The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe will recognize the passage of Referendum-74, which allows same sex marriage in Washington State, with a same-sex marriage event Sunday. The new law goes into effect at midnight Thursday.
The tribe, which supported Ref-74 and owns the world-renowned Heronswood botanical gardens near Kingston, on Sunday will offer same sex couples the chance for a “private, intimate ceremony” on the grounds.
The offer is being extended to up to 20 couples, according to Heronswood spokeswoman Ginger Vaughan. Each ceremony can include up to 12 guests, and a wedding officiant will be on site. Weddings on Dec. 9 will be limited to 30 minutes, but the grounds will be open to wedding parties for pictures and self-guided tours.
The gardens will open noon to 5 p.m. Sunday for the event. Heronswood is providing the rental free of charge, but donations will be accepted. Pre-registration is required.
The tribe is renovating the gardens with plans to re-open them to the public through special events — including weddings — and open houses several times a year.
“While Heronswood won’t officially begin scheduling weddings until early next year, the opportunity to host same-sex couples as they celebrate their special day was too important to pass up,” Vaughan said.
“Heronswood is a magical place that has touched the hearts and lives of many people,” said Noel Higa, Economic Development Director for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. “We can think of no better way to show our support and express our congratulations to the gay community than to welcome same-sex couples as among the first to get married there.”
While Sunday’s event at Heronswood is free, publicity from the event could position the economic development arm of the tribe to benefit from passage of R-74.
The Williams Institute, a UCLA-affliated think tank, used U.S. Census data to estimate that, within the first three years of same-sex marriage becoming legal, Washington will see 9,501 gay marriages. That’s about half of eligible couples.
The institute estimates that Maine, Maryland and Washington, which all legalized gay marriage in November, will see a total of $166.6 million over the next three years in wedding-related spending, with Washington’s portion being $88.5 million.
Space for the Heronswood event is limited to the first 20 same-sex couples who register. For reservations, contact JoAnn at 360-297-6305 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Thursday, the Kitsap Sun will be covering the first day of legal same-sex marriage in Washington as it unfolds in Kitsap County. Any couple planning to marry as a result of Ref-74 and willing to be interviewed for the article should email email@example.com or call (360) 792-9219.