Gay Wedding Bells Ring; So Do Cash Registers

The Big Tent: Even Middle-American Hallmark Gets in on the Act

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Steve Roth Steve Roth
It's midnight in Los Angeles, and I'm sitting in front of my computer typing away. Two important things happened in my day today and I want to share them with you. One is that I attended my first bona fide gay wedding reception. The second is that Hallmark just unveiled its first line of same-sex wedding cards.

My two friends John and John (yes, that happens more often than you'd think with same-sex couples) were legally married in the afternoon. Their wedding reception started at 8 p.m. with cocktails at The Abbey, L.A.'s biggest and most famous gay bar, which was featured in a reality show recently.

Mind you, it was a Thursday night, and most of us had to work today. But the two mothers of the grooms -- one in her 70s and the other in her 80s -- were keeping up with the best of them, so I had to go along.

This was not the kind of wedding reception I grew up with in semi-rural Missouri, the kind that took place at the Knights of Columbus Hall with a lame DJ and bad catered food. Nope. Instead, after the cocktails, we boarded one of those red, faux-London double-decker tour buses and proceeded to drive around Los Angeles as we drank Champagne out of Red Bull-sized cans.

We cruised through West Hollywood and stopped at Hollywood and Highland, home of the Kodak Theatre and lots of confused straight tourists. We ended up at the home of an art dealer in the Hollywood Hills and listened to an opera diva sing wedding-themed showtunes as we ate cupcakes and drank more Champagne. I love being gay.

Continuing to the second important thing that happened in my day yesterday, Hallmark Cards rolled out its first gay wedding cards. Yes, that Hallmark. The one based in Kansas City that has been a bastion of middle-American "values" and sentiments for almost 100 years.

Ken Wheaton beat me to this news, but I still want to reiterate its significance. In June, I blogged about the potential economic impact of legal gay marriage in California, and the marketing opportunities that are destined to accompany it. Since then, we've seen major mainstream companies like Macy's take out full-page, gay-oriented wedding registry ads in major daily newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times.

We've also seen the major gay publications, like Frontiers and IN Magazine in Los Angeles, introduce regular, multipage ad spreads dedicated to wedding-related companies from caterers to bagpipers. Robbins Brothers Jewelers took out a full-page ad in the most recent issue of IN.

Gay couples are marrying at record rates in California, and now out-of-state gays can marry in Massachusetts, too. Companies clearly see the commercial opportunities and are acting accordingly.

But it's Hallmark's decision -- perhaps more than any other -- that signifies a sea change in cultural attitudes in this country and bodes well for the future of gay rights and acceptance in America. After all, this is the company that sells Precious Moments figurines and that can be found in most shopping malls across the country.

Granted, Hallmark has said that its stores can choose whether to add the latest offerings. But as far as I'm concerned, the cat is out of the bag. By 5 p.m. yesterday, I had seen news of Hallmark's new card line on, AP, the Los Angeles Times and even CNN. If nothing else, this has been a huge PR coup for the company. Granted, protests may come, but I haven't heard of any yet.

My point in all this is to celebrate the fact that smart companies as mainstream as Hallmark are recognizing and responding to the consumer demand they see in the gay market. Just as they have rolled out their Spanish-language and Mahogany lines in the last few decades, they are now courting the gay market. Not to make a political statement but because it makes sound business sense.

And for my part, I'll take the double-decker tour bus over the Knights of Columbus wedding reception anytime.
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