SSM Business Boost

Sydey Marriage Celebrant Stephen Lee in The Australian

It's been a busy week of media interviews with the result of the same sex marriage vote. The Australian interviewed me about how I am preparing for the law to change. Read their report below.


Yes to SSM: outcome tipped to generate $650m

The pent-up demand for same-sex marriage in Australia could be worth more than $650 million in its first year alone when the ­parliament legislates the solid Yes returned in the national postal ­survey.

For so many years same-sex couples have taken their vows, and their wallets, overseas to countries that long ago legalised their marriages, but a study by ANZ bank says this trend will now ­reverse.

Such is the anticipation that the new owners of the renowned Sydney gay venue the Imperial Hotel in Erskineville, in Sydney’s inner west, have begun a $6m renovation with the hopes of turning the hotel into a one-stop place for same-sex (and heterosexual) weddings.

Co-owner Fraser Short said the venue was such a “bastion” of the gay rights movement — it serves as the launch pad for three drag queens who set off on an outback adventure in the acclaimed film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert — that it simply made sense.

“The Imperial is the first place where many people came out; a lot of gay couples met here and, given the spirit it has in the community, we really wanted to be able to have people married here,” he told The Australian.

The fitout will include a new restaurant — called Priscilla’s, naturally — and reinstate a performing area downstairs, with a room upstairs as well for famous acts. A “wedding grotto” will be furnished upstairs, perhaps on the roof or in a neighbouring terrace. It will hold up to 1000 people.

“The business case for the renovation was, in a big way, influenced by the fact there is a market out there and this isn’t just for gay ­venues, it’s everywhere, in every suburb, all across Australia,” Mr Short said.

Senior ANZ economist Cher­elle Murphy said her $650m figure in the first year of legal same-sex marriages is “a conservative estimate”. “It’ll affect certain pockets of the economy more than others — bridal shops, florists, bakers — but it will be a boost, especially when you consider the increase in gay-marriage tourists who have been going to New Zealand in huge numbers,” she said.

Ms Murphy said there could also be a boost to Australia’s poor consumer confidence figures as a result of the Yes win.
“There’ll be a lift in the national mood now it’s over and since it’s been such an emphatic win; and that’ll be good considering the terrible retail figures in the September quarter,” she said.

Sydney celebrant Stephen Lee saidhis email inbox was “about to burst” hours after the ABS announcement, with couples hoping to book his services for the day same-sex marriage became law.

“I’m clearing my schedule; I’ve brought in another colleague, we’re very prepared for a big influx of gay weddings and that’s the market I really want to focus on for the next few months,” he said.

Mr Lee, who is gay, has teamed up with a gay photographer, gay wedding planner and gay stylist in a bid to get an edge in what could soon be a competitive market.

In Melbourne’s inner south, bridal shop Wishbone & Ivy has ­already been turning heads with its “Yes Dress”, and now designer and shop-owner Linda Gorringe is hoping to see some buyers.

“Everyone was putting up Yes signs and I wanted to do something a bit different to show my support, so I did what I do best — I made a gown,” she said.“People have been knocking on the window and giving us thumbs up; they come and whisper ‘that must be the Yes Dress’.” The dress is rainbow-coloured, with each piece draped over ­another. Ms Gorringe has made only one copy, but she’s happy to make more. “I remember someone called up about 12 years ago and asked if we were gay-friendly, I couldn’t believe anyone couldn’t be; I’ve been involved in commitment ceremonies ever since.”

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