The pouring and unification of sand from separate vases into a single vase is a wedding tradition. Symbolizing the joining of two lives as one, the blend represents everything the couple has been individually and everything they will become collectively.
Many couples arrange for a sand service at their wedding, but Karen and Grace brought new meaning to the classic ceremony. Using sand from Cancun, Mexico, where they had their first vacation together and years later got engaged.
Karen O’Callaghan and Grace Cucchissi have been together for almost eight years. In March 2010 Grace proposed to Karen and on Oct. 22, 2011 they were married.
“Emotionally and legally it gives us the same rights that everybody in New York deserves,” Cucchissi said.
Joe and Jeff agree, sharing insurance has been a saving grace for Joe. Jeff works for the Nassau County Police Department and as a result has comprehensive insurance coverage that he can share with a spouse. Now married, Joe is covered under Jeff’s insurance. Jeff asked not to have his last name included in the story for fear of reprisal from his employer.
A chief concern of both couples, and part of the reason they married, is the visitation and power of attorney in a medical emergency.
Both couples said they knew of a same-sex couple that had been together for 25 years, but had not been able to marry. One of the partners had a medical emergency out of state, and passed away. The other partner wasn’t given rights, an estranged sibling had to claim the body.
“We always said if it was legal in New York we would get married,” Jeff said. “We never in a million years thought we could get married.”
New York gave same-sex couples the right to marry on June 24, 2011 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law. A month later same-sex couples began marrying.
According to NYS Health Dept. data, excluding NYC, more than 34,000 marriage licenses were issued in the past year. The application for a marriage license does not require identification of gender. Almost seven percent were expressly issued to same-sex couples, which means at least 2,380 of those were given to same-sex couples. There is speculation the actual number is significantly higher, and accounting for NYC the number would increase quite a bit.
Census data has yet to accurately determine the number of same-sex couples in America. Experts have made rough calculations based on the relationship to householder and the sex of each person. The number falls between 500,000 and 900,000 unmarried same-sex households, based on the 2010 census. The number of same-sex married couples is an estimated 130,000 couples, also based on calculations from the 2010 census.
Conversely, for the first time in more than a century, the lowest proportions of young people are marrying. Many point to the rocky economy to explain this phenomenon.
The average cost of a U.S. wedding is $26,500 according to Conde Nast Publishing’s Bridal group and weddings are an $84 billion industry nationwide.
Deborah Moody, director of the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants, said that planning is done six months to a year ahead of time, so the effects of legalization have yet to set in.
“The wedding business is futuristic… as time goes by there will be a greater demand, there will be more business,” Moody said. “There will be people who will not agree with same-sex unions. Some consultants will be very open to this change but others will not.”
Karen and Grace’s photographer was more than willing to work with same-sex couples, even asking to showcase the couple on their website.
“Our photographer asked if they could put our pictures up on the website to show they can do these types of weddings and they have done them,” O’Callaghan said.
Golden Gate Bridal of Oswego hasn’t seen any business from same-sex couples yet. Bridal Consultant Sarah Pike said she expects to see business come slowly.
“We’re actually very excited about it,” Pike said. “We would welcome their business and treat them just like any other couple.”
Maida’s Floral Shop Inc. has served same-sex couples five or six times this year, said owner Debbie McKinspry. She said the business is not much different than any other couple, except that same-sex couples often research the meanings of flowers and order arrangements that hold a special meaning to them.
Jeff and Joe ordered distinctive arrangements for their wedding. They requested white roses be included in the bunch for lost family members.
McKinspry, too, anticipates more business from same-sex couples.
“They are going to increase, because those are people that weren’t marrying in the past,” McKinspry said. “Now that people can come together in a special ceremony to celebrate their unions, I’m sure we’ll see more.”
County Legislative Representative for the 20th district, the town of Oswego, Douglas Malone agrees that we will see a change economically, but he sees a drain, not an influx. Retirement, benefits, insurance and more will cost the state Malone said.
“Sure it’s going to cost the state money,” Malone said. “Just another thing that we have to pay for.”
The state will see a small revenue increase connected to fees collected from filing marriage licenses. But if profits are made, it will be mostly in the private sector. Malone said if anyone will be making money it would be the lawyers in cases of divorce and dealing with children.
Malone said the people of New York should have voted on it. But now that same-sex marriage is in effect he doesn’t see a repeal in the future, though he disagrees with the law and the concept of same-sex marriage in general.
“I’m really sore about it. Period. It’s black and white, there’s no grey area to me,” Malone said.
Marian Holmes, director of communications for the Oswego State Pride Alliance, strongly disagrees. The change will bring money from older, financially established same-sex couples with expendable incomes, but it will also draw out straight couples who may have been waiting on equal rights before they decided tie the knot. Holmes said she doesn’t think the gay couples that have been waiting will spare any expense.
“If they’re going to do it, they’ll probably do it how they always wanted to do it,” Holmes said.
Friends of hers have expressed concern of repeal, Holmes said.
“I just think it’s sad they get to vote on my rights,” Holmes said. “No one else gets their marriage put to a vote.”
For the moment there is no official movement to revert the law in New York, meaning a repeal is unlikely in the foreseeable future. The couples are unwavering in their commitments as well.
“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” Joe said.