Leslie Krongold and Jessica Nussbaum are planning their Aug. 16 wedding in their hometown of Alameda, a conscious choice to spend their money where they live and marry before November's ballot measure that could overturn California's same-sex marriage law.
So far, their biggest challenge was planning an event for 60 in two months. With a budget "hopefully under $10,000," Krongold said, "things are coming up that I hadn't even thought about."
The couple has planned their outfits, venues, food, reception and vegan wedding cake and are now working on a secular officiant, something that proved more difficult because Krongold, 46, is Jewish and part of a spiritual group, while Nussbaum, 36, a former Catholic, doesn't want a religious ceremony.
For many same-sex couples, a legally binding marriage is the icing on the wedding cake and for many Bay Area businesses, it's destined to be a $683.6 million boost to California's economy in the next three years, according to a recent study from UCLA. But the East Bay wedding industry may not be seeing the benefit.
Waymon Hudson, 29, and his fiance, Anthony Niedwiecki, 40, both of Oakland Park, Fla., are planning to spend around $10,000 for their June 27 nuptials in San Francisco. The two are one of the 67,513 couples expected in the next three years to be heading to the Bay Area for marriage. While the destination wedding may not be traditional — Hudson is planning the whole affair via the Internet and by word-of-mouth — they plan to fly in June 24, buy outfits, get married and celebrate at an area restaurant with friends.
"It's a huge financial boom for California," Hudson said. "Even if people can't get around the justice and civil rights part of it, they can get behind the economics of it and our big, gay dollars."
The couple have been together six years and consider themselves committed. Hudson, a political activist, said he doesn't want to turn into a "bridezilla," or tyrannical bride, which is why he's happy he has to plan long-distance even if it means poring over wedding cake and flower arrangement Web sites. "If I was there, I would work myself into a frenzy," he said. "I didn't think it was going to be as big a deal as it is."
J.T. Thomas-Camarillo and Ross Camarillo, both of Livermore, had a commitment ceremony in 2000, but many of their family members didn't attend because of their beliefs.
Camarillo, a baker and owner of Little Lover's Fine Cupcakes, is making a wedding cake and cupcakes for their small civil ceremony at 1 p.m. today at San Francisco's City Hall.
"The legalization of this is such a big deal," Thomas-Camarillo, an event manager, said. "I've got butterflies in my stomach."
The civil ceremony costs $83 for the license and $95 for the officiant, but only six people can be in the county office at one time, Thomas-Camarillo said, making it not much of a family affair. Although Thomas-Camarillo said he and Camarillo aren't planning a big reception because of the tight timeline, they are going to hold a reception in July.
"(Camarillo) has been hinting at getting new rings," he said. "Maybe that's something we can do at the reception in front of everybody. Right now, it's literally a shotgun wedding. I thought we would have more time."
The Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley has several wedding celebrations booked, including five made this week, said catering manager Kelly McCartney. "It's just very friendly and welcoming here," she said of the 1928 Arts and Crafts style hotel. "Most are local and some are from the college."
But many in the Bay Area wedding industry say they aren't seeing any rise in business.
Margie Richardson, rental coordinator at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens, said that right after the May 15 ruling, the venue received several phone calls and interest, but that many same-sex couples stopped short of signing contracts.
Julie Nunn Martin, a wedding coordinator at I Do! Wedding & Event Design in San Francisco, said that so far she didn't have any requests for information on same-sex weddings. Many of her contacts in the gay community don't feel any particular urgency to marry since they are already committed, she said. "To them, their commitment is the real deal and they didn't care what the government thought," she said.
Amy Rohani, owner of Forget Me Not Flowers in Walnut Creek, also said that she hasn't received calls about same-sex weddings, but expects that several gay and lesbian flower shops may be benefitting.
"I think a lot of gay couples already have someone they know," Rohani said.
Chong Hatcher, a floral designer in El Sobrante, said that most of her business comes via e-mail, and she also hasn't been contacted for any same-sex weddings.
"Most are trying to have a quick ceremony and probably will get a lot of bouquets from vendors on the street," she said.
Barbara E. Hernandez covers real estate. Reach her at 925-952-5063 or email@example.com.