In tight times, Cape Cod remains the place for weddings

An open-air trolley ride, group photos taken on the beach, a sunset ceremony on a whale-watching cruise ship.

In tight times, Cape Cod remains the place for weddings

An open-air trolley ride, group photos taken on the beach, a sunset ceremony on a whale-watching cruise ship.

Those are just a few of the ways today’s couples are celebrating their marriages on Cape Cod. For years, brides have chosen the Cape for their special day because of its unique setting and romantic appeal. There is something for every taste and budget — from lavish affairs at posh Cape resorts to more simpler ceremonies highlighted by a backyard clambake reception.

In the current economic climate, many couples are looking for ways to cut corners without sacrificing the charm and ambiance the Cape has to offer.

“The Cape is always a great wedding destination spot — it’s a short trip to far away,” said Patti Lloyd, vice president of sales at the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.

Lloyd doesn’t believe the Cape’s wedding industry is being negatively impacted by the economy, though she does agree brides are cutting corners to make a Cape wedding possible. Her office has received an increase in inquiries about beach weddings and alternative venues.

“We are seeing people doing smaller, more intimate family gatherings…but there is a lot of value for the dollar here,” said Lloyd.

Kate Ford is a bride-to-be living and working in Boston, but she knew there was only one place to have her wedding.

“I spent every summer [on the Cape] growing up; it’s my favorite place.” Ford and her fiancé booked the reception venue for their August wedding back in November, along with many of their vendors.

Since the fall, they have seen some wedding-related prices rise and extra charges pop up. “We’re not sure if the charges are related to the economy or not,” Ford said. Despite the higher cost of the Cape — with or without an economic crisis — Ford has always wanted to have her wedding here.

“We prioritized to make the Cape work for us…We knew were going to cutback on other things to afford the Cape.”

Mary-Lou Blanchard, of Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, understands the appeal of the Cape; she moved here full-time after summering on the Cape for many years. “Cape Cod is such a great destination; it calls to you.”

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She also got married here about four years ago, which is the same time that Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises began to offer private charter cruises for weddings and corporate events. “It’s something different and on the water…It really seems to have taken off,” Blanchard said.

An affordable wedding venue on the water is hard to find, according to wedding planner Allison Liset of Elegant Engagements. Liset has worked exclusively on Cape weddings for 10 years and she has “seen all the ebbs and flows of Cape weddings.” More recently, she has noticed brides scaling back on the little extras and replacing favors with charitable donations in guests’ names. “It’s more altruistic and is also saving money,” Liset added.

Despite the economic outlook, Blanchard hasn’t noticed a change in the wedding inquiries that Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises receives, although it is early in the season. “I think this is an affordable way to go,” said Blanchard. “[Brides] aren’t cutting back [with us]; they’re making additions.”

Blanchard adds that in the few years that Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises has been doing private parties and weddings, they have become an important part of the company’s revenue. “I don’t think the wedding market is going to be affected [by the economy]. People want to make their day special.”

Lloyd shares that opinion. “A vacation or a wedding is an important part of someone’s life. They’ll give up something to make a nice wedding happen.”

Lloyd also recognizes the importance of Cape destination weddings to the area’s economy as a whole. “Weddings are a major part of the Cape’s economy—guests are using a lot of other vendors on Cape Cod. There’s a domino effect.”

Numerous wedding planners agree that the Cape’s appeal to brides can withstand economic pressure — even if that means cutting corners or having a smaller wedding. Ford and her fiancé know that some out-of-town guests may not be traveling to the Cape in the summertime with costs as high as they are. But no other place besides the Cape seemed right for Ford.

“Everybody pictures what their wedding will be like. Growing up, I didn’t have all the details for my day, but I always knew it would be on the Cape,” Ford said.

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