Operations

How To Gain The Gay Marriage Limo Retail Market

Jim Luff
Posted on September 23, 2015

In light of the historic June 26 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage, operators now have a chance to fulfill penned up demand for wedding transportation.

This new market requires interested providers to present themselves as “gay-friendly” in marketing materials, websites, order taking, and service delivery while knowing how to attract clients from the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community.

Long Island, N.Y., operator Matt Silver advertises in community based LGBT publications and became a vendor member to organizations that represent them.
Long Island, N.Y., operator Matt Silver advertises in community based LGBT publications and became a vendor member to organizations that represent them.

“I spoke to some of my longtime gay and lesbian clients giving them each 50 business cards and promising a free hour or two for recommending me to their friends in the LGBT community,” said Matt Silver, owner of Ultimate Class Limousine and Transport in Hicksville, N.Y., who has spoken at LCT trade shows about marketing to the LGBT demographic.

The Demographics
When it comes to money, statistics show same-sex couples generally earn more money than heterosexuals and have more disposable income. The two primary reasons are higher education levels and the lack of children. The Williams Institute, a think-tank associated with UCLA, used census data to derive demographics of same-sex couples. The study shows 3.4% of U.S. citizens identify themselves as members of the LGBT community.

Money Matters 

Randy Allen, owner of James Limousine Service in Richmond, Va., speculates same-sex couples have more disposable income because they most likely have no kids. Silver echoes that sentiment from firsthand knowledge. He began his career in the 1980s driving two openly gay men who commanded clubs to stay open until daybreak with their wealth.

“This market doesn’t have (money issues) and they know how to spend on themselves, believe me,” Silver says.

Allen attended a seminar presented by Kathryn Hamm, publisher of GayWeddings.com, about a month before the historic ruling. Hamm discussed higher disposable income levels perpetuated by college educations, full time jobs and no kids to feed and clothe. In fact, Marketresearch.com pegs the buying power of the LGBT community at $2 trillion.

Virginia operator Randy Allen attended a seminar presented by Kathryn Hamm, publisher of GayWeddings.com, about a month before the historic ruling to learn more about the LGBT weddings market.
Virginia operator Randy Allen attended a seminar presented by Kathryn Hamm, publisher of GayWeddings.com, about a month before the historic ruling to learn more about the LGBT weddings market.

“The traditional wedding market has been shrinking for years and this opens a brand new market,” Allen says. According to a Pew Survey, 40% of single adults view traditional marriage as obsolete. With their wealth and higher incomes, same-sex couples tend to choose more lavish ceremonies and parties, which fits well with the luxury transportation market.

Respect & Dignity
Stephanie and Terri Fisher, a same-sex couple in Bakersfield, Calif., used a stretch limousine for their wedding but were apprehensive about calling various vendors, not knowing how their business would be received. “Same-sex couples want to be put at ease when they show up to transact business and be treated as any other couple,” Stephanie says.

Clients Stephanie and Terri Fisher at first were apprehensive calling limousine services for wedding transportation.
Clients Stephanie and Terri Fisher at first were apprehensive calling limousine services for wedding transportation.

Thomas Xavier, an openly gay married man who owns Whirlwind Productions, an event planning company, says he does not specialize in same-sex event planning, but is considered a go-to-guy for such events. “Contrary to what people believe, there isn’t a big difference in events,” Xavier says. “We’re not throwing rainbows and unicorns all over the place.”

Xavier also became a wedding officiant due to a shortage of them willing to marry same-sex couples. Same-sex wedding ceremonies are mostly the same as those of heterosexual couples with a little rearranging of the wording of the vows.

Xavier says he gets annoyed with people who assume all gays within a community know each other.

“It’s as if people think we have some sort of directory,” Xavier says. Both couples stress they just want to be treated the same as any other loving couple.

Thomas Xavier (L), pictured with husband Matt Moss, runs Whirlwind Productions, a special events planning company.
Thomas Xavier (L), pictured with husband Matt Moss, runs Whirlwind Productions, a special events planning company.
Marketing Matters
There are subtle ways to indicate to prospective same-sex couples you are an LGBT-friendly service provider. The simplest is to incorporate a rainbow image into your marketing materials and website. Allen recommends placing a subtle rainbow photo or a close-up photo of two male hands clasped. Or, you could do what Silver did and advertise in community based LGBT publications and become a vendor member to organizations that represent them. Once Silver began placing ads, “business increased dramatically in this sector,” he says. He also suggests pairing up with party promoters and rental halls that cater to the gay community as a source of referrals.

Couples Incomes
Same-Sex / Heterosexual
Annual Median: $94,000 / $86,000
Attended College: 46% / 33%
Children at home: 20% / 44%
Employed: 82% / 69%
Source: Gary Gates, Author of America’s Same Sex Demographics, 2013 Report

Marketing Connections
There are many new venues to connect with LGBT clients, including bridal shows. Bridal associations across America are recognizing the immense buying power of the LGBT community and setting up shows focusing on same-sex marriages. Don’t be afraid to buy a booth.

“Gay bridal shows are another excellent way to break into the community,” Silver says. He offers a special drop-off rate that does well and ties in special rates for guests and family as well. There are also numerous websites guiding couples to gay-friendly service providers. Many offer complimentary listings as they attempt to build their networks of providers.

Service Delivery
When it comes time to deliver service, make sure you pick the right chauffeur for the job. Just as you wouldn’t put a rookie on a Fortune 500 corporate account trip, you certainly wouldn’t want to put a chauffeur on a same-sex wedding if you know he has strong opinions against them.

Many companies encourage chauffeurs to take photos of their passengers with permission for later use in marketing and social media photo albums. Make sure that any photos taken for this purpose are done with respect and never as a form or mockery. Certainly, such photos should never end up on a chauffeur’s personal social media page for the same reason we don’t allow them to post photos of celebrity passengers just to say they drove them.

Speak The Client Language
To make couples feel more comfortable, stop referring to wedding couples as the bride and groom. Just call them the wedding couple. Do not make any part of the booking or consultation process awkward for the couple. Don’t ask personal questions about their lifestyle even out of pure curiosity. Speak to the couple as you would any couple planning transportation services.

Avoidable

  • Homosexual
  • Homosexual relationship
  • Sexual preference
  • Admitted homosexual

Acceptable

  • Gay or Lesbian
  • Gay couple
  • Sexual orientation
  • Openly gay or Out

Sources: GLAAD Media Guide, AP Style Guide

Related Topics: building your clientele, California operators, client markets, How To, marketing/sales, retail markets, Sales & Marketing, weddings, working with wedding planner

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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