Same-Sex Marriage, Weddings Drive Business Growth in Maine

By Pierce, Kathleen | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), March 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Same-Sex Marriage, Weddings Drive Business Growth in Maine


Pierce, Kathleen, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


PORTLAND, Maine -- Kandis Stanley married her girlfriend Jen Gibson at Portland City Hall this week. Moments after the couple from Louisiana said, "I do," they drove to Portland Head Light for nuptial photos.

With Maine's oldest lighthouse as a backdrop, a lonesome foghorn sounding and cold winds whipping off the Atlantic, the two were frigid, underdressed -- and beaming.

"We wouldn't have done this anywhere else," said Stanley, 33.

The couple could not marry in their home state, where same-sex marriage is illegal, but could have chosen 16 other places to tie the knot. Even during a brutal winter, Maine won out.

"The only other northeastern place we considered was New York City, but [we] ultimately went for Portland for the scenery and the downtown area," said Stanley, a nurse.

Before boarding a flight back to New Orleans, the couple shelled out $1,500 for a photographer, hotel, meals, car rental and souvenirs like T-shirts and mugs from Becky's Diner.

"We tried to mainly spend our money at locally owned businesses because we know from our own experiences how much that helps families and keeps the money in the local economy," said Stanley.

Welcome to the gay wedding economy.

As the second season for same-sex weddings ramps up in the state, fiscal forecasts look strong.

Gay weddings are projected to add an estimated $7.9 million annually to state coffers, according to a report by the Williams Institute at UCLA. The 2009 study also estimated a likely $60 million boost in new spending on weddings and tourism.

Businesses like GayweddingsinMaine.com are ready.

The year-old online wedding directory has 450 vendors -- from ministers to lighting companies to photographers -- targeting this new slice of the wedding industry. Some are gay owned, all are gay- friendly.

"A lot of the vendors are proud of the fact that they are gay. Being gay for many years was not in vogue. It was something that people were afraid or ashamed of," said Sid Tripp, who launched the site, produced by his Portland-based marketing company, Proactive Resources Design.

So far, the site has received 4 million page views. In a few weeks, it will relaunch as a full-service resource for gay weddings in Maine, offering travel tips, adoption advice and vignettes on couples who have wed in the state. At a recent networking event, Tripp held at the Cumberland Club, 70 to 80 vendors from Maine communities such as Naples, Mexico and Bar Harbor gathered.

"Love is love. We want to capture all types," said Tricia Jamiol, a Windham photographer who last year launched a wedding-focused business with her partner, Christina Fay.

Shooting Stanley and Gibson's ceremony this week, Jamiol was struck by Portland's warm welcome to the out-of-towners. Though the couple, holding hands and iPhones in the city clerk's office, were nervous, their experience could not have been more positive.

"I'm happy that couples are finding Maine and coming in from other states. It's good for the economy," said Jamiol. "People are recognizing how beautiful Maine is on the outside," she said. …

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