SEATTLE -- For Noelle Jones and Lisa Augustyn, love of music is what led to love for each other. They met years ago at Augustyn’s music venue in Phoenix.
But they had to fly to Washington to make that love legal.
In an intimate, private ceremony beneath the sound sculpture at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Jones and Augustyn tied the knot last month. Unable to marry in Arizona, they took a 3-hour flight to Washington, the closest state where they can wed.
“It’s hard when two people love each other so much and you have to go across the country to get married,” Jones said. “It seems crazy.”
After Washington voters approved same-sex marriage in 2012, wedding planners and officiants are already seeing couples travel from other states – many in the Western United States – so they can get married.
“It’s obviously going to explode,” said Pat Stimac, owner of A Heavenly Ceremony, who officiated the EMP wedding.
With the exception of Iowa, all other states that allow gay marriage are in the Northeastern U.S. That makes Washington an appealing destination for many gay and lesbian couples – especially in Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Montana and Idaho.
Actor Jim Nabors, who played Gomer Pyle, traveled to Washington from Hawaii in January to marry his partner of 38 years.
Wedding planner Jenny Harding, who owns New Chapter Weddings, has seen business pick up since November. Some of her couples are coming from other states, including one from Oregon.
“They’re not skimping on anything,” she said. “They’re planning a really fabulous event and 100 percent of their guests are coming from out of state.”
A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that same-sex weddings couple pump $39 million into Washington’s economy this year, and that just includes couples that live in the state. The study did not estimate how many couples would travel to Washington from other states.
King County does not keep track of whether couples who apply for licenses come from other states. But overall, the number of marriage license applications in January was up 58 percent, thanks largely to same-sex marriages, the county said.
Jones and Augustyn returned to Arizona knowing their marriage would not be recognized in their home state or by the federal government. Still, a legal wedding was important to them and well worth the trip, they said.
“We feel so normal,” Jones said moments after the wedding. “That’s something I think that’s really missing. You go to Arizona, you say you’re going to get married and people kind of look at you sideways.”