Guest View: South Shore should do more to attract wedding business |

Guest View: South Shore should do more to attract wedding business

Philip Blowney

It is quite the challenge to be asked to speak out on an issue you believe in – not because you don’t know what to say, but because you have so much you want to say to make a difference that your mind is rushing with information and passion.

Our business here on the South Shore, Sessions Salon, has been offering bridal services since 1986. We do all we can to market ourselves with a great Web site, media advertising, involvement in the South Lake Tahoe Wedding and Honeymoon Association and relationships with other wedding professionals.

Gone are the days of Guinness World Record wedding ceremonies like at the former Love’s Chapel. Now, the best events are found at locations like the Lakefront Wedding Chapel, Edgewood Golf Course, Valhalla, the Thunderbird Lodge and scores of other sites that are both picturesque and professionally tended by companies like Sierra Weddings and Simple Tahoe Weddings that cover every detail.

I just learned that Las Vegas performs almost 115,000 wedding ceremonies and, of course, honeymoons per year. The average number of weddings per day in the United States is 6,200. The average wedding budget is $23,000, which makes the industry worth more than $72 billion per year.

What does that have to do with us? I believe our South Shore is gasping for some way to bring valuable business here to save our economy. Look around and agree we are in a tough spot with high numbers of vacant businesses, a difficult housing market and the progress downtown at a halt. Guess what, City Council, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, chambers of commerce and casinos alike: people are still getting married. In fact, now in California it is legal to become married as a same-sex couple.

While all the best intentions and hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent to offer Lake Tahoe to the masses, there is relatively little spent on the wedding industry. The average guest list is 178. These people come from all over the country, as was the case when I enjoyed my son’s wedding last September. Family members came from North Carolina, Arkansas, Illinois and Santa Cruz. They stayed at least five days and made a vacation out of it. They spent lots of money eating, drinking, shopping and renting average to high-end rooms and even stayed in one of those vacation rentals four doors down from my home – which, by the way, was both convenient and affordable.

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My point is obvious and I hope not too long. When the powers that be are making decisions as to how we can spend the budget on tourism, embrace the wedding industry, because everyone who comes is here for a wonderful event created for a family to celebrate the love of two people. What better way to market their return than by showing them the very best we have to offer?

Our traffic nightmare during Opening Days Lake Tahoe on June 21 did little to help the cause, with brides in tears and florists, photographers and catering companies stuck and late for the event.

This is an industry that truly trickles down and creates income for hundreds of locals.

– Philip Blowney is co-owner of Sessions Salon and PR director for the South Lake Tahoe Wedding and Honeymoon Association. He also is a 30-year resident and a member of the Kiwanis Club.