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Northern Arizona Becoming the Hot Spot for Tying the Knot

Much like relationships, the wedding industry can be fickle, strongly influenced by economic ups and downs. In recent years, the wedding industry, like many others, has been hit hard by the recession. Factors such as high unemployment rates, coupled with increased debt for many, has resulted in smaller wedding budgets or postponed nuptials all together.

Analysts predict that while this billion-dollar industry may not experience the huge rebound wedding specialists are hoping for, a small increase is expected over last year’s numbers.

One prime example of this expected uptick for ceremonies is Sedona. Statistics from The Wedding Report, Inc. reveal the number of weddings in Sedona in 2011 was 270 and the estimated number of weddings for this year is 277. While the increase may seem insignificant, weddings translate into an estimated market value or estimated income for Sedona of over six million dollars annually.

And one look at the line up of vendors on the Sedona Wedding Professionals Association website will tell you that many are looking to make their mark on the red rock country wedding business.

Owner of Sedona Cake Couture and winner of TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off 2010 Andrea Carusetta has been in the pastry business for more than 17 years. Carusetta moved her successful bakery from the Gulf Coast to Sedona in 2003. When asked just how big a role weddings play in revenue generation for her business, the answer was revealing.

“We [Sedona Cakes Couture] do mostly weddings; we participate in an average of 200 weddings a year,” said Carusetta.

Senior planner, Susan Perry, of Weddings in Sedona, Inc., says it is no surprise Sedona has become a destination wedding hot spot especially with the number of accolades the city has received recently.

“USA Weekend voted Sedona ‘The most beautiful place in America,’” said Perry. “No wonder it’s one of the most popular wedding destinations in the U.S.!

“Sedona is situated in a unique setting, surrounded by majestic granite and red rock cliffs, home to sacred Indian ruins and pristine forests. And in the midst of this sits the beautiful resort town…Sedona can accommodate any taste and budget.”

While Sedona is quickly becoming a sought-after wedding locale, it is important to note that other cities in Northern Arizona such as Flagstaff and Camp Verde are also key contributors in the bountiful business of love.

The Flagstaff Radisson Woodlands Hotel recently played host to the Northern Arizona Wedding Expo, where over 50 vendors were in attendance to showcase their specialties.

Deb Allenbaugh, venue coordinator at Jackpot Ranch, a private 72-acre ranch situated at the edge of the town of Camp Verde, says events like the Wedding Expo and Sedona Bridal Boot Camp provide couples a unique opportunity to plan their entire wedding all in one spot.

“It opens up new ideas and possibilities for their special day. It also creates new contacts with vendors, venues, and the like, that they may not have connected with,” said Allenbaugh.

Trade shows can be beneficial to businesses in more than one way. They provide a venue for established wedding professionals to display their services and attract new clientele, as well as offer a marketing tool for businesses whose primary focus may not be weddings but are looking to expand their offerings while generating additional income for their company. This was the case for Jackpot Ranch, which made its bridal debut in 2011.

“We just recently opened the ranch as a destination wedding venue,” said Allenbaugh. “The ranch has been predominately used as a camp for underprivileged children and kids with illnesses and their siblings. Since opening as a wedding venue last year, weddings and wedding bookings have really jumped off. The income generated from weddings helps offset the expense of having the camp for kids.”

The Flagstaff Nordic Center underwent renovations of its own, with the hopes of increasing the number of nuptials performed there each year.

“Weddings play a very important role. Until recently, they were our main source of non-winter revenue. Living in the Southwest, we have very unreliable snowfall so finding a good source of revenue that was not dependent on snow was an important part of our business growth,” said Tim Allen of Flagstaff Nordic Center.

One certainty is the wedding industry brings more work for numerous businesses throughout Northern Arizona.

“For every wedding that comes to Sedona or Northern Arizona, there are hotels that are booked, wedding venues whose staff is employed, tours taken by guests, stores are busy with shoppers, restaurants become busy and so on,” said Katrina Wallace, co-owner of the Sedona Wedding Studio and Sedona Bride Photographers. “Weddings bring a lot of business to everyone in the community and we hope someday to have more support from the Chamber of Commerce and the cities of Sedona and Flagstaff and other Northern Arizona towns to promote how wonderful Northern Arizona weddings can be.”

Soon, Wallace may have her wish granted. A new marketing era is being ushered in for Sedona and its wedding scene under the direction of Jennifer Wesselhoff, president and CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. A “request for wedding services” is offered on www.visitsedona.com where those looking to get hitched simply submit a request and receive back competitive bids from various local vendors. This tool can be useful not only to local businesses looking to draw customers but for any couple who thinks a Northern Arizona wedding may be too expensive.

“Work with all vendors associated with your ceremony to negotiate the best price,” said Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance. “By networking…you should be able to find discount rates on many aspects associated with the wedding.”

Another attempt to attract soon-to-be wed couples uses updates on social media sites such as Facebook as ways to connect.

“The moment when they change their profile status from single or dating to engaged is when we will start marketing to them so we can put Sedona on their radar early in their planning stage,” said Wesselhoff. “Six months out of the year, we [Sedona] are really busy and the other six months we are pretty slow…so our ultimate goal is to generate tourism revenue for our community year-round.” FBN

 

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