With the legalization of same-sex marriage, some economists think Nevada’s weddings business could grow by roughly $30 million a year. But the wedding industry itself has been slow to react to this change and gay couples are still fighting for social acceptance. Reno Public Radio’s Esther Ciammachilli looks at what same-sex couples in Washoe County can look forward to before and after they say “I do.”
With same-sex marriage being legalized, gay married couples nationwide now have complete legal rights to each other’s lives: from family and healthcare, to finances and estate; benefits that many LGBT couples have waited a long time to see. So, it’s time to start panning weddings. Amanda Horn and her colleagues at the Nevada Museum of Art held a wedding expo earlier this month showcasing businesses in Washoe County that support same-sex marriage. Horn says the group was inspired by a wedding fair they attended earlier this year.
“We were looking around and realizing, through no fault of anyone, how hetero-normative everything was and we didn’t really see that many same-gender couples. And we were wondering, well, why not?”
The event at the Nevada Museum of Art was more diverse and featured faith leaders, financial and estate planners and vendors who cater to all couples looking to get hitched. One of the experts on hand was Kate Patay, who gave a seminar on wedding etiquette and trends. She says same-sex couples are reinventing some of the more traditional customs.
“Just the terms that are being used, so here come the brides or I now pronounce you married. And just the different ways to make sure that it really is inclusive for everybody. And I just love seeing how they’re incorporating you know either wearing dresses, or one wearing a white dress and the other wearing a black dress.”
Wedding traditions may be changing, but same-sex marriage is still taboo in some religious institutions. Sean Savoy helped organize the event. He’s the founder of the Nevada Interfaith Coalition for Equality or NiCE, which connects couples with religious organizations that accept LGBT members and faith leaders who will perform same-sex marriages. Savoy says when Nevada legalized gay marriage last year some of his colleagues in the interfaith community thought that was it.
“…We’re all good now we have the law. And my thought on that was there is a lot to be done still within the faith community with regard to changing viewpoints, helping people to understand the concept of same-sex marriage, and even just accepting LGBT people in their congregations.”
For gay couples themselves, the actual concept of marriage is still unfamiliar territory. You may remember Karen Vibe. She and her wife, Karen Goody, received the first same-sex marriage license in Washoe County. The two are known more intimately as “the Karens,” and aside from being a local celebrity, Vibe is also a certified financial planner who spoke at the wedding fair. She says couples who understand each other’s financial behavior are more likely to stay together.
“Because the number one reason that people divorce is for financial reasons, so if that’s the number one cause then lets back track that before you get married and start talking about these issues so that you are going into that relationship with eyes wide open.”
Vibe says that – gay or straight – a couple is a couple and they must remember that marriage is about blending two separate lives.
“There’s usually someone in the relationship that is stronger when it comes to money and someone in the relationship that is more impulsive or stronger when it comes to being the fun person in the relationship, the more spontaneous person. And those roles don’t change with gender, those are just couple roles. You tend to be attracted to your opposite and opposites come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.”
It’s been nearly a year since “the Karens” received their marriage license, and so far roughly 32 hundred have been issued to same-sex couples in Nevada. One of those couples has made a lasting impression on Amanda Horn who recounted their story during the wedding expo.
“They remember walking in the mall together 25 years-ago, 30 years-ago and looking at these wedding rings and saying someday, someday. And they made their weddings rings based off that model.”
Horn says the real blessing to come from the legalization of same-sex marriage is the validation of a commitment between two people who have loved each other for so long.