Same-Sex Weddings Show New Spending Patterns

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Since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide last June, gay couples have rushed to wed in record numbers, according to Gallup, the polling organization. While there are many similarities in the way same-sex and straight couples prepare for the weddings of their dreams—no surprise—we found that there are also some differences, especially in how they spend. According to a recent Consumer Reports poll of 464 individuals, both same-sex and straight couples often try to find ways to save money on their weddings. They ask friends to help provide wedding services or goods (which could mean playing the role of a D.J. or taking photos, for example); they borrow items rather than buy them; and they sometimes limit the bar service during the reception. But same-sex couples, more than heterosexual couples, depend more on friends and relatives who aren't their parents to help them fund their weddings and are more likely to turn to crowdsourcing to raise money for their big day, according to our survey.

Kathryn Hamm, publisher of GayWeddings.com, a subsidiary of the wedding planning website, The Knot, says she isn’t surprised by these findings. Historically, many same-sex couples haven’t been able to depend on their parents for help with financing their nuptials. A lack of family financial support could help explain why same-sex couples report looking for opportunities to save money around their weddings. The survey shows they are more likely than straight couples to barter with vendors—for example, asking for a discount on floral centerpieces in exchange for website design help. And of all couples surveyed that had a marriage reception within the last five years, a higher percentage of those in same-sex unions (about 20 percent of respondents) opted for a destination wedding, which can be cheaper for the couple getting married.

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However, one upside of self-funding weddings is that same-sex couples get to call the shots more often than straight couples, Hamm says. "We ask, ‘What are we doing and why?' She says that's different from a typical, heterosexual wedding where family and friends may play a bigger role in dictating how the day will go.

New Wedding Customs

Besides the differences in spending, same-sex couples are also creating new customs. Hamm points out that both members of a same-sex couple might wear engagement rings, for example, which isn't common among heterosexual couples. When it comes to buying a wedding dress, same-sex brides shun the traditional wedding dress more often than straight brides, according to the survey. Those who don’t are also more likely to buy or rent a secondhand wedding dress. And gay couples could have, say, a woman act as the "best person" or a man take the place of a maid or matron of honor. Some of these customs are showing up at heterosexual weddings as well. "We’ve found that today, 10 percent of straight couples are actually mixing gender in wedding parties,” says Hamm. “That wasn’t happening 30 years ago."

As the wedding industry caters more to same-sex weddings, it’s likely that spending patterns and customs for all weddings will continue to evolve. But that may take a little time. "Some vendors and venues still use the terms 'bride and groom' or 'bridal suite,'" says Jove Meyer, a Brooklyn-based wedding planner, “Same-sex couples need to feel more welcome and supported.”

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