Thanks to the power of Twitter, I recently came across a wedding planning company in Massachussetts, It's About Time Events, focused almost exclusively on Gay/Lesbian Weddings. Bernadette Smith and her partner, Lisette Garcia, say on their site that they are the only planners devoted to the Gay/Lesbian Wedding market in Massachusetts. They say with no equivocation that they are the experts. I love it. Talk about seeing the potential in a market and staking a claim.
A wedding is, aside from an expression of a couple's love and commitment to each other, a larger cultural, religous and political reflection of the society where it occurs. Legalizing Gay/Lesbian Marriage is a wonderful statement of acceptance, tolerance and progress. I am hugely supportive of the movement and very pleased to see its adoption spreading, despite some notable setbacks.
From a business perspective though, what an amazing opportunity. Legalizing Gay/Lesbian marriage is only the beginning. Defining what a Gay/Lesbian wedding is, and can be, is wide open. How to mix traditional elements of a wedding with something unique to the couple is the goal of all planners. That it is being applied to a whole new market is what makes it so fresh.
I will not comment on It's About Time's business model other than to say that its brand extension beyond just planning is enormous. As they say, they are the experts and everyone from couples, venues, vendors, and the media are in need of their expertise. Monetizing that expertise, to me, is right there for them and demand is only going to grow.
However, whether or not It's About Time can sustain its first leader advantage remains to be seen. What you can be sure of is that, as Gay/Lesbian marriage becomes more accepted and Gay/Lesbian Weddings continue to grow, they will not be alone. You do not need to be gay to plan or create a Gay/Lesbian Wedding. Many will enter the market to serve the demand. Expertise is fleeting if there is not something tangible that the market can accept as unique to the first mover. Instances of first movers losing their lead abound, just look at technology companies: Atari, Commodore Computer, Palm, AOL, Yahoo, My Space, etc.
The beauty of daring to be first is that you are in the position of helping define the market, thereby securing your place in it. As a business owner, that should be what you strive to achieve. Once you own your niche, everything can follow from there.