N.C.'s Outer Banks Draws More Destination Weddings

Bridal business is blooming, say Outer Banks business owners.

ByABC News
November 13, 2011, 6:10 AM

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. -- The economy has not wilted wedding flowers on the Currituck Outer Banks.

Other businesses may have withered under the economic downturn, but the bridal business is blooming, say Outer Banks business owners.

"In terms of an industry, it's huge," said Kerri Cantino-Nason, associate with The Proper Setting, a Kill Devil Hills business that books weddings for the Whalehead Club in Corolla, Currituck County.

Much of the upturn can be credited to the growing popularity of "destination weddings," she said.

Today's brides are cutting their guest list and combining vacations with the big event. In many cases, bride and groom will book one or more vacation homes for the wedding party and family during a week-long stay at the resort.

Several event homes on the Outer Banks have been built for just that purpose. The Wild Horse, a 23-bedroom oceanfront home on Currituck's off-road Corova area, was designed with special events - weddings, reunions, corporate retreats - in mind, said Jon Summerton, vice president for Twiddy and Company Realtors. The house was booked for 40 weeks this year, and reservations for the house with nine master bedrooms and a bridal suite typically need to be booked a year in advance.

The growing trend has been a boon for local businesses, said wedding planner Nannette Kallestad.

Today the wedding season is longer and more businesses than ever are offering services, she said.

About a decade ago, only 40 or 50 vendors catered to weddings on the Outer Banks in both Dare and Currituck counties, estimated Kallestad. Today, more than 300 vendors offer services, she said.

Kallestad started out in the business in the late 1990s as the Sanderling Inn's first wedding planner. Today, she and her husband Eric own The Proper Setting, which plans about 30 weddings each year.

"The wedding industry is great for the economy, and I think it's often overlooked," said Kallestad.

Currituck tourism director Diane Nordstrom agrees.

"It's very big business for us, particularly during the shoulder season" said Nordstrom.

The tourism department recently launched a new wedding website that lists 78 Currituck vendors for everything from photography to catering. The website offers tips for planning a wedding and allows a couple to create their own mini-website, said Internet marketing specialist Stuart Chamberlain.

Kallestad said beach weddings can range from $15,000 to $100,000, depending on the bride and groom's budget.

Hope Quade Anderson, who married on the beach last year, said she budgeted $25,000 for a "simple but elegant wedding." The price included a week's stay for the bridal party and family members at an 18-bedroom oceanfront home and a catered dinner by Ocean Boulevard in Kitty Hawk for 80 guests.

She said there was no need to spend a lot of money on flowers.

"A little goes a long way with such a beautiful place," said Anderson, who chose the Outer Banks for her wedding after vacationing there for years.

Couples from New York, California and other large cities find the Outer Banks a less expensive option than a bigger wedding closer to home, said Kallestad.

In many cases, brides will cut their guest list and opt for a longer stay in a vacation setting. The cost is more per guest, but with fewer people attending, the overall price is the same or even less, noted Kallestad.

The price can depend on when and where the wedding takes place.