It only took a weekend for the jubilation of marriage equality in New York ?– including the most spirited and largest NYC Pride event in recent memory, with about 2 million spectators for the parade alone – to turn from common sense to dollars and cents. That is, deals and offers from the tourism industry started pouring into my mailbox almost instantly. W Hotel group was the first: "W Hotels of New York have been gearing up in anticipation of the bill being passed for quite some time," said a rep, acknowledging the brand has always had close ties to the gay community. "[We've] hosted many commitment ceremonies and civil unions, so we look forward to being a part of more beautiful unions.”
The official government response has also been strong in New York City.
Mayor Bloomberg's NYC I Do campaign kicked into gear to help brand the city as the gay wedding destination, hoping to snag some of the estimated $391 million boon gay marriage will produce to the state economy in the next three years, according to a report issued by Democratic senators this past May. For reference, the average cost of a U.S. wedding is $26,500, part of an $84 billion nationwide market according to a 2011 study by Brides magazine, so no small potatoes considering New York has more residents than all the other states offering gay marriage combined. It's no wonder companies and municipalities are eager to cash in. A predicted 3,300 couples from surrounding states will choose to wed in New York, as well will almost 42,000 LGBT couples seeking destination weddings in the state in the first months of legality alone.
Ready to start planning your own nuptials in the Empire State? Below, some of our favorite ideas, deals, and resources.
NB: Couples can start applying for a certificate on July 5, with the first being issued on the 24th when the law officially takes effect. After a 24-hour waiting period, you may now kiss the brides.
If you're planning to wed in NYC, let two resources be your go-to:
- Next Magazine's Gay Wedding Guide: The city's best and most comprehensive gay weekly offers rich listings for gay-friendly houses of worship, prime venues, gift ideas, honeymoon suggestions, and a directory of gay-friendly vendors. "It's the first wedding directory not centered around the bride. Grooms deserve to feel like a queen for the day, too!" says editor-in-chief Benjamin Solomon. Plus, he tapped a network of experts like a gay wedding planner and the editor of Equally Wed magazine to offer favorite picks for everything from stationary to bakeries and catering. As for Benjamin's favorite, he nods towards The Foundry (www.thefoundry.info) in Long Island City as a particularly incredible venue. www.nextmagazine.com
- The official NYC I Do hub: Includes a FAQ for how to get married, as well as deals, vendors, and planning help that will be updated as new options arise. Some of our favorites so far include the Love Has No Boundaries and Born This Way packages (grand ballroom dinner and brunch options, respectively) at the very chic Le Parker Meridien (www.parkermeridien.com); a LGBT Wedding Hotel Takeover package (for that big destination wedding) at the GEM Hotels (www.thegemhotel.com) in Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen, and Soho; as well as the aforementioned W Hotels (www.whotels.com) Right to Unite package (including a free Flip cam and two free nights' honeymoon at W Vieques in Puerto Rico). Yet to be listed, the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park (www.ritzcarlton.com) also affords stunning views and value with its Celebrate Equality – More Love for Everyone package (including a comp 5-night honeymoon at any Ritz in the world if you spend $40,000 or more on catering). www.nycgo.com
On a tighter budget? Manhattan's first Pop-Up Chapel (popupchapel.com) will wed couples outside the beautiful Bethesda Fountain (of Angels in America fame) in Central Park on July 30, providing a legal officiant, photographer, decorations, and refreshments – all for free!
The Skylight Group (www.skylightnyc.com), a high-end event production company with three spectacular venues (two indoor/outdoor rooftops in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn) is offering 20 percent off all weddings, gay or straight, booked now through 2011. Company president Jennifer Blumin sees the promotion both as a tribute to the gay members who have enriched and shaped the event industry, as well as the chance to help bolster the economic impact of same-sex marriage, hopefully spreading that good news to other states currently debating the issue.
For weddings outside of the five boroughs, 365 Gay (www.365gay.com), Logo's news site, lists its "Top 7 Places to Get Married in New York State," including Niagara Falls (naturally) and New Paltz, where mayor Jason West debunked the law and married 25 same-sex couples in 2004, in addition to bucolic stunners like Seneca Falls and Hudson. They also have a quick-and-easy FAQ that explains everything from cost (only $35!) to blood tests (not needed) and name changes (godspeed).
Couples looking for a beachy escape can head to the Montauk Yacht Club (www.montaukyachtclub.com) for an At Last same-sex elopement escape with a honeymoon built in. The $1,975 package includes three nights in a waterfront suite, boutonnieres for grooms (bouquets for brides), rose petals turndown on the wedding night, and a small fresh flower arrangement for the room; two hours of photography with prints and CD of images; judge or notary public to officiate the ceremony; dinner for two with a champagne toast at Gulf Coast Kitchen, and breakfast in bed the following day. The package is available now through November 30.
Destinations outside the US have also gotten into the game:
- The gay-owned and stunning Kura Hurlanda resort (basically an entire historic neighborhood turned hotel; www.kurahulanda.com) in the Carribean island nation of Curaçao is offering all newlyweds (gay and straight) from New York State a free upgrade and $200 dinner for two when booking a four-night stay now till December 22.
- Also in the Caribbean, the Queen's Garden Resort (www.queensaba.com) in romantic and secluded Saba (28 miles east of St. Maarten), offers a Queen of New York Hearts honeymoon special for all wedded couples (again, gay or straight) from the state. Present a valid New York marriage certificate dated July 24 or after and receive one night free (on a minimum four-night stay) and one complimentary breakfast in bed, now through December 15.
And that's just the tip of the gay marriage iceberg. If you have a deal to offer, comment below! And readers, check back. As the days count down till the first gay couple can legally tie the knot, there will be more to celebrate – and travel deals to save on – coming down the pipeline.