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State wedding businesses to get $74 mil increase from gay marriages: study

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Updated: December 9, 2013 10:34AM

Last year, just five same-sex couples inquired about holding weddings at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

But on Wednesday alone — a day after the Illinois General Assembly approved gay marriage — the venue got that number of wedding requests from same-sex couples.

“It’s really impacting us, very quickly,” Mary Biller, a sales manager said. “We do about 30 weddings per year, so that would be a good chunk of business.”

The Botanic Garden is not alone.

Illinois’ wedding businesses would see a $74 million bump and an increase of $29 million in tourism expenditures by out-of-town guests in the first three years of legalization, according to a study from the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute. Total state and local tax revenue would rise by $8.5 million, including an estimated $1million to $2 million from local sales taxes. The first year is estimated to produce $5.4 million of this spending — and also create 281 new jobs in Illinois, the study said.

Sparkles Fine Jewelry in Andersonville, which sells LGBT engagement rings, expects to see a boost in sales, said owner Rachel Meyering, who has rings by New York jewelry designer and wedding planner Rony Tennenbaum. Meyering said many same-sex couples have already checked out the her store’s merchandise.

“I think with the vote yesterday, it’s really going to take off, especially in Andersonville,” Meyering said. “There are a lot of couples that have come in and really enjoy this line, and I have a gay couple that purchased engagement rings and are super excited about the news.”

Tennenbaum said businesses will have to go through a learning curve when it comes to same-sex marriage.

“The gay community doesn’t really have, or has ever thought of the engagement process before, because they never really thought they’d be married.”

Bittersweet Pastry Shop in Lakeview has already benefitted from the city’s gay community, catering at least 10 same-sex celebrations across the city this summer. But they’re hoping same-sex customers come back to the bakery to help them celebrate their weddings starting June 1, 2014.

“We’ve always had a lot of business with the gay community,” said Nancy Fetsch, who does wedding cake consultations at the bakery. “I’ve always had people who come in and say, ‘I will do something when it becomes legal. I’ll be back,’ and hopefully they will be back here.”

The state’s tourism industry is expected to benefit from the legalization, as well.

Jen Hoelze, Illinois Office of Tourism director, said the state is sprucing up its website to highlight a trip planner for same-sex couples planning to get married: “The day the bill is assigned, we’re going to add ‘I do’ to that trip planner and it will be comprehensive information about where you can get married.”

Hoelze said the state also will be responding to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who visited Chicago in September to announce a digital advertising campaign to lure gay Chicagoans into his city to get married.

“The targeted digital ad campaign he did, I think he had a great idea, and I just don’t know yet what we’re going to do, but we are going to do something, and I’m taking a hard look at it,” Hoelze said. “I’m very excited that we’ll get to target the surrounding states that will now be sending their ‘to be married’ couples our way.”


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