By: Kimberly Houghton, Union Leader Correspondent
LaBelle Winery in Amherst recently booked 10 weddings in a two-week span — all couples abandoning wedding plans in Massachusetts for nuptials in New Hampshire, where COVID-19 regulations are less stringent.
Most of those weddings at LaBelle are happening within the next two months.
“Plus, we still had weddings on the books. We are doing really well,” owner Amy LaBelle said Monday. “We have about 40 weddings planned from now until the end of the year.”
Wedding venues throughout New Hampshire are trying to accommodate brides and grooms from Massachusetts by offering weekday wedding ceremonies and other fast-turnaround services.
“The majority of our business right now is from Massachusetts,” said Matthew Fish, owner and event manager at Curtis Farm Outdoor Weddings and Events in Wilton. “We are under attack from people wanting to get married here in New Hampshire.”
In New Hampshire, indoor venues are currently permitted to host weddings at 50 percent capacity with certain restrictions in place, including masks for staff and frequent cleaning and disinfecting. In Massachusetts, the requirements are not as flexible. There, indoor weddings are allowed a maximum of 25 guests, with a face mask mandate and no dance floor. Outdoor weddings can have up to 100 guests.
“We are now doing weddings with such short notice,” said Fish, explaining many Bay State couples already have their vendor team in place, but need a new place to have the wedding since their previous venue in Massachusetts is no longer able to accommodate their needs.
Fish said it was devastating when Curtis Farm had to close and essentially cancel its entire wedding season. Now it is slowly recovering, with six upcoming weddings planned — most of them involving Massachusetts brides and grooms, he said.
Quick turnaroundTypically there is about a year or a year and a half turnaround for weddings, but Fish said his business is working with couples who still want to get married this season.
Birch Wood Vineyards Event Center in Derry is enjoying a similar bump in business.
“Thankfully, as of August, we are pretty busy with events for the remainder of 2020, and a lot of Massachusetts brides are reaching out looking for dates,” said Melisa Condon, the wedding and event planner at Birch Wood Vineyards.
The venue resumed wedding ceremonies this month, although some couples are opting to delay their larger wedding receptions for next year, Condon said. The next biggest trend, she said, is weekday weddings — especially for Massachusetts couples looking to tie the knot quickly here in the Granite State.
“Obviously we still have guidelines here in New Hampshire, and we have to modify and adapt to those, specifically the 50 percent capacity restriction,” Condon said.
She said brides and grooms, for the most part, are understanding about the situation.
Tim Briggs, chairman of the Wedding and Events Alliance of Massachusetts, said that because of the less stringent restrictions in neighboring states, the wedding and event industry in Massachusetts is losing business to venues in Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
“Venues in New Hampshire are doing Wednesday and Thursday night weddings because so many brides are going there. It is virtually unheard of. I am hopeful that we can get the rules changed here,” Briggs said.
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