) and financial support (79 percent of same-sex couples paid for all or the majority of their wedding in 2013, but that number is now down to 61 percent). Additionally, 42 percent asked for their parents blessing in 2017, compared to only 27 percent just two years ago in 2015.
"Having the support of parents on the rise is EVERYTHING," gushes Hamm.
2. Higher Turn-Outs
Prior to 2013, 63 percent of same-sex couples had average guest lists of 65 people and usually had fewer than four people (sometimes none!) in their wedding parties. Last year, the mean was up to 100 guests and seven attendants.
Hamm explains that could be a Mom and Dad effect: "In the past, same-sex couples have been almost solely in charge of their guest lists," she says. "There were no turf battles or mandatory 'friends of my parents' invitees."
Still, she also notes that, "with the increase in acceptance, we’ve seen a shift in both wedding professionals and same-sex couples as they’ve gone from planning smaller weddings and legal elopements to legally-recognized weddings with all the trappings."
3. More Elaborate Affairs
As previously suggested, LGBTQ couples are spending more money on their weddings, but hear us out on why that's a good thing!
First off, because they can, and because we know that some of that cash flow is courtesy of those proud parents we mentioned earlier. Still, their total wedding ceremony/reception cost hovers around an average of $26,000 — about $10,000 less than the overall average. Though, it is interesting to note that LGBTQ couples spend nearly $25 more per guest (at $245 a head) than the average opposite-sex couple.
It may be a little too soon to think too hard about why that's the case.
"The trends are still evolving," says Hamm, who settled down with her partner before anyone was sure legal marriage for same-sex couples was even a possibility. "We are only three years out from marriage equality and the assimilation is still underway."
4. Influence on Opposite-Sex Weddings
As increasingly more opposite-sex couples stray away from traditional wedding days with special touches like asking a friend or family member to officiate, writing their own vows, or having mixed-gender wedding parties, it could indicate the impact of those elements being done so often and so well in LGBTQ ceremonies.
"LGBTQ couples were — and still are — far more likely to design their attendant list based on 'their people' versus that person’s gender, and it’s been fun to see how quickly straight couples picked up on this," says Hamm. According to WeddingWire’s 2018 Newlywed Report, 40 percent of straight couples mixed their wedding parties when only 26 percent did so in 2015.
Though Hamm is obviously overjoyed about marriage equality, she does point out that before it was an option, LGBTQ couples approached their planning with remarkable creativity, inventiveness and personalization out of necessity. If they were already taking the risk to venture out into uncharted territory, they might as well do so as authentically as possible.
"We had to invent our own rituals and celebrations because the traditional, heteronormative, gendered wedding rituals didn’t leave much of a place for two persons of the same gender — particularly two grooms," she says. "When straight friends and family members came to our very personal, meaningful, and impactful celebrations, they liked what they experienced. Not only has that inspired straight couples, but also wedding professionals who have, in turn, shared those ideas with their straight clients."
Hamm also wonders if the "pop-up wedding," trend of low-key elopements that spare couples added fuss and expenses of a traditional wedding was ignited by so many legal elopements for same-sex couples.
5. Support from the Wedding Industry
"The most important message for LGBTQ couples to know is that the wedding industry supports them," says Hamm. "Headlines that focus on the challenges around service refusal don’t speak for the industry as a whole."
In Hamm's own research, findings say that the majority of wedding professionals industry-wide (67 percent) say they support a requirement that wedding businesses serve same-sex couples, and some companies — including WeddingWire — have explicit non-discrimination policies that vendors agree to when they join the site. (More than 76 percent of their network actually has experience working with same-sex couples.)
"Now, instead of same-sex couples needing to find niche, 'gay-friendly wedding planning resources' as they used to be called, they can go directly to the directory and wedding inspiration sections of WeddingWire to find vendors ready to embrace them," Hamm says. "There's no need to look for a special badge or disclaimer."
And now that society is starting to look at "gay weddings" as just "weddings," we may even see same-sex couples start adopting more traditional rituals as a function of acceptance by the industry and parents. "As professionals become more comfortable with and excited about designing same-sex weddings, they’ve drawn from the playbook they know, and thus the movement toward more recognizable wedding rituals," explains Hamm, citing the 77 percent of same-sex couples who choose to have a first dance or the increased 46 percent who opt for a cake-cutting ceremony.
Finally, we asked Hamm which of these results make her the happiest, as a member of both the LGBTQ and wedding industry community:
"The numbers that show that couples — LGBTQ or non-LGBTQ — are customizing their weddings to reflect their authentic selves, and the meaningfulness and importance of their vows," she says. "They're taking both the ritual and opportunity for celebration seriously, and letting their love shine."
Cake for all!