How Soon-to-Wed Juan and Jose Will Boost the Economy

How Gay Marriage Will Boost Economy
How Gay Marriage Will Boost Economy

It's matrimony's version of a financial stimulus program. The moment Jose Matos proposed to Juan Estrada after New York state approved same-sex marriage, the pair joined thousands of gay couples expected to boost an economy that has been on the rocks. Caterer? Check. Flowers? Check. Engraved invitations? Yup.

"I'm talking to the chef today," Estrada told DailyFinance. "Jose is taking care of the legal. I'm taking care of the creative."

Estrada, a 35-year-old Pilates instructor, and Matos, a 34-year-old social worker (pictured), are hoping to finalize plans for an August ceremony and reception in New York City. They have a budget of $20,000, not including rings from Tiffany (TIF).

Gay and lesbian marriage, approved June 24 and valid starting July 24, will allow New York to say "I do" to an additional $391 million in commerce, a Democratic state senate report concluded.

A ripple effect could create a happily-ever-after of sorts for the country, two studies indicated. If the rest of the states were to join the six (plus Washington, D.C.) now permitting same-sex nuptials, it would generate an extra $1.3 billion over the next three years while creating an additional 4,000 jobs, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA School of Law. A 2004 congressional paper projected that additional revenues of up to $1 billion a year would flow into federal coffers.

Added Business Is More Than Icing on the Cake

"As far as the future for the next states that extend marriage to same-sex couples, it's really a case of 'to the victor goes the spoils,' " said the Williams Institute's executive director, Brad Sears. "New York will benefit not only by having its resident same-sex couples marry, but, as a popular tourist destination, from same-sex couples traveling there from throughout the United States."

One caterer in the city's gay-concentrated West Village is already feeling the rush. Creative Edge Parties' wedding business jumped 50%, spokeswoman Maria Kourepenos said. At a minimum of $300 a guest, that's a lot more than icing on the cake.

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"The floodgates have opened," said Angie Nevarez, Creative Edge's wedding director. "It's amazing. We've done so many [same-sex] weddings but not technically legal weddings. Now we're so happy to come out of the closet with them."

Many businesses expected significant long-term gains, but were not sure how quickly they'd be able to quantify the effect. Jack Follmer, co-owner of Very Special Flowers, said it would take at least 30 days before he could gauge the increase. And because some of his transactions involve couples buying bouquets on the run to City Hall, he'll still have a tough time keeping track.

Kate Park, the manager of West Village Florists, said the store anticipated a 30% uptick eventually. Jimmy Vali, whose band plays weddings for a minimum of $11,000, sang a more conservative tune. "I would tend to say a 5% increase right now because of the lack of knowledge and newness of it all," he said. "But we welcome the new business."

One catering hall, the Altman Building in Chelsea, another Manhattan neighborhood with a high percentage of gay residents, said it was already reworking some of its advertising. Amanda Jassin, the director of sales, said the Altman would "adjust" some of the promotional photos "so it's not about the bride and groom but just the experience." Bookings for the Altman begin at $5,500.

Estrada and Matos are in no hurry -- at least for the reception. They'd like to marry in a civil ceremony as fast they can and are open to throwing the big party later, Estrada said. They know a private chef who will give them a deal on the food -- fusion appetizers to reflect Estrada's Mexican heritage and Matos' Puerto Rican and Japanese roots. Estrada figures securing a bargain on the flowers won't be a problem either, but one florist contacted by DailyFinance said her wedding arrangements "are typically $10,000 to $25,000." As for the venue, the pair are thinking about renting a room at a restaurant with a bar and DJ.

From the economic standpoint alone, the groom-to-be wondered why same-sex marriage took so long. Said Estrada: "We want to do the whole nine yards."

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