Taking the pulse of the Midcoast wedding Industry just a week after Maine voters made history by being the first in the country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, the overall reaction from Midcoast vendors and venues has been positive. However, the majority of businesses interviewed admitted it’s still too early to determine how they’re going to actively pursue gay and lesbian clientele.
Currently, the referendum has to take up to 30 days to certify, with the law taking effect after another 30 days. If all goes to plan, it’s looking like early January before same sex couples can legally wed in this state. “I don’t know if there’s been a whole lot of talk about that yet,” said Marina Macho Seekins from The Belfast Chamber of Commerce. Echoing this sentiment, Maine Coast Weddings & Special Events planner Linda Lewis said, “We haven’t really discussed it yet, but we’d be more than willing to help anybody out have a wonderful life together.”
According to The Huffington Post, The Williams Institute at UCLA Law estimates that same-sex couples in the three newest states may spend more than $166 million over the next three years. Expounding on what this means for Maine, Penobscot Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Staci Coomer added, “According to the Williams Institute, the impact on Maine’s economy could be significant, with spending totaling almost $16 million. This could impact businesses in multiple industries across the region and allow for potential growth.”
Many vendors who have been doing commitment ceremonies for a number of years are delighted to work a larger influx of LGBT couples. “I have catered quite a few civil unions over the years and see marriage equality as a real good thing, for business, yes; but, even more so for our society. The welcome mat has been out for a long time,” said Karen Federle, owner of Trillium Caterers. “We have catered many same-sex wedding celebrations and do anticipate an increase now that the law offers the same basic rights to everyone here in Maine,” said Lucien Willette, a coordinator for Maine Coast Catering.
Other vendors whose services have mainly been used primarily by heterosexual couples, are open to new possibilities. “Weddings, rehearsal dinners, shuttles, airport transportation and events for guests are a big part of our business,” said Jim Gamage, owner of All Aboard Trolley & Limousine. “I am thinking we could see a substantial boost to our business. Time will tell but we are very excited and optimistic.” Hillary Bousum, known as the Camden Cake Lady, announced on her Facebook page the day after the historic vote: "I'm so pleased that I can make wedding cakes for ALL couples getting married."
With same-sex marriage legal in Maine, it opens the doors to a host of other vendors, such as officiants. “To me what matters far more than gender, is that the couple's relationship and commitment is based on an abiding friendship, love, mutual respect and support,” said Captain Ken Barnes, a Notary Public and as a Merchant Captain who officiates weddings locally.
The Camden Harbour Inn, which has historically attracted LBGT clientele, has taken the lead in the Midcoast to advertise to gay and lesbian couples. “We received many press requests from all over the U.S. and Canada with regards to same-sex marriage, said Raymond Brunyanszki, co-owner of Camden Harbour Inn. They already have two offers through their website; one is called “Maine Is For ALL! Lovers Wedding Package,” which was picked up by Travel and Leisure Magazine just days after the historic vote.
Those in the wedding industry might want to review their marketing materials to appeal to a broader base. With same-sex couples all over the world now eyeing Maine as a destination wedding spot, competition will be steep. Many gay and lesbian couples look specifically at vendors and venues that provide an inclusive tone on their marketing materials as well as same-sex images and testimonials.
Another way the Midcoast wedding industry can make a concerted effort to attract this clientele is to list their services on gay and lesbian wedding directory websites. Two websites with a notable Maine presence include: gayweddings.com and purpleunions.com with multiple vendors and venues from the Midcoast already listed, including: The Samoset Resort (Rockport), Bay Leaf Cottages and Bistro (Lincolnville), Etienne Perret (Camden), White Doves of Maine (Washington), Alda’s Maine Wedding Flowers (Freedom) and Blue Skye Farm (Waldoboro) to name a few.
Yes, it's still early. It may take a little legwork to get Maine's “welcome mat” up to speed to match other states that have legalized same-sex marriage, but the Midcoast is a spectacular spot with good-hearted people and with time, the outgoing message will be matching the incoming opportunities.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org