Smoky Mountain communities hot spot for weddings in state

Smoky Mountain communities hot spot for weddings in state

Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2008 9:04 pm

NASHVILLE (AP) — The minister wears bib overalls as couples jump the broom at Hillbilly Weddings, one of dozens of wedding services available in Sevier County, where more than a quarter of Tennessee’s marriages were recorded last year. But it’s tough to compete with the towns that lie next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee, which boast wedding chapels, mountain cabins and luxury suites. It’s high season for weddings again — June was the most popular month for marriages in Tennessee in 2007 with 6,887 marriages, while July was second with 6,826. And though there were fewer marriages in 2007 than the year before, the industry is hardly in decline. The state Department of Health says the Sevier County towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville have led the state’s wedding market for decades. Last year, 16,573 marriages were recorded in Sevier County — 26.7 percent of all Tennessee marriages in 2007. Shelby County recorded 5,788 marriages; Davidson County had 4,445; Knox County had 2,503; and Hamilton County had 2,275. Tennessee Tourism Commis-sioner Susan Whitaker said the wedding industry has a huge impact on tourism in Sevier County. “Our tourism partners there bring a high standard of quality and personal enthusiasm to the weddings of thousands of couples annually,” she said in a statement released by the Health Department. “This is Southern hospitality at its very best.” The Tourism Department provides niche advertising for the wedding industry, including national print advertising in Modern Bride magazine. The Health Department showed a 9.5 percent increase in civil ceremonies from 2003 to 2007. Religious ceremonies declined by 16.6 percent in the same period, the department said. A total of 62,149 marriages were recorded in Tennessee in 2007, down 3.7 percent from 2006, the department said. Henderson and Tipton counties both recorded more divorces than marriages: Henderson County had 211 marriages, or 7.9 per 1,000 people, compared with 777 divorces, a rate of 29.1; Tipton County had 439 marriages, or a rate of 7.7, and 621 divorces, a rate of 10.8. The lowest divorce rate in the state was in Bledsoe County, where there were four, a rate of 0.3. Bledsoe County had 117 marriages, or nine per 1,000 population. ——— On the Net: http://www.tnvacation.com/listing/couples/ Published in The Messenger 7.10.08

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