2 min

Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!

The marriage-minded go for small, intimate ceremonies

FOR LOVE. Paul Ferreira and Tim Gernstein will get hitched in Vermont. Credit: Dean Tomlinson

Homos who want to get hitched are also cheapskates.

The state of Vermont registers same-sex domestic partnerships, but wedding planners, hotel staff and caterers say that has yet to have much of an impact on their bottom line.

“I have had a small increase in my business due to civil unions,” says Riki Bowen, a wedding planner known as the Wedding Wizard. “My experience to date is that they came as a couple, and not planning a huge extravagant affair…. As far as service is concerned, they do not require very much.”

Based on the numbers, Bowen’s business is up by 3.5 percent, but financially, the increase is less than .020 percent.

Bowen says a full service wedding takes up to 150 hours, whereas a civil union for a couple takes – at the most – four hours to coordinate, unless they want something very specific that she has to research.

Inn On The Common, about an hour and a half from Burlington, Vermont, has a message on its website welcoming gay couples, but Penny Schmidt says she has yet to see any action.

“So far we have not had civil union ceremonies here at the inn, although we have had inquiries from as far away as Italy,” says Schmidt, who suggests bigger cities or ski areas like Burlington may be more popular locations for the ceremonies.

Sarah Moran, of Burlington’s Cloud 9 Caterers, says the company has catered about eight civil unions since the domestic registry law came into effect on Jul 1, 2000, with a few booked for this year.

“That does not represent a very large percentage of our business,” says Moran. “But we’re hoping that will increase with the upcoming season.”

One Toronto couple who plans on making it legal are typical of those heading to Vermont. They’re keeping the ceremony small, and having a larger reception back home.

Tim Gernstein, 25 and Paul Ferreira, 28, have been together since 1998. They’re planning on heading to Vermont sometime this summer.

“We’ll probably go to a small town with a bed and breakfast that appeals to us,” says Ferreira.

They’ll take the scenic route and Gernstein says that the money devoted to this would have been spent on an out-of-town vacation anyway.

“We wouldn’t be going to Vermont otherwise,” says Gernstein.

According to the Vermont Secretary Of State: “Parties to a civil union shall have all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under Vermont law, whether they derive from statute, policy, administrative or court rule, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage.”

For those who are thinking of getting hitched, there are six criteria, including being of the same sex and being over 18.

The happy couple must go to the town clerk’s office in any Vermont town and get a licence, which costs about $20. You have 60 days in which to use it. (You’ll need ID that verifies your age and address – a driver’s licence will usually do, and you may need divorce certificates from previous marriages.)

Any judge, clergy or justice of the peace can perform the ceremony. The good thing is that there are no rules as to what the ceremony has to include, so you can make up your own vows.

Such a civil union is not recognized in Canada (except possibkly in Nova Scotia, because of its different laws – but it might take a court case to disocver whether that’s the case) – meaning you can’t get a “divorce” here. And Vermont “divorce” provisions require state residency.

Check out Vermont’s website for details.