Island Vendors Prepare For Nantucket’s Biggest Wedding Season Ever

The bridezillas are coming. Nantucket’s wedding industry is preparing for what is expected to be the biggest wedding season in island history.

Event planners, photographers, tent companies and caterers are all reporting unprecedented bookings for island weddings in 2022 and beyond, with pent up demand after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic on full display.

“What’s happening now is that 2022 is booked and done, locked up,” said Aisling Glynn of ACKtivities, who has been planning weddings on Nantucket for two decades. “Already for 2023, we’re seeing unprecedented demand for the prime dates. The lead time used to be about 12 months or less, now it’s 18 months 24 months. I couldn’t believe it when someone called me for 2024. It’s crazy.”

It’s a trend that is being seen nationwide. An estimated 2.5 million weddings are expected to happen this year – with many that were rescheduled from 2020 and 2021 – the most since 1984, according to the Wedding Report, a trade group. The Nantucket Town Clerk’s office grants just over 200 marriage licenses in an average year – there were 227 last year – and that number is expected to surge in 2022. 

There’s so much demand for Nantucket weddings and competition for island venues and vendors that some of the tactics are getting downright ruthless.  

“I’ve had more potential clients offer to buy me out of other contracts than I’ve ever had in the past,” said island event planner Maggie Steward. “They want that date and they’re willing to pay whatever. They say ‘I’ll pay you double.’ It’s magnified on an island where there’s already finite resources. You can’t just bring the tent company from the next town over.” 

It’s a fact Ande Grennan knows all too well. As the owner of Nantucket Tents, Grennan is preparing for a wedding season that will test the limits of his company. At this point, he said, what he needs is simply more days in the peak season to accommodate all the phone calls he’s getting. 

“It’s definitely going to be a record-breaking amount of events,” Grennan said. “We’re sold out for June and September as a result. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a bummer for people who were expecting to have the normal planning scenario. That’s non-existent now. And it’s not just this year or next year. It’s going to be very busy into the foreseeable future because people couldn’t have what they wanted for a couple years.”

Across the island, venues have been snapped up earlier than ever, along with bookings for photographers, catering, transportation, and hair and make-up. 

One of those vendors is Zofia Crosby. She has been photographing island weddings since 2001 and said “without a doubt” that 2022 is shaping up to be the busiest season she’s ever had. Her wedding calendar for the year was fully booked by last October.

“By comparison, pre-pandemic, we would go into a new year having booked about half and filled in the blanks as we went along,” Crosby said.

Crosby said the island will see “huge weddings, venues maxing out their guest count” and a number of weddings with guest lists over 300 people. Many are turning into multi-day events.

“People are ready to travel and party, and couples may be feeling like it’s now or never,” Crosby said. “We heard from many brides in the past couple years that didn’t want to wait longer to get married because they were ready to have babies- a big motivator to get going.”

At one of the most popular wedding venues on the island – the First Congregational Church on Centre Street – wedding administrator Jackie Watterson said the 2022 season is, of course, already fully booked. With a new minister coming on in May, the church purposefully cut back on the number of weddings it is hosting this year, and so the phone calls and persistent couples have been continuous. 

“I’ve turned away so many people for 2022,” Watterson said. “It could be a conveyor belt of weddings. I have some people knocking on the door, they’re so determined. I have one man that will not take ‘no’ from me. I don’t know if he thinks I can perform miracles? Another couple called me that hasn’t even gotten engaged yet!.”

Lindsay Walsh, the salon manager at RJ Miller on Amelia Drive, said in years past, most weddings were Saturday affairs. Now she’s getting requests for Thursdays, Fridays, and even Monday weddings, as the competition for the most popular dates has pushed couples to book days of the week that were previously undesirable. 

“It’s only February and we have 43 weddings already secured and on the books already,” Walsh said. “It’s crazy. Usually we’d get up to that number in May or June. We already have five or six for 2023. We’re getting more and more inquiries, one after another.”

How does Island Kitchen owner and caterer Patrick Ridge describe what he’s seeing with the 2022 wedding season? 

“I’ll just simply say, we won’t do four weddings in a day. But the demand is there,” Ridge said. “You could sell five weddings per night.”

Ridge said Island Kitchen has more weddings on the books for 2022 than he’s ever had before. 

“Literally everyday we’re getting calls for 2023 weddings,” he said. “There is a huge backlog from covid when, from a planning perspective, there was so much uncertainty in the market. The younger people who could wait or were willing to wait and put off their wedding, they’re still in the market. A lot of people were waiting to get married, so it’s going to be an exciting year.”

While the industry is competitive, Nantucket wedding vendors said there is a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that helps them navigate the unprecedented demand. If a ceremony needs to be pushed back by 30 minutes to allow another wedding to get its transportation – they make it happen. And most of all, they said, they see the weddings as major boost to the island economy during the shoulder seasons when businesses need an influx of customers. 

“It’s one industry that touches so many others,” Glynn said. “When people are coming for weddings, they’re downtown spending money , dining, shopping, taking cabs and Ubers. It helps everyone.”

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