UK hotels, restaurants and catering businesses are set to cash in on at least 275m of new business over the next two years following the legalisation of gay weddings this week.
At least 1,200 same-sex weddings were registered with local councils on Monday. Brighton led the way with 510 bookings, followed by Westminster (140), Manchester (88) and Newcastle (80). The early signs are that 2007 will see even more gay ceremonies.
With the average heterosexual wedding now costing a staggering £17,000, about £12,500 of which goes on the venue and catering, pink weddings promise to be big business for the hospitality sector.
Hotel groups keen to tap into this market - including InterContinental, Marriott and Alias Hotels - attended the Gay Awards and fourth Gay Wedding Show of the year at the Brighton Hilton Metropole last Sunday (4 December).
"I think it is potentially going to be quite a big opportunity," said Jo Nicholas, regional marketing executive south for the Hilton Group. Hilton has already tailored its wedding package for civil partnerships.
The Brighton Hilton Metropole will hold the receptions for some of England's first gay weddings on 21 December.
A live link-up to the registry office will allow friends and families to view the signing ceremony from the hotel.
Pink Weddings - which has arranged more than 500 gay confirmation-of-vow ceremonies in the past two years - warned that hoteliers needed to be proactive to win the new business.
Founder Gino Meriano said that 33% of venues in the UK would not host gay weddings and receptions, because they were anti-gay. "Hotels need to make themselves more visible and let the gay community know that they are open and ready for civil partnerships," he said.
Names celebrated at the Gay Awards for their supportive stance on pink partnerships to date included Holiday Inn, the Crowne Plaza Docklands, the Windmill hotel and golf club in East Sussex, Leeds Castle, and the Cooling Castle Barn in Kent (which took the top prize).
Meriano said forecasts of more than 22,000 gay weddings in the next two years were "an unbelievable underestimate".