Thursday, June 11, 2009

For Same-Sex Couples, Greenwich, Conn., Is a Site for Destination Weddings -

For Same-Sex Couples, Greenwich, Conn., Is a Site for Destination Weddings -


GREENWICH, Conn. — They wanted a New York wedding. “Our lives are here; our friends are here,” said Janis Castaldi, 56, who lives in Westchester County with Lizz Endrich, the woman she married on May 21.

But New York has not approved same-sex marriage. “It got to the point where it doesn’t look 100 percent good right now. When you have Greenwich, Conn., 20 minutes away, I said, ‘Why are we waiting?’ ”

And so another couple from outside Connecticut made what is becoming a familiar pilgrimage to this border town of wealth and privilege, the first municipality over the state line by Interstate 95 or Metro-North.

From Nov. 12, 2008, the day same-sex marriages became legal in Connecticut, through the end of May, 139 same-sex couples applied for a marriage license and wed in Greenwich. All but three of them were been from out of state, most from New York City, according to Barbara Lowden, the town’s assistant registrar of vital statistics.

The town has the most same-sex marriages in Connecticut; statewide figures through February, the most recent available, showed Greenwich as the wedding spot for one in every five gay couples, though it has only 2 percent of the population.

Best known for its old- and new-money families stretching from the Long Island Sound to its fabled back country, Greenwich has been vexed in the past by its proximity to the border. In 2001, the crowds of people buying tickets for the Powerball lottery game, not available in New York, grew so big that town officials suspended sales for a day.

These days, by contrast, local businesses would like Greenwich’s new wave of toe-dippers to stick around a little longer than they have been. Most couples have a brief ceremony in a Town Hall meeting room or outside on the grounds, then leave immediately for receptions back in New York or honeymoons elsewhere.

Thomas C. Delaney, the general manager of the Hyatt Regency Greenwich, said the hotel had advertised on some gay and lesbian Web sites in hopes of attracting more business. The Hyatt averages 70 weddings a year, he said, but this summer only two same-sex weddings are scheduled so far. “We’d like to have a lot more,” he said.

June, the traditional month for wedding bliss, is coincidentally the month that New York’s Legislature is weighing whether to allow weddings between two people of the same sex. But while same-sex marriage is still not permitted in New York, Gov. David A. Paterson decreed last year that state agencies would honor such marriages legally performed elsewhere.

Couples say they go to Greenwich not only for the convenience, but also for the cachet. “Greenwich is beautiful and the Town Hall — it’s almost majestic,” said Mrs. Castaldi, a village trustee in Ossining, N.Y.

But Mrs. Castaldi and Mrs. Endrich did not stay in town after they were married. They left Monday for a honeymoon in St. Thomas and will celebrate in July with about 50 friends and relatives at a restaurant in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., near their home.

Many have come farther. Kari J. Hovland and Marjorie A. Bennett of Oakland, Calif., checked into the Homestead Inn last week and met a justice of the peace last Tuesday outside the brick and marble Town Hall.

Because the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, an amendment to the State Constitution that banned same-sex marriage, their home state does not recognize their marriage. But they are hoping the courts or the voters will one day change their minds.

“This feels sort of like Las Vegas,” Ms. Bennett said as she fished $75 out of her pocket for the justice.

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