An Expo Expose: Here Come the Brides
By Cathy Baldwin
Why the Outer Banks Wedding Industry is Bigger than You Think
In the darkest, coldest month of the year on the Outer Banks, one industry bustles with life, growth and L-O-V-E—the wedding business.
Each January the Outer Banks Wedding Association (OBWA) puts on its annual Wedding Expo, and each year it keeps getting bigger and more grandiose.
The 2014 version is the 16th Expo for OBWA and the growth has been considerable. The original show featured only about 25 vendors. This year brides can expect to meet about 180 wedding vendors over the course of Martin Luther King weekend—that’s up about twenty vendors from the year before.
“The show and the Wedding Association were created to bring together all of the resources of the Outer Banks wedding vendors to one easy location for brides to have access to,” says Kim Stetson, Executive Director of OBWA and owner of Holiday House.
OBWA has upped the prize ante this year, too; in years past only one lucky couple could win the Dream Wedding. This year, in addition to the Dream Wedding, OBWA is giving away a Dream Engagement Weekend and a Dream Honeymoon.
Additionally, this year OBWA has a new “Wristband Benefits” program. Brides can wear rubber wristbands to participating restaurants and vendors, and in return they get special giveaways. “Maybe a glass of champagne or a two-for-one dinner,” says Stetson.
In this age of technology when brides can easily Google Outer Banks wedding vendors, the Expo still serves an important purpose. “They get one-on-one contact with our vendors,” says Stetson. “Planning a wedding from afar is difficult. With the Expo they get to meet face to face and form a personal connection with the vendors.”
What’s more, the brides who come for the Expo get to tour the entire Outer Banks and choose where they want to have their weddings. Says Stetson, “They don’t always realize the length and size of the Outer Banks until they get down here.”
Here comes the bride, and her wedding party, and her guests…
More vendors and more giveaways equal more brides. And more brides equal more money spent on the Outer Banks.
Stetson says the impact that the Wedding Expo has on the local economy is huge. “Girls don’t just come by themselves. And they come for the Show, then to book vendors. They come back to the Outer Banks three or four times and they’re staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants and shopping at local stores!”
In fact, the Wedding Expo brings in so much business to the Outer Banks that it’s partially funded by the Outer Banks Tourism Bureau.
Beyond the Expo and the trips back to the beach for planning, the weddings themselves are a huge boon for the entire local economy. “The typical wedding is a 75 person function with the whole wedding party staying here,” says Stetson.
2014 is already off to a fantastic start, according to Stetson. Many of the vendors she’s talked to have started booking well into the year and are on track to surpass 2013. Her own business, Holiday House, is following that trend. “Our numbers are up big time,” says Stetson. “We’re already going into the Expo with June booked and some of May, and we already have some September and October bookings.”
This year’s Wedding Expo is January 18-19. There are two Wedding Tours available on Saturday—one during the day and one in the evening—and both are included in the ticket price. Tickets for the Wedding Expo are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at www.outerbanksweddingassoc.org.