Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches Tourism Division has noticed an increase in visitor and website traffic from those looking to plan a wedding in the area, so Amy Lukasik, director of tourism marketing for the Flagler Chamber of Commerce, and her team recently published a brochure promoting unique venues in Flagler County as destination wedding locations.
“(Wedding tourism) was growing without us promoting it,” Lukasik said. “I’m excited to see what happens when we start pushing it.”
In the next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, additional funds will be directed to marketing the area as a wedding destination.
The brochure highlights 14 Flagler County venues ranging in budgets and styles.
On the higher end of the budget scale, lovers looking for a resort-style vibe can set the scene at Hammock Beach Resort, which caters to large parties. A wedding planner will assist in planning every detail of the big day, including events like showers and the rehearsal dinner. Or, couples can make a splash walking down the aisle aboard the 117-foot Sundance Yacht, commissioned by Hammock Beach Resort and outfitted with two bars, a full galley, lounge with fireplace, humidor, HDTV, private office/dressing room and an enclosable rear deck.
On the other end of the scale, the Si Como No Inn and The Golden Lion Café offer simple beach weddings with laid back celebrations at their establishments. Lukasik said the Flagler Beach Pier is also a new wedding venue, although they have not had any official weddings there yet.
Brides can also choose to get closer to nature at one of the local state parks, including the 5,000-square-foot rustic barn at the Florida Agricultural Museum, the formal gardens at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park or Princess Place Preserve.
“I think the variety of uniqueness is what makes Flagler County a wedding destination,” Lukasik said. “You can have the ocean view with dolphins jumping behind you at Marineland or go back in time at Princess Place or get married on the beach and walking across the street for buckets of beer at Golden Lion.”
Weddings have been happening at Marineland for several decades, but in the nine years that Joan Whittemore has hosted them as the sales manager at Marineland Dolphin Adventure, she has seen the desire for a unique, destination venue grow. Typically hosting 12-15 weddings a year, Whittemore estimated that 35-45% of couples are from Florida, the rest being from out-of-state or out of country.
“It’s always been good for our personal business as well as the economy of Flagler County,” Whittemore said about hosting weddings. “I think it’s become a growing part of our business because we offer something that really is unique.”
Since Marineland only provides the venue, couples getting married there are required to book local caterers, florists, linens and photographers.
“If they’re coming from out of state, they are usually making a vacation out of it,” Whittemore said. “Time spent here locally, at the beaches, restaurants and hotels — there is no doubt it is having an economic impact.”
Lukasik said that the affordability of hotels and vacation rentals in Flagler County is one draw to the area.
Local wedding photographer Sara Purdy, of Sara Purdy Photography, said that she sees a lot of potential for growth in the wedding industry in Flagler County, but that it needs to be targeted in the right way. During the spring 2015 wedding season, only one wedding couple she photographed was from Flagler County. Throughout the year, she estimated that 90-95% of the brides and grooms that hire her come from out of state, the majority of the weddings taking place at Hammock Beach Resort.
“Hammock Beach has it down,” Lukasik said, adding that the resort sometimes hosts up to three weddings in one day.
Purdy said that she sees a lot of places for people to get married besides Hammock Beach, but that they are not designed specifically for weddings. By contrast, she sees other venues like the Delamater House in New Smyrna Beach, which has an on-site staff, two cabins for the bride and groom to use, a barn, and a multiple ceremony site options.
“We have community areas that clients can rent and reserve; however, the common complaint I hear is that there is no one actually on property to help run the facility or event,” Purdy said. “If we had more venues for weddings that had someone on-sight to help coordinate or hired to work on staff to act as wedding coordinator, I think that would open a lot of doors for potential brides and grooms.”
The downfall in most Flagler venues are that they are community areas, which require everything to be do-it-yourself in terms of set up and break down, she said. Places like the Agricultural Museum and Princess Place stay open to the public during wedding ceremonies, which is not always ideal. Princess Place also closes at 6 p.m., does not allow alcohol and requires permits, which are all reasons why Purdy said brides and grooms shy away from it as a venue.
Lukasik said the brochure and the website revamp are just the first phase of a three-phase process to promote the area. What she would like to see happen next is to work with the venues on creating packages, if they don’t already have them.
“Right now, a lot of the locations don’t specialize in weddings,” Lukasik said. “But, the opportunity exists.”
In the brochure: Venues featured ...
Marineland Dolphin Adventure
Florida Agricultural Museum
Island Cottage Oceanfront Inn & Spa
Hammock Beach Resort
Si Como No Inn
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
The Golden Lion Café
Flagler Beach Pier
Grand Haven Golf Club
Hilton Garden Inn
Palm Coast Yacht Club
Princess Place Preserve
The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience
Director of tourism marketing appointed to state committee
Amy Lukasik, director of tourism marketing for Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches, a division of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, has been selected to serve on VISIT FLORIDA’s Visitors Services Committee. The Visitor Services Committee is an advisory group comprising Florida tourism industry representatives dedicated to guiding the marketing efforts of VISIT FLORIDA’s five official welcome centers and frontline operations.