As Australia engaged in a glitter-soaked celebration of marriage equality last week, there was a particularly large chorus of delight from the Byron Shire.
For the hundreds of locals making a living from Byron’s wedding industry, the big ‘Yes’ result in the same-sex marriage survey wasn’t just about rights and recognition.
It means weddings. Lots of weddings.
And it appears the anticipated wedding wave has already begun.
Local wedding businesses say they have had calls from a number of same-sex couples wanting to get married in Byron in 2018 following the vote, and they’re expecting that trickle to become a rainbow-coloured torrent once the marriage act has been amended.
Jane Magnus from Byron Bay Luxury Weddings said she and her staff were gearing up for a big 2018.
‘I think it’s going to be really big for the local industry,’ said Ms Magnus, who is also the president of the Byron Wedding and Event Industry Association.
‘We’ve already had a few [same-sex] couples from interstate and overseas expressing interest and we’re definitely expecting an influx once the laws go through.’
Local woman Gopi Lev Dupain, who took part in a love-commitment ceremony with her partner earlier in the year, said she expected same-sex couples from all over the country to get married in Byron once the law was changed.
‘This is the perfect place for a wedding and I think a lot of same-sex couples will be looking to tie the knot here,’ Ms Lev Dupain said.
‘The pink dollar is definitely coming to town.’
The local wedding industry has grown into a major contributor to Byron’s economy in the past decade, generating an estimated $54 million a year.
Byron Shire Council estimates that there are between 600 and 700 weddings here each year across 35 venues.
They generate $21.6 million in wages, which support 392 direct full-time and 314 indirect employees.
But the growth in the industry has not been without its issues.
The proliferation of new wedding venues in rural areas, some of them without approval, has been a source of great frustration for those living nearby, and they have not been afraid to express their displeasure to Byron Council.
Council launched a major crackdown on the venues in response to the complaints, imposing fines, restrictions and a number of closures.
‘The crackdown was huge,’ Ms Magnus says.
‘It’s been very big and very demanding.’
She said the local industry had seen a slight decline as a result of the crackdown, with some potential customers choosing to get married in other areas north of Byron such as Tweed Valley, Kingscliff and Casuarina instead of Byron.
‘It was a setback, so I think the change to the marriage laws, once it actually happens, is a great chance for everyone to get back on track,’ she said.
However, it appears wedding venues will be operating under a new, stricter regime in 2018 with Byron Council set to vote on new rules at this week’s meeting.
Council staff have recommended a series of restrictions on wedding venues as part of its Draft Rural Land Use Strategy, which will guide the use, development and protection of rural land over the next 20 years.
The proposed changes have been driven by the need to better protect neighbours from noise and traffic, and a recent Land and Environment Court ruling which stated that a council cannot approve an application for a wedding or event venue in a rural-zoned area if there is if ‘any adverse impact’ on surrounding residents.
The proposed new rules include requirements that:
• Individual venues have no more than 20 weddings a year and never on consecutive weekends
• Weddings take place at least 500m from the nearest dwelling on an adjoining property
• The majority of guests must arrive and depart via bus
• All amplified music and speeches must take place indoors after 7pm and amplified music must cease at 10pm
• All guests must leave by 10.30pm
• Venues must monitor their noise and provide six-monthly noise reports to Council.
Ms Magnus welcomed the proposed changes.
‘I think it’s going to help because it makes it clear to the venues what they need to do to comply with the rules,’ Ms Magnus said.
The new strategy was due to be considered by Council at its ordinary meeting on November 23.
No matter what the result, Byron is about to host some some very big weddings that have been many many years in the making.