Weddings for same-sex couples boom under Argentina’s new liberal laws

Posted by Annie Kelly on

"For more than 25 years Arturo Lodetti dreamt of walking down the aisle with the love of his life. Now finally, with his wedding only a few months away, he is planning to make it the biggest, most fabulous party that Buenos Aires has ever seen.

"'I never thought I'd see the day when I would be able to make Héctor my husband,' he says, selecting a huge yellow headdress from a selection of sequins and feathers in a fancy dress shop. 'I just want it to be like a carnival, the most enormous celebration of our love, our marriage and the years we have spent fighting for this day to even happen.'

"Five months ago Argentina became the first country in Latin America, and one of only a handful of nations in the world, to legalise marriage equality. Since then the country has seen hundreds of gay couples saying 'I do' and the birth of a booming new economy catering for the increasingly lucrative gay wedding market. For many people, business has never been better.

"Launched in 2009 as the wave of support for the legalisation of the freedom to marry gained momentum, event company Gay Planners is a case in point. Since the law was passed it has organised more than 25 weddings, with dozens more clients on the books.

"'We literally haven't stopped since July and we probably get two or three new calls a day,' says Vanesa Marini, co-founder of Gay Planners.

"'We have organised everything from huge crazy disco parties with white limousines and musical floor shows to intimate ceremonies for just a few family and friends and the calls aren't stopping. We expect 2011 to be the year of weddings for gay couples here in Buenos Aires.'

"Five hundred marriages of same-sex couples have taken place in Argentina since the legislation was passed on 22 July, with hundreds more planned for the new year.

... "Gay couples often far outspend their heterosexual counterparts. The wedding industry in Argentina estimates that gay couples spend up to 30% more on their big day, with budgets stretching to $25,000 (£16,000). The average cost of weddings among middle and upper classes is about $12,500.

... "'In Argentina traditional heterosexual weddings are very formal and people can be very conservative,' says Monica Piazzi, co-owner of Delicias Gourmet. 'It's normally the bride who has to sort everything out and many want their wedding cake to be like everybody else's; there is a need to fit in. Working with gay clients you can be more creative. There isn't an established wedding culture; we're making it up as we go along.'

"Like Lodetti and his boyfriend, many of Gay Planners' and Delicias Gourmet's wedding clients have been together for decades. While civil partnerships have been permitted in Argentina since 2003, couples say the legalisation of the freedom to marry finally gives them the same rights as heterosexual couples.

"'For decades we have been considered second-class citizens,' says Lodetti. 'Before July, even though we have been together for a quarter of a century, if my boyfriend had an accident, I wouldn't be considered next-of-kin. Now we're equal in the eyes of the law.'

"Many of Argentina's weddings of same-sex couples take place in the capital, but services are being held across the country.

"'Buenos Aires has always had a very vibrant gay scene, but in other parts of the country it's very different,' says Lodetti. 'Now these weddings are big public celebrations helping to smash the culture of Latino homophobia. I'm proud Argentina is leading the way.'

"Alongside their event planning services, Gay Planners also offers a range of legal services for foreign clients travelling to Argentina to take advantage of the new laws.

"Since July the country has seen dozens of gay and lesbian couples from all over Latin America apply for marriage licences. Because of Argentina's open-door immigration policy, many choose to start their life as a married couple here."

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