The 2014 Outer Banks Wedding Expo came and went over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. It’s a popular event because destination weddings have become such a large part of the Outer Banks scene. Actually, it’s not just weddings any more. Increasingly local businesses that started in the wedding business are branching out to include event planning for large family reunions, team building seminars and corporate retreats. The real story here is what keeps bringing couples, families and businesses to our area, but first a few highlights about this year’s expo.
The Wedding Expo is fun . . . especially if you’re not getting married, with two days of meetings and important decisions hanging in the balance. But judging from the smiling attendees, I imagine even the couples and families in this position find the event enjoyable.
The first thing to know about the Wedding Expo is that it’s possible to eat yourself into oblivion at this show. Events are a large business segment for area caterers and restaurants, so they pull out all the stops. Personally, I can’t point to any particular restaurant that served anything besides excellent fare. It is clear that everyone knows how to cook southern barbecue, and there is not a bad way to prepare shrimp and grits. I will say the duck comfit from the Sea Ranch stood out simply because it was so different, and Steve Mace from the Good Life in Kitty Hawk created an amazingly colorful display with fresh fruit and vegetables on skewers.
Good eating aside, the Expo is about matching couples planning weddings with the vendors and services they will need. With approximately 180 vendors spread across two showrooms in First Flight High School and First Flight Middle School, there was a lot of walking and information gathering.
Talking to these local vendors, an extraordinary diversity of life experience and expertise unfolds. These are creative people with a strong vision of what’s possible in our unique coastal environment. When the Outer Banks first emerged as a wedding destination, the initial businesses formed an organization to market the area as a premiere coastal wedding destination. That organization, the Outer Banks Wedding Association, is the group that sponsors the annual Wedding Expos.
As the market has evolved to include business events, videographers have become a part of the mix. And as the need for large yet intimate settings emerged, property management companies worked with homeowners and contractors to design and build event homes to comfortably accommodate larger groups.
None of this would have happened if the popularity of the Outer Banks as an event destination was not so strong. This is due in part to our central location. About 25% of the United States population is located within a day’s drive. Ultimately, though, what the Outer Banks offers is an extraordinary array of beauty, from exquisite sunsets on any of the sounds to the romance of a beach wedding. These are, in fact, the exact qualities that make families and couples return to the Outer Banks year after year.