Business Leaders Welcome Same-Sex Marriage In Fort Lauderdale

Feb 5, 2015

About 100 LGBT couples from around the world married at the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale Thursday morning. It was a group wedding in honor of Florida’s ruling allowing same-sex marriage in January. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau partnered with a few companies to host the event. 

Bride Vicky Garcia calls Fort Lauderdale the "gay capital" of Florida.
Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN

Vicky Garcia and her wife Carol Alexander renewed their vows. The South Floridians married in New York over a year ago. Garcia is also the chief operating officer for Cruise Planners American Express Travel -- one of the sponsors of the wedding event.

"We wanted to really support it," she said. "Not just... emotionally, but to be here in dollars and investment and everything else, too."

She says Fort Lauderdale "has always kind of been the gay capital" of Florida.

"Gay people love coming here," says Garcia. "For the economy, this is huge. When you look at the economic impact [of] now having LGBT weddings here."

She says gay marriage will bring a wave of new customers to South Florida florists, cake designers, photographers and even divorce lawyers.

Her company started investing into the LGBT community about two years ago, she said. 

"We actually have an LGBT advisory board so that we know we're marketing the right way and talking in the right language," she says.

Garcia’s company, Cruise Planners, is not the only one jumping on board this new market. Other companies like Celebrity Cruises and JetBlue Airways were present at Fort Lauderdale's group wedding. 

"We feel that this is an opportunity to bring more travelers from out of Florida into the market, and separate Fort Lauderdale as a wedding destination," said Albert Ruiz of JetBlue. 

Ruiz says it’s too soon to see a growth in the market, but he’s confident that the LGBT community will expand the company's business.

Below are some of the couples present at the group wedding.

From left to right: Michael Turchin and husband Lance Bass, Vicky Garcia and wife Carol Alexander. Special guest Lance Bass was nominated the Love Is Love ambassador.
Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN

Deborah Blankenship and Joyce Countiss from Sebastian, Fla., renewed their vows in Fort Lauderdale. They married in Delaware about two years ago.
Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN
Tim Finnen and Eric Bennett visit South Florida once a year from Maryland. They got engaged in Key West, and married in Fort Lauderdale.
Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN
Aly Feliu and Karah Feliu from Plantation tied the knot.
Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN