Karen Grigsby Bates/NPR
At Cake and Art in West Hollywood, two grooms top an elaborate buttercream cake festooned in the colors of the Gay Pride flag.
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Courtesy of Renellie
Renellie sells cake-topper figurines to match a vast array of couples.
Renellie sells cake-topper figurines to match a vast array of couples. Courtesy of Renellie
Virtually as soon as California's Supreme Court announced it would legally recognize same-sex marriages starting June 17, wedding businesses started getting calls from thousands of gays and lesbians planning their nuptials. A vast array of businesses has begun wooing the couples — Macy's, for example, recently took out a huge ad in several newspapers celebrating the ruling and promoting its wedding registry.
Rena Puebla and her business partner, Ellie Genuardi, were ahead of the curve. A few years ago, the pair formed Renellie, a company that offers the traditional figurines that top wedding cakes to a not-so traditional clientele. Renellie's smiling hand-painted couples, like those they represent, are interracial or same sex. Or both.
The company was born out of frustration. Puebla, a slim, bubbly woman with milk chocolate skin and an effervescent nature, spent several weeks searching for a cake topper that looked like her and her Japanese-American fiance. She finally gave up and settled for a pair of white sugar doves. But she knew California has more interracial marriages than any other state and that other couples would be looking for what she hadn't been able to find.
Most of Renellie's orders are for caketoppers for biracial and — now — same-sex unions. Based in the Southern California town of Costa Mesa, the company has drawn customers from around the world.
"We've sent to Spain, Italy, France, Scotland. We just sent a bunch of boxes off to Scandinavia," Genuardi says.
She and Puebla are hoping that the state Supreme Court's decision will boost their business locally.
In West Hollywood, often viewed as the epicenter of Los Angeles' gay community, the boutique bakery Cake and Art has long catered to same-sex couples. Even so, business has picked up since the ruling.
"As soon as people heard about the court's ruling, they started calling to get information on wedding cakes," says Cody Christensen, a bakery employee.
Cake and Art has also gotten business from couples who encountered problems with companies closer to home. Christensen cites a lesbian couple who drove more than an hour to order a cake from the bakery.
"They went to bakeries in their area, and they were actually turned away. So they drove two hours to here, from San Bernardino, and we were happy to help them."
But the sheer numbers of people looking to marry may soon prompt reluctant business owners to change their minds. A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA's law school says same-sex couples could swell the California wedding industry's bottom line by $684 million and, over the next three years, add $64 million to the state's budget.