The Block Island Times

Island weddings booming

By Lily O'Gara | Jul 11, 2014

According to, approximately 7,000 couples get married each day in the United States; that’s over 2.5 million per year. With numbers like these, it’s no wonder businesses are eager to get involved.

The Block Island community is no exception, especially as beach and destination weddings climb in popularity.

Enter the Block Island Wedding Show, which will be held on Sunday, July 13 from 12 to 3 p.m. at the Sullivan House. The show, which is in its fifth year, will feature over 45 vendors and sponsors. In addition, over 80 brides and their fiancées and family members will be in attendance.

The brides register for this particular show, meaning that they are invested in planning a Block Island wedding. As the median price tag for a U.S. wedding is over $20,000, this is good news for the island, which has seen an increase in the number of weddings in recent years. In 2013, for example, 127 marriage licenses were filed in New Shoreham. This number doesn’t include those couples who got married on the island and chose to register for licenses elsewhere.

The vendors present at the Wedding Show will assist brides with every aspect of planning, from venue and catering selection to hair, makeup and flower designs.

Jill Seppa, owner of Koru Eco Spa on Water Street, is looking forward to attending the show and plans to have a booth with free lip color consultations. Though representatives from the spa have attended in the past, this will be Seppa’s first appearance since buying the business last fall.

“I think the wedding show is a fantastic idea,” Seppa said. “Any opportunity I get to meet with brides and tell them what Koru is all about is a great opportunity.” She added, too, that she believes it’s important to be in attendance to show support for the business community as a whole.

Koru Eco Spa books 20-30 weddings in any given year. The main season, Seppa said, is from May to October, though June and September seem to be the busiest. She added, too, that the spa is busy with weddings “behind the scenes” during the rest of the year, planning trials and consultations.

The spa offers a wide variety of services so, while the business is not “wedding reliant,” Seppa said, they are an important aspect.

“I think it’s a valuable part of our business, for sure,” she said.

Plus, Seppa, who used to coordinate weddings at Hotel Manisses, said that she and her staff really enjoy assisting brides and holding bachelorette parties at the spa. Through the Manisses and waitressing before that, Seppa has been involved with weddings for about 15 years.

“Weddings are a huge passion of mine,” Seppa said.

Rita Draper, owner of the Hotel Manisses/1661 Inn, said that weddings were an important component of her business as well. Though she said that the Manisses/1661 hosts about six weddings a year, fewer than some of the larger hotels on the island, they also host numerous rehearsal dinners and breakfasts. In addition, the two restaurants they manage, The Oar and Smuggler’s Cove, cater and hold private events. And, of course, both the Manisses and the 1661 Inn house wedding parties and guests. In fact, the Inn is currently constructing a deluxe honeymoon suite adjacent to the main building. The suite will feature lux furnishings, as well as a private deck with ocean views and a fire pit. Draper expects that the suite will be complete in early October.

Draper said she thought a wedding on Block Island was appealing for several reasons, namely for the scenery and the fact that it’s neutral ground for both families. Plus, she said, guests don’t generally mind paying to come to a beautiful island for a weekend.

The Block Island Chamber of Commerce also takes an active role in the island wedding industry. Executive Director Kathy Szabo, who has been with the Chamber for 25 years, said weddings on the island are great because there is a “trickle down effect.”

When weddings are booked on Block Island, the bride and groom typically utilize on-island catering, hair and makeup, flowers and entertainment, as this is less expensive than paying to transport these services. In addition, guests do all of their dining, shopping, and sleeping on the island.

“We all benefit,” Szabo said. “Whoever does that wedding, we all see something from it. It’s a win-win…it would be nice to see the wedding industry grow.”

The Chamber assists couples with the details. If a couple contacts them looking for a place to hold the wedding, for example, Szabo guides them in the right direction based on the party size and other criteria. Much of the time, Szabo said, the bride seeks advice as to how to advise guests about a destination wedding.

Szabo said that, in addition to generating money in the summer, weddings are helpful in garnering business in the “softer” shoulder seasons as well. It’s difficult to compete with wedding powerhouses like Newport, though, Szabo said.

“It’s a challenge, but I think people are looking for that destination wedding,” Szabo said.

Lisa Rose, events coordinator at the Rose Farm Inn, echoed this sentiment. She said that the Inn typically hosts about six weddings a year, and that she’s seen several returning faces over time.

“Many of these people [wedding guests] have never been here before and, as we all know, most people are in love with this island after their first visit and return yearly,” Rose said. “We have several weddings booked for 2015 where the bride and groom came to know the island by attending someone else’s wedding.”

All in all, the wedding business on Block Island is certainly something to toast.

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