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Vancouver Wedding Services Hope For Surge In Business

OPB | Dec. 6, 2012 6 a.m. | Vancouver, Washington

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Peter Lekarev / OPB

One month after Washington voters approved same-sex marriages, couples are waiting for the doors of their county public service offices to open Thursday.

That’s because Thursday is the first day they can apply for a marriage license.

There’s a three-day waiting period, so couples won’t actually be able to get married until Sunday. But thousands of people are expected to tie the knot over the next three years.

Kristian Foden-Vencil talked to a few wedding businesses in Vancouver and an economist to see whether they expect an uptick in spending.


Peter Lekarev / OPB

In the back kitchen of the Simply Sweets in Vancouver’s Westfield Mall, Ilea Duniway lowers a slab of blue cake fondant through a press.

“I am cutting fondant into strips to make some ribbon roses we call them. They’re just like fun funky flowers…”

In addition to the mall, Simply Sweets can also be found on the website gayweddings.com.

Peter Lekarev / OPB

That’s because, for $450, they’ll bake a cake with seven layer rainbow batter. It’ll serve about 100 people.

Store owner Jen Allpress says last summer she did perhaps a dozen commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples, and she’s hoping for a boost from the change in the law.

“I would hope that we would double it now that people can actually get married. I hope people will make that choice because I think that marriage is fabulous and whether you want to be with a man or a woman or whatever, I think it’s great and I’m hoping that we get to use our creative license and get to be a part of that.”

Jen Allpress is the owner of Simply Sweets.

Jen Allpress is the owner of Simply Sweets.

Peter Lekarev / OPB

Allpress says in her experience, gay and lesbian couples tend to be more adventurous when it comes to their cakes: they’re willing to forgo the traditional white tiered cake and embrace a theme.

She also finds it interesting that a relatively conservative town like Vancouver may take a slice of the wedding business from Portland, a town with a more liberal reputation.

“We’re going to start targeting Portland a little bit more and I expect we’re going to see a lot more alternative couples because we’re open; it’s comfortable to come visit with us. And we really enjoy doing those kinds things.  Plus, we’re a little bit less expensive than the big name Portland bakeries down there, by a couple of dollars a serving, which can really add up when you’re serving 100 people.”

Down the street from the Simply Sweets, wedding planner Jackie Healy runs Cloud Nine Events and Accessories. She says she’s already had one gay couple sign up with her since the election.

Ilea Duniway decorates a cake at Simply Sweets.

Ilea Duniway decorates a cake at Simply Sweets.

Peter Lekarev / OPB

They had a civil union in 2007,  she says. But now they want a wedding ceremony with a reception and all the trimmings. 

“The talk is that the wedding industry in Vancouver will increase, mostly with the venues. Because obviously, if the law passed in Washington, the couples have to get married in Washington in order for them to be legally married,” Healy says.

Healy sits on the committee that set up ‘I Do For Us Too’ — an event for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.  It was held a couple of days before the election. The idea was to help pass the law. But the gathering also  matched same sex couples with accepting vendors. Healy says there’s talk of organizing another event for April.

“Since the law passed, we’ve already been told that there a lot of couples that want to take advantage of hiring their professionals before their summer and spring weddings.”

Healy says the average cost of wedding in the Vancouver area is about $6,000.

She charges between $1,000 and $5,000 for her services. So weddings can mean big money.

The Williams Institute at UCLA looked into how much money gay weddings might generate in Washington over the next three years as a result of approving same-sex marriages.

Research director, Lee Badgett, says even if nobody from Oregon, California or Idaho travels into the state to tie the knot, about 9500 same sex Washington couples will spend an estimated $88 million.

“In Oregon there are almost 18,000 same sex couples. So I have no doubt that some of them will get in their cars. So when Iowa started letting same-sex couples get married, people in Missouri, Illinois literally rented buses and went to Iowa to get married and they stayed there, spent money and came home. So the Iowa economy benefited from their visits.”

But of the $88 million Badgett estimates will be spent in Washington, only a fraction is likely to reach Vancouver area.

Meanwhile, Clark County’s marriage license department is increasing staffing and adding Saturday hours to deal with the expected surge in applicants.

They’re also setting up a system of numbered tickets, to keep things in order.

Still, not everyone is booked up. Reverend Rose Woodruff is a professional wedding officiant.

She’s ordained with the Universal Life Church, but she’ll lead gay weddings, non-religious ceremonies, outdoor nuptuals, interfaith ceremonies, you name it. She’s also expecting an increase in business, but she’s still got room on her calendar.

 “I’m extremely hopeful. At this point in time. I have a lot of available positions. I’ve heard that some people are planning to get married on 12/12/12. I’m available for that day.”

12/12/12 doesn’t appear to have any specific relevance beyond the numbers. But it certainly is good for remembering an anniversary.

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