A federal judge has declined to order a stay in the demand that Utah start licensing and recognizing same-sex marriages while the appeals process begins.
Utah has no synchronized tourism marketing strategy to convince same-sex couples to travel here for weddings. Alternatively, county officials in Utah reported that they have been serving a drip of couples traveling in from neighboring states to wed, as well as a few distant couples who already had the trips planned, not knowing that Judge Robert Shelby on Dec. 20 would order clerks to begin granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples. County clerks have reported license requests by couples from Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Florida and Maryland.
Coral and Misty Moser, of Pocatello, Idaho, are having the wedding ceremony in less than a week and married at the Salt Lake County clerk’s office Dec. 27.
“We’ve been together for seven years,” said Coral Moser, 33. “We were really ready to take that step together.”
“We had planned this spring to go to California or Washington,” Coral commented on their marriage plan. The Moser couple drove to Salt Lake City for a small ceremony, when Utah began issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
The couple plan to have a wedding reception and a baby party, later this summer in Idaho as Coral is 17 weeks pregnant. But in Utah’s hospitality and wedding industry, there is some expectation that out-of-state couples will throw destination weddings here.
Wedding tourism initiatives have become common, as same-sex marriages begin in other states. In the days after New Mexico’s top court capsized its gay marriage ban on Dec. 19, Taos officials began planning ad campaigns and gay and lesbian wedding expos to draw out-of-state business. Illinois, which legalized gay marriage one month before Utah, has a dedicated section of its state tourism website to LGBT travel surpassed with wedding details. Hawaii, which authorized same-sex marriage Dec. 2, is capitalizing on its existing role as a wedding destination and anticipates up to $69 million a year in new revenue due to same-sex weddings.
Utah’s tourism and wedding industries have not taken any initiative of marketing to out-of-state couples while the state appeals Shelby’s ruling, said Jay Kinghorn, spokesman for the Utah Office of Tourism.
Shawn Stinson, spokesman for Visit Salt Lake said that in Salt Lake County, destination weddings have not occupied a significant niche in the tourism industry. But in Park City bulk of the business comes from out-station couples; before Shelby’s ruling, she had dovetailed four commitment ceremonies and receptions for California couples who celebrated in Utah after marrying in their home state.
Park City Visitor’s Bureau president Bill Malone said there has been no targeted tourism marketing for same-sex couples, but “it’s probably something we’re going to talk about soon.” Roxie Sherwin, director of the St. George Tourism Office also commented that there is no proposed plan currently to redirect funds toward the same-sex wedding market.
“I can’t imagine our state would ever market such a thing,” said Kristin Spear, wedding planner and owner of Soirée Productions. “The people in charge of our state are not pleased with what has happened.”