Anthony Leggio’s timing couldn’t have been better: On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic ruling that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, he was hosting an event in New Orleans that served as a kind of wedding show for same-sex couples.
While it may be up to a few weeks until the state begins to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, his event was gaining momentum through the day.
“Sixty people already bought tickets, but that number more than doubled today,” said Leggio, who has more than 15 years’ experience as an event planner. As of early Friday afternoon, almost 150 tickets had been sold to the “Southern Decadence Says ‘I Do’ ” event, and the numbers were still going up. Tickets for the event, which showcased the latest trends for gay weddings, were $25 in advance and $35 at the door.
“People are going to be buying tickets at the door,” Leggio said. “It will probably be big.”
Leggio scheduled the event weeks in advance of Friday’s court ruling, asking guests to imagine a future when same-sex weddings in Louisiana were a reality.
Leggio said New Orleans is in a position to benefit from the law. After all, the city is a top destination for weddings, and it has a long-standing reputation for being gay-friendly. The average cost of a wedding in the New Orleans metro area is about $24,000, according to TheWeddingReport.com, but Leggio said the numbers for a same-sex nuptial probably would be higher because gay couples tend to have higher disposable incomes.
“We’ve been losing all that money and all that income because people are not able to get married in our state,” he said. “The economic impact of this will truly, truly be something.”
While people who worked in wedding-related industries were happy with the court ruling, only Leggio said he had been contacted by a same-sex couple Friday looking to plan a wedding.
Several venues contacted Friday morning by The Advocate, including The Columns Hotel in New Orleans and Oak Lodge Reception & Conference Center in Baton Rouge, as well as Baton Rouge wedding planner Allie Wester, said they had not yet heard from anyone about organizing a same-sex wedding.
Jenn Ocken, a Baton Rouge wedding photographer, said she spent Friday reaching out to some of the gay couples she shot engagement photos for but hadn’t heard from anyone looking to book her for a wedding. “I think everyone is just celebrating the court ruling,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Joe Boniol, who co-owns All About Flowers in Baton Rouge, echoed Ocken’s comments. “This all came along so quickly,” he said. While some same-sex couples will run out and get a marriage license as soon as they become available, couples looking to plan a large wedding will take more time.
“It really depends how many people do a ‘big’ wedding and how many have one that’s small,” Boniol said. Boniol, 61, married his business partner, Lester Mut, in April 2014. He said while many couples his age have already gone to tie the knot in states that allowed gay marriage, the ruling will have a significant impact on local wedding vendors. “There is a large gay community in Baton Rouge,” he said.
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.