Wildwood beach and boardwalk weddings on the rise

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 Photo  by RHM Photography / Brian and Becky Hemphill have a slice of pizza at Mack’s, one of their stops along the boardwalk on the way to their reception at the Wildwoods Convention Center.  Photo by RHM Photography/ Brian and Becky Hemphill have a slice of pizza at Mack’s, one of their stops along the boardwalk on the way to their reception at the Wildwoods Convention Center.  More couples are choosing beach, boardwalk and amusement parks for nontraditional nuptials 

For Judith Hilton, it all started with a wedding bouquet made of Dum-Dum lollipops.

Hilton, 46, was attending a bridal show at the Wildwoods Convention Center when she saw the bouquet at the Morey’s Piers booth. The employees working the booth, she said, were enthusiastic in their promotion of weddings in Wildwood as truly unique.

“That sucked me in,” Hilton said. “We had done the formal thing the first time around, and we just wanted to do something fun.”

Hilton and her husband, Bruce, had recently divorced, but decided they wanted to bring their family back together. When she was planning their second wedding, she saw Wildwood as the perfect choice.

“Wildwood always meant something to us,” said Hilton, explaining that she and her husband had taken their three boys there on vacation almost every year. And before that, she used to go with her parents.

Their wedding was held at Morey’s Piers Rendezvous Beach Pavilion, a popular venue for corporate picnics and other private events. The ceremony was held on the beach, with the Ferris wheel and amusement park rides in the background. The bridal party wore bathing suits and cover-ups, and her boys spent the reception at Raging Waters. Curley, the mascot of Curley’s Fries, greeted her guests.

“It was such a blast,” Hilton said. “It was us getting back together, but it was also our family getting back together.”

More and more couples like the Hiltons are choosing to have their weddings in the Wildwoods.

“I think people are realizing how beautiful it actually is,” she said.

While Cape May might be the unofficial wedding capital of the county, Wildwood Crest Borough Commissioner Don Cabrera said he has noticed an upswing in the number of Wildwoods weddings in recent years.

Over the past five years or so, the borough spent more than $3 million to improve some of its recreational spaces, including Sunset Park at Rambler Road, the fishing pier at Heather Road, and Centennial Park. There are also a number of gazebos on the beaches.

Creating places where couples could say their vows was all part of the plan, according to Cabrera.

“I was hoping the Crest could also be known as a wedding destination,” he said. “In all those areas there is a view of water and beach. We’ve done a lot to create open natural space.”

The commissioner said the number of weddings in the borough has been steadily increasing. The count now stands at about 20 weddings a year, mostly from May through October.

There is a $25 application fee for a permit to hold a wedding on the beach. Cabrera said the borough kept the fee low with the intent of bringing more weddings to town. Weddings can equal increased business for store and hotel owners.

“July and August – that’s your bread and butter,” Cabrera said. “But September and October, you can do a big business with weddings.”

One local company that is seeing new business through weddings is Morey’s Piers. Just last weekend, Mariner’s Landing hosted a flash mob engagement proposal in front of the Ferris wheel that featured more than 40 dancers from a local dance studio.

The iconic Ferris wheel, views of the beach and memories associated with amusement parks at the Jersey Shore are what some brides are seeking for their wedding day, according to Stephanie Berge, who coordinates Memoreys, the special occasion arm of Morey’s Piers.

“We’re not cookie cutter weddings by any means,” Berge said. “I have so many girls come in and say they want something different.”

Morey’s offers six locations for brides to host weddings. In Ocean Oasis waterpark, which has a Caribbean resort feel, weddings are held after the park closes and usually follow the tropical theme. At Joe’s Fish Company rooftop, guests get a classic view of the Wildwood beach and the amusement park. The Rendezvous Beach Pavilion at Mariner’s Landing accommodates the largest weddings, and is right on the beach, with the Ferris wheel as a backdrop.

Smaller weddings can be held at the penthouse suite of the Pan American hotel, which Berge said accommodates about 80 guests. The suite takes up the entire sixth floor of the hotel, and features a balcony with a view of the ocean.

Other couples prefer the smaller poolside receptions at the Port Royal hotel.

Another attraction of a Memoreys wedding is the price, she said.

A wedding at the Pavilion averages about $60 a head – substantially less than the average ballroom venue, according to Berge.

However, the penthouse runs higher – about $10,000 in the height of summer – because it is still rented out weekly as a hotel suite.

Berge said most of the weddings Morey’s sees are destination weddings where the bride and groom spend the entire weekend with their guests, and often the rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception are held at different attractions.

Berge said she tries to coordinate with local businesses for the supplementary items. For instance, Laura’s Fudge made the favors for the Hiltons’ wedding, and Mums the Word florist on Pacific Avenue has supplied flowers for others.

Ryan and Colleen Morey of Lower Township operate RHM Photography, which specializes in weddings and engagements. They started about 12 years ago, and recently opened a studio in Wildwood Crest. They just shot a wedding on the beach in the Crest Aug. 16.

Last year RHM was voted best in their market on The Knot, an online wedding planning tool.

While the couple shoots many weddings in Cape May, Ryan Morey said the Wildwoods’ popularity as a wedding destination has begun to grow.

“There’s been more than I ever remember,” he said.

“I think it’s a unique destination,” Morey continued. “It’s generally a little more laid-back than some other places, which is a main draw that I can see.”

He also pointed out that the beach, boardwalk and amusement piers provide some interesting photo backdrops for the wedding album.

Photo  courtesy of Memoreys / Krista and Ben Eyer steal a kiss on the carousel during their wedding at Joe’s Fish Company.    Photo courtesy of Memoreys / Krista and Ben Eyer steal a kiss on the carousel during their wedding at Joe’s Fish Company.

Photo  courtesy of Memoreys / Krista and Ben Eyer take a spin on the tilt-a-whirl at Morey’s Surfside Pier after saying “I do.” Photo courtesy of Memoreys /Krista and Ben Eyer take a spin on the tilt-a-whirl at Morey’s Surfside Pier after saying “I do.”

 Photo  by RHM Photography/ John Gigliotti, also known as “Gigi” the boardwalk tram car driver, gives Becky and Brian Hemphill a ride on their wedding day.  Photo by RHM Photography / John Gigliotti, also known as “Gigi” the boardwalk tram car driver, gives Becky and Brian Hemphill a ride on their wedding day.

Related: Free registration for fall "I Do" Bridal Show 


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