Tahoe’s weddings mean good things for economy | NevadaAppeal.com

Tahoe’s weddings mean good things for economy

Matthew Renda
Nevada Appeal News Service

Love is in the rarefied Lake Tahoe air, which means money for area business owners – a lot of money.

The wedding industry is a robust aspect of the basin-wide economy and acts as a powerful magnet to attract visitors to the area, who in turn spend money at local shops, restaurants, lodging businesses and recreational venues, said Betty “B” Gorman, CEO and president of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber.

“Weddings are a significant part of our community’s tourism economy benefiting lodging facilities, recreation providers, restaurants, caterers, florists, chapels, event planners, hairdressers, forest service and many other businesses,” Gorman said.

But how many weddings, and how many dollars, could be surprising.

The Lake Tahoe Basin hosts about 12,800 weddings per year, according to Karen Estes, owner of Simple Tahoe Weddings and president of the South Lake Tahoe Wedding and Honeymoon Association.

Estes said these weddings contribute more than $171 million per year to the local economy. The Tahoe Basin receives $1.2 billion per year from visitors alone, according to a Lake Tahoe Visitor’s Authority survey in 2008.

Weddings average 50 people, with an average cost of $7,500 per wedding reception and a two-night hotel stay for each guest which costs an average of $118 per night, according to statistics compiled by the Honeymoon Association.

Furthermore, the amount of money that guests spend on gas, car rental, recreational activities, gaming, groceries and restaurants represents a contribution of another $75 million per year to the local economy.

All told, weddings through direct and indirect means represent a $246 million per year industry for the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“We would stay in business, but we wouldn’t thrive to the extent we do now,” said Sharon Schneider, manager of Enchanted Florists, a South Lake Tahoe-based flower shop.

Schneider declined to get into specifics, but said the wedding industry was a significant revenue source for her business.

“Weddings are a huge part of our operation,” she said.

Laura Maffitt, sales manager for the Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge and Spa, said couples about to exchange their vows are an economic driver for the lodge.

“We hold about 80 ceremonies here a year,” said Maffitt. “Most weddings mean about 12 rented rooms or more and they stay for an average of three nights.”

An emerging nuptial trend called destination weddings, where couples combine a vacation with their matrimonial event, has increased the attractiveness of the Lake Tahoe Basin to couples looking take the plunge, according to Maffitt.

“Destination weddings have a way of making the event more special, plus you can combine your wedding and honeymoon,” said Maffitt.

Mark E. Frady, executive director of Weddings of the West, said the scenic beauty of the Lake Tahoe area is the main factor in attracting couples looking to say their wedding vows.

“People want to get married in a beautiful area,” said Frady. “They want their wedding to be memorable, and what better way to do that than to get married in an extremely beautiful place.”

Newlywed Robin Greenlee of San Francisco said she decided to hold her wedding at Lake Tahoe for the scenery.

“I’ve been coming up here for a long time and I always wanted to have my wedding in a magnificent setting like Tahoe,” she said.