Biggest wedding in Dunleith history big business for area
By April Garon/The Natchez Democrat
A 7-foot cake complete with 12 layers of interchanged flavors was reduced to crumbs May 25 as 700 guests gathered at Dunleith for the largest wedding the historic inn has ever hosted.
The Kennedy-Farr wedding is just an example of the economic impact of destination weddings in Natchez, industry experts say. And local business owners say they rely on the traffic brought in because of these large events.
“It was the most gorgeous wedding, and the cake was quite a challenge,” Edna Welch of Edna’s Cake Creations said. “It by far exceeds any project I’ve worked on before.”
Welch said she heavily relies on destination weddings to generate revenue for her business, saying she makes cakes for twice as many destination weddings as local ones.
“We probably wouldn’t be in business without them; they make a huge impact,” Welch said.
Dunleith General Manager John Holyoak said destination weddings are common for the historic inn as well.
“We’ve done weddings with only the bride and groom, to large weddings with 300-400 guests, and everything in between. But the (Kennedy-Farr) wedding was by far the biggest wedding we’ve done,” Holyoak said.
More than 50 staff members were on hand at the event, including the waitstaff of The Castle Restaurant, which operates on the grounds at Dunleith.
According to Holyoak, the businesses involved in the wedding were all local except two, a tent company and lighting company. These businesses provided services not available locally. All other aspects were locally sourced.
“The event brought tremendous business,” said Dick Thompson, owner of Live Oak Landscapes.
Live Oak provided 25-foot-tall magnolia trees for the event.
“Dunleith is an amazing destination, and the financial impact is positive. The businesses involved reap the benefits,” Thompson said.
Walter Tipton, manager of the Natchez Grand Hotel, said weddings are in the top three categories of travel that brings business to the local hotel industry.
“Weddings are an important factor in the hotel business, ranking third behind meeting groups and motor coach groups,” Tipton said. “Weddings are very Saturday oriented, when other tourists want to be here as well. They expose other people to Natchez and create repeat business. There are so many great venues for weddings in Natchez. You can easily name over 15 historic venues that are unique not only in the state but the nation. It’s nice to have.”
Tipton said he has seen an increase of approximately 25 percent in wedding group bookings in the past two years.
The Grand Hotel has approximately 60 wedding groups booked so far for 2013. Last Saturday, the day of the Kennedy-Farr wedding, the hotel was at full capacity. Tipton believes most of his hotel guests were wedding guests.
“Long story short, it was a successful and profitable event,” Thompson said. “It was quite an event for any town, and a positive impact on the economy.”