Hurricane Irene Hampers Weekend Plans, Weddings

Even tropical storm watches dampened weekend vacation plans and weddings.

Aug. 26, 2011 — -- States of emergency in advance of Hurricane Irene's expected assault on the East Coast this weekend have led to busted plans likely to affect businesses and travelers' wallets.

Travelers are scrambling to revise airplane and train tickets while hotels deal with canceled reservations.

While major airports remain open, airlines have canceled nearly 1,000 flights.

Jetblue is the first major airline to revise its schedule ahead of Hurricane Irene, pre-canceling 891 flights from Saturday through Monday, with the majority canceled Sunday into Monday. The airline said it will run extra service on Saturday night and Monday night to re-accommodate customers, who are being contacted today by the airline, and put on later flights.

A spokeswoman said the airline has issued waivers for change and cancel fees for many of its East Coast cities from North Carolina to Maine.

Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority told ABC News Friday morning about 100 out of 400 flights have been canceled for Saturday at RDU and it anticipates further disruptions for flights along the East Coast through Monday, Aug. 29.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Friday afternoon that all gaming activity in Atlantic City will be suspended as of noon Saturday in coordination with the Division of Gaming Enforcement and Casino Association of New Jersey. It is the third time in the 33-year history of legalized gambling in New Jersey that the city's 11 casinos will be shut down, according to the Associated Press.

Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and counties in South Carolina have declared states of emergency.

Andy Fink, an evening manager at the Dayton House Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C., said the effect of Hurricane Irene is not yet as harsh as that of Hurricane Charley in 2004, when the resort had to implement a mandatory evacuation of its guests. But even with the area on watch for a tropical storm, there have been about 20 canceled reservations in two days.

Fink said many of his guests were from New Jersey and many checked out to return home ahead of the storm.

"One guest left today to get his pets out of their house before they close the roads," Fink said.

At the beginning of the week, the resort, which has a seven-day cancellation policy and a non-refundable deposit, gave guests who wanted to cancel their reservations full refunds, with a $20 service fee for staff services and credit card processing.

Erica Jackson, a guest at the resort from Bristol, Tenn., planned to have her dream beach wedding through the Myrtle Beach Wedding Chapel on Friday and stay in town until Sunday. Instead, her family decided to push the wedding to Wednesday evening and drove back to Tennessee on Thursday.

"It has always been my dream since I was a little girl to get married on the beach," she said.

The resort agreed to give her credit for future use for the block of rooms she reserved.

Ashley Martin, the chapel manager, said out of five weddings scheduled for Saturday, two couples postponed until a later date, one couple canceled completely, and two couples planned to proceed as scheduled.

"One of them is rather large, with a DJ and everything," Martin said. "We told her we could still try but we stressed the electricity could go out."

Martin said at the beginning of the week she considered evacuating her family, which includes her 2-year-old son and her disabled mother-in-law. The family-run business was concerned for the safety of the brides coming, and has been communicating "a lot" with her brides and grooms.

"We tell everybody, 'I heard rain is good luck on your wedding day.' That could be uplifting," she said.

There were at least 448 expected weddings this weekend in north and central New Jersey, 401 in North Carolina, 264 in Virginia, 264 in Connecticut, 209 in South Carolina, and 151 in South Jersey, according to The Knot Wedding Network.

If the hurricane hits those areas, chances are couples will have to reschedule, postpone or cancel weddings, said Amy Eisinger, associate editor of, which is owned by XO Group Inc., formerly The Knot Inc.

Items like rental equipment, lighting, draping and tents will most likely not be eligible for refunds, Eisinger said.

"I wish I could give a happier answer, but it's really unfortunate," she said. "You're probably going to lose a significant amount of what you invested because you're making the decision so close to the date of wedding."

Eisinger recommended couples invest in wedding insurance, which can cost around $350, to cover loss of photos, video, rings, deposits, attire and presents in the case of high-risk wedding dates, situations and locations.

Donald Calello, manager of Clarks Landing Yacht Club in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., said the club's non-wedding event on Friday is scheduled to take place, but he is communicating with two couples for weddings on Saturday and Sunday in case the governor calls for an evacuation. He said those couples will not lose any money with the venue, located on the Jersey Shore, in case a wedding is postponed.

Though Calello said the vendors this weekend will likely accommodate the weather situation to maintain their relationships with the club, other vendors will likely not be so kind, said Yolanda Crous, senior articles editor with Brides magazine. With the average cost of a wedding at $26,501, according to Brides magazine's 2011 American Wedding Study, that could lead to some shattered dreams and budgets.

"You will almost definitely lose money when it comes to small vendors, such as flowers and catering," Crous said.

Those vendors have to order perishable products like flowers and food and hire staff well in advance. Depending on how soon the wedding is canceled, one could end up paying 25 to 100 percent of the bill, she said.

Crous said a service contract should include a cancellation or postponement policy. In contrast, vendors like photographers, who do not have to expend capital before the event, generally will allow you to reschedule their services, she said.