Frank F. Chiera Jr. 42, and his fiancé can get married anytime they want in Salem, N.H., where they make their home. But instead, they are tying the knot in the Greater Newport area on Labor Day weekend in 2014.
A nautical theme is part of the attraction, as are the grounds at Glen Manor House in Portsmouth, said Chiera, whose partner, Christopher S. Beckwith, 26, enjoys yachting. They considered Maine and Cape Cod, but wanted to have the ceremony and reception all in one place, Chiera said.
“We wanted to have it all together so it is more like a traditional wedding,” he said. “We didn’t want to do vows in one state and the reception in another. We wanted to be like any other heterosexual couple.”
Scenic and vibrant, Newport and eight surrounding towns long have been a destination for weddings. But now that same-sex marriages have been legalized, effective Aug. 1, in Rhode Island, tourist destinations and hotels in surrounding Newport and Bristol counties are hoping to benefit.
“There’s a difference [compared with] being known as a predominantly gay destination like Provincetown,” said Katie Wilkinson, event manager at Glen Manor. “We want to have an environment where everyone is comfortable celebrating travel and the unity of marriage. That is about balance. We don’t want to be known only as a gay-travel destination but as a place that celebrates all.”
Cheapflights.com, a discount-airfare website, touted Newport proper in June as one of the top 10 wedding destinations for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples, based on annual research blog author and site editor Melisse Hinkle conducts to coincide with gay-pride celebrations, typically held in June.
Discover Newport, which projects 10 percent growth in the wedding industry in Newport and Bristol counties as a result of the addition of same-sex weddings, welcomed the news, says Evan Smith, president and CEO of the agency. The region typically sees about 1,500 weddings and receptions a year, he said. Last year, Newport alone saw 826 marriage licenses granted, said City Clerk Kathleen M. Silvia.
“The significance of that accolade is that it gives us a great start to launching our marketing campaign for same-sex marriages,” said Smith. “We weren’t out in the market before looking for same-sex marriages. … What’s appealing for the opposite-sex is appealing for same-sex marriage.”