By Lisa Shrewsberry
Sunny spring weather greeted a record crowd of attendees Saturday at the 14th annual Bridal Prom and Special Occasions Show at Tamarack. The clouds of indecision also cleared as more than 50 vendors, the most in the show’s history, displayed and explained their merchandise to hundreds of brides and grooms-to-be and their families. The overarching marital trend, according to most experts and engaged couples, is keeping it simple and elegant in a scaled-back economy.
Rebecca King and her fiancé Cameron Mallory, both from Princeton, whose wedding date is scheduled for summer 2014, are planning ahead for a reception to savor and to save on. “We got one quote from a venue requiring its own caterer,” King explained. “The quote was $30 per person for very modest food. That’s why we’re here, to look for other venues.”
The new era of savings-mindedness won’t stop at the reception, explained Belk Bridal Consultant Alice Lewis. Gone are the days of heirloom china accumulated at a shower to collect dust in a cabinet. “Everyone is going more toward usable things. Couples registering are geared toward the bare necessities in accessories and are focusing more on the honeymoon and wedding.”
AAA Travel’s Wendy Bihler has noticed brides and grooms going for cruises as economical and exotic honeymoon options, in spite of the swell of media coverage over stranded and otherwise doomed voyages. “For people who have cruised before, they realize what happened is an anomaly. It’s still a very popular and economical way to travel.”
Even with the economy, people are going to travel, she added. “They may make accommodations, going for a long weekend instead of an entire week, but they will go no matter what.”
Destination weddings in West Virginia are boosts to the area economy with wedding venues like Adventures on the Gorge attracting nonnative couples and locals alike. The adventure travel company has more than 30 weddings scheduled already this year. Jessica Campbell, event coordinator, said she’s looking forward to bride and groom response to their continuing upgrades, including a new pool fit for poolside ceremonies and receptions with 13,000 square feet of scenic patio and decking. Couples as far away as New Zealand and Japan have booked Adventures as their wedding destination. “We’ve even had zip line marriages and Jump Rock weddings for smaller ceremonies — where couples literally take the plunge,” said Campbell.
Fashion show sponsor Harvey’s Fashions and Bridal provided the glamour for the day by ushering 70 different wedding styles across the stage. They, too, boasted savings by offering free tuxedo rentals for grooms. Jim’s Formalwear Sales Manager Chris Taylor, who participated with Harvey’s, works closely with their consultants to ensure each groom is a well-fitted and fitting complement to his bride. “My advice is to avoid big box stores who sideline in tuxedos,” he stated, emphasizing how crucial it is to get it right the first time, since there are no wedding redos. Formalwear outfitters like Harvey’s are more likely to get a customized fit and to work with merchandisers to make customers happy, he stated.
Chef Roy Lynch, who caters onsite and off at Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, agrees brides are looking for more options to save on weddings. He offered samples of casual desserts like ones he caters offsite throughout the year, in cases where couples have found what they consider a well-priced venue that may not offer its own menu. “Picnic-style menus are still very popular and affordable,” he remarked.
Bessie’s Floral consultants were on hand to discuss with brides options for getting the most bloom for their buck, by focusing on highly photographed areas for concentrated florals and by transporting arrangements from the wedding service to double as decorations for the reception area.
Aside from savings advice, the biggest wedding windfall of the day was the John Eye Big Sandy Superstore grand prize of a bedroom suite valued at $1,000, won by Kasarah Treadway of Mount Hope. According to The Register-Herald’s Advertising Director Tammy Harris, more prizes were given out throughout the event than at any other past bridal and special occasions show she’d been involved with.
“Every year the vendors outdo themselves. You think they’re not going to be able to top last year, but they always get bigger and better,” she stated.
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