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Same-Sex Weddings Could Greatly Impact Wisconsin's Wedding Industry

It’s May in Wisconsin, which means invitations for those summer weddings are beginning to hit the mail. What’s new this year, here and in many states, is the fact that same-sex partners can now marry. 

The change could mean more business for wedding planners. It’s estimated that same-sex weddings could add up to $2.5 billion to the U.S. economy. Wisconsin’s share could approach $30 million.

Credit LaToya Dennis
Milwaukee based event planner David Caruso says businesses that want to work with non-traditional couples should brush up on their etiqutte.

It’s a Friday afternoon at the Pritzlaff building in downtown Milwaukee. Event planner David Caruso is busy setting up for a Saturday wedding. This won’t be a same-sex wedding, but Caruso says he cannot wait for the opportunity to plan his first one in Wisconsin. He says he has a few awesome ideas up his sleeve for the right couple.

“I think it could be super cool to create two aisles that kind of join at the front. So they’re literally being escorted either by their parents or whomever is most important to them down two aisles that are convening at the place where they will become united,” Caruso says.

Caurso doesn’t expect same-sex weddings to be much different from others. Yet he says vendors might want to familiarize themselves with a few changes in etiquette. Things as simple as having gender-neutral titles on paperwork.

“No more do you put bride and groom on any intake forms or when you’re talking to people on the phone. There’s no more assumptions that it is a man and a woman. And in order to open yourself up to this possibility of new revenue streams you need to make sure that you are very inclusive from start to finish,” Caruso says.

“Hopefully, someday it won’t be—nobody goes to a same-sex wedding they just go to a wedding,” Land says.

That’s Christina Land. She and Shelly Jensen have been planning their August nuptials for about six months. Land admits that at times she wishes they had hired someone to plan the day.

“Well now a days I think about it almost daily. We thought about it and you know if I were to start over, I may think more seriously about it,” Land says.

The plan is to invite 180 guests to the wedding and reception. Rather than a color scheme, the couple is going with a theme—vintage travel. Instead of a flower girl and ring bearer they’ll have a children’s march. There won’t be a couple’s first dance because they want everyone on the floor.

“Not to spill the beans, but I guess and we might do a shot to celebrate the occasion. Cheers,” Jensen says. 

The two celebrated 10-years together in 2009 in Hawaii. It was intimate, only four people attended and watched the couple exchanged rings. Jensen says this time, they’re making it official.

“There’s an element of the legality piece that I’m super excited about. I think that probably more internally, the long-term commitment we’ve had, we share is not—this wedding isn’t that powerful, but it’s the legality that we can now do that in the city that we love and we live,” Jensen says.

Same-sex couples are adjusting to the new reality, just as the wedding industry is, according to event planner David Caruso.

“There was a big rush that people went to the courthouse and got married, and it’s been interesting to me from this side of the business seeing that the actual larger scale bigger same-sex weddings are still not quite mainstream. But it’s very new and I think there’s a lot of people that are figuring out what it really means and the significance of it, and if that fits their lifestyle as a couple,” Caruso says.

Caruso says because same-sex weddings are so new, it might take a while to learn the true impact on related businesses.

According to the state Department of Health Services, same-sex couples helped boost the number of people who got married in Wisconsin last year to 33,000. That was the highest total since 2007.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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