Let the Wedding Bells (and Cash Registers) Ring in N.Y.
On Friday, June 24, New York City’s West Village erupted in celebration as hundreds gathered outside the historic Stonewall Inn to celebrate one of the most significant victories in the modern gay rights movement-the legalization of same-sex marriage. The New York State Senate passed the legislation by a 33-29 margin, making the Empire State the sixth and most populous state to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
And while the sounds reverberating through the West Village on that historic Friday night could best be described as sounds of joy and cheer, New York is about to be inundated with a new sound-the sound of cash registers. On Sunday, July 24, floods of same-sex couples will begin their race to the altar and New York’s economy will suddenly be inundated with a sea of cash. From lobster and caviar to the Four Seasons and Gracie Mansion, some same-sex couples will be sure to spare no expense.
There is no doubt that weddings are great for the economy. The average American wedding costs almost $29,000, according to The Wedding Report, a market research publication. But same-sex households tend to have more disposable income and a higher median income than average heterosexual couples do. The most recent figures available indicate that same-sex couples earn an average of $80,610, compared to the $73,655 average income of married heterosexual couples. Many analysts believe this additional income will correlate into same-sex couples spending more on their "big day."
Exactly how much revenue will same-sex marriage generate for the state of New York?
Estimates range from a modest $225 million upward to roughly $2 billion over the course of the next three years. With a population greater than the combined total of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, and the District of Columbia (the jurisdictions that currently recognize same-sex marriage,) the Independent Democratic Conference estimates that approximately 66,000 same-sex couples will be expected to tie the knot in the Empire State within the next three years.
Factoring in tourism, marriage license fees, sales, and hotel taxes, the IDC projects an overall economic boost of $391 million. A similar report from the Independent Economic Conference projects that same-sex unions will generate about $284 million in additional wedding revenue and tourism and put another $27 million in taxes and license fees into the state’s capital over the next three years. As an article published by the Daily Beast points out, however, these figures are extremely conservative, using an average amount of $4,000 per wedding. As mentioned, the national wedding budget is closer to $30,000. Moreover, the average wedding in New York City costs upwards to $70,000. Accordingly, same-sex nuptials have the potential to flood New York’s wedding industry with an astounding $2 billion in revenue.
Whether or not the New York Senate had the economy in mind when voting to pass the same-sex marriage legislation seems almost irrelevant-the bill passed. Furthermore, to reduce the on-going struggles of the LGBT community by analyzing same-sex marriage from an economic standpoint seems not only impersonal, but also somewhat immoral. After all, the push for marriage equality is about human dignity, not dollar signs. Nonetheless, $2 billion is hard to ignore.
Regardless of the reason, New York chose to push marriage equality forward. As a result, thousands of same-sex couples will soon descend upon the Empire State to tie the knot, while states that do not recognize same-sex marriage will be missing potentially millions of dollars that could have been spent within their own borders. And, if missing out on an influx of a few million dollars will help to change the mindset of even a few opposed to same-sex marriage, then so be it. As for New York, it may now sit back and reap the benefit of choosing to "do the right thing." Any economic benefit bestowed upon the Empire State is now just icing on the proverbial wedding cake.