PHOTO COURTESY LEGACY AT OAK MEADOWS IDYLLIC SETTING — A bride-to-be heads toward the bridegroom at the end of a lakeside dock where they soon will exchange vows.
LOVE IN BLOOM — A couple kiss at the head of a flower-strewn aisle of an outdoor chapel in which they will soon hold their wedding ceremony.

Weddings have been booming lately in West Volusia. While venues and vendors are winding down from what they say was an extremely busy spring, they are also gearing up for what they expect will be a nonstop fall and winter season.

“It’s as if one day someone turned on a faucet and all of a sudden people were frantically planning their weddings,” said Patty Ames of Cake Designers. “I went from having to downsize cakes to accommodate a few small weddings, to doubling cake sizes for all of these large weddings we’re booking.”

According to the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority, wedding vendors in the area started to see a dramatic increase in business in April, when Florida reopened.

“Florida opened back up before many other states, and with everything being able to be outside, it seems the whole country is coming here for weddings, family reunions and vacations,” said Debbie Amatucci of Classic Photography.

The COVID-19 pandemic also brought some interesting changes. Ames and Amatucci say not only have there been far more bookings since April, but they are also noticing a significant number of last-minute weddings, increased midweek weddings, and far larger weddings.

“Destination weddings are more popular and much larger in size,” said Ames. “People still aren’t able to have large weddings in their home states, so they are coming to Florida and West Volusia instead.”

The WVTAA is hearing almost identical accounts from other venues, and Executive Director Georgia Turner says the numbers back this up.

“We are seeing more hotel bookings and an increased number of visitors to area destinations,” Turner said.

“This area has so much to offer couples getting married and their guests, who want more of an experience rather than just a ‘day of’ event,” said Tera McNaughton of Legacy at Oak Meadows. “West Volusia is a hidden gem with all its history and character.”

It’s not just weddings bringing more people to the area — it’s also the need to take a vacation. For many families, it’s a chance for them all to gather in person for the first time in over a year.

This is something Amatucci says she is experiencing. She says entire families are getting together in Florida and requesting portraits in some of the most scenic areas, like West Volusia.

“In fact, I was doing a family portrait last week and realized I was one of nine photographers there doing the same thing with other families,” she said.

West Volusia Tourism’s Turner says while the weddings may be slowing down now for the summer, vacationers continue to arrive at area destinations, and the authority’s wedding consultations are in full swing for this fall and winter.

West Volusia, with 14 distinct communities, offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy parks, pristine natural beauty, historical homes like Stetson Mansion, Downtown DeLand — voted America’s Best Main Street — and its many delectable restaurants. Or, for a bit more adventure, head out on the St. Johns River or explore Blue Spring State Park.

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