The 2013 same-sex marriage act has made the UK an attractive destination for gay and lesbian honeymoons and given a big boost to small businesses.
The act, which was passed through parliament two years ago, has created an entirely new sector in the British wedding market. The UK’s national tourism agency Visit Britain has been advertising small British businesses, including gay-friendly bed and breakfasts and hotels, to encourage same-sex couples from abroad to spend their honeymoon in Britain.
Visit Britain’s Love is Great campaign launched in 2014, just after the act came into effect. At first, the adverts targeted the couples in the US, but this year the campaign has expanded to Brazil and Germany.
Simon Forrester is co-founder of the website Further Afield which handpicks gay-friendly hotels, bed and breakfasts and same-sex weddings venues. He said business has picked up since gay weddings were legalised.
Same-sex couples are more hands-on and more together as a team.
“We’ve seen an increase in interest particularly from Americans looking to holiday or honeymoon in Britain. The legalisation made them think Britain was gay friendly. Britain is one of the most popular places for all honeymoons but gays and lesbians look for signals that identify a country as progressive and tolerant. I think the gay marriage act did that.”
Gino Meriano, who founded the Gay Wedding Show, said there has been another boost to the economy in the form of same sex couples converting their civil partnerships to marriages: “Couples in civil partnership who change to marriages want to have a mini wedding or party to celebrate it.”
However the act has not had as much impact on the economy as many expected. In the lead up to the 2013 decision, there were reports that gay marriages could boost Britain’s economy by up to £18m in the first year. But many small businesses have not noticed any extra customers since the first legal same-sex weddings took place in March 2014.
Wedding planner Matthew Oliver said: “Last year, I helped a female couple and this year I have a male couple but, personally, I haven’t seen an increase in business.”
But Oliver believes this is down to the dynamics within same-sex relationships. With heterosexual couples, he said he normally works with the bride and the groom is barely involved. “But same-sex couples are more hands-on and more together as a team – they don’t need a planner. I have [gay] friends doing it themselves and if I ever get married; my partner and I will do it ourselves.”
Dan Edwards, owner of the café and wedding venue Brockwell Lido, said the number of same-sex marriage ceremonies he holds at the lido since 2014 is similar to the number of civil partnerships they hosted before the act came into effect.
Blair Hunter Davis of the Black Shed accommodation agrees. She said: “I don’t believe the same sex wedding act had any impact on our business at all.” But she said the Black Shed does see some same-sex couples come to them on holiday, about half of whom are from abroad.
Both the Brockwell Lido and the Black Shed are recommended by Visit Britain as gay-friendly venues.
But Further afield, Forrester thinks the Act will have more of an impact in the long run. “It’s still fairly early days. It takes a lot of time to organise a wedding.”