Monday September 24, 2012

LENOX -- The high-end wedding business already looms large as a sizable piece of the hospitality-industry pie, but a group of business owners aims to cut an even larger slice during the second annual Lenox Wedding Tour later this autumn.

The four-day junket offers the royal treatment to luxury and destination wedding planners and industry media writers. The goal is to rival Newport, R.I., for Gilded Age-style weddings that cost up to $125,000.

"Weddings are increasingly important as a way of bringing people to the Berkshires," said Lauri Klefos, president and CEO of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau. "We have unique destinations that cater to weddings and we've been focused on that market for the past couple of years."

In addition to Lenox, Klefos pointed out, MASS MoCA in North Adams, Jiminy Peak in Hancock and Bascom Lodge at the summit of Mount Grey lock have attracted wedding bookings.

The red-carpet event in Lenox on Nov. 12-15 includes a tour of historic locales such as The Mount and Ventfort Hall, less-costly sites such as Town Hall and the Lenox Library, and a cross-section of lodgings. Participants will check out cuisine, wines, decor and wedding-table design options.

Guest rooms, meals, receptions and other services valued at well over $100,000 are donated by about 70 area businesses.

Several dozen participants are expected, said Dawn Car berry, local business owner and an organizer of the tour.


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To spread the word, social media -- Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Pinterest -- have played a major role, according to Jaclyn Stevenson of the Winstanley Partners marketing and PR firm.

The average cost of a Berkshire wedding for highly affluent families, mostly from New York, Boston and Phila delphia, is put at an eye-popping $80,000 to $125,000 for a 150-guest event, said Tara Consolati, a local marketing and PR professional. That compares to a nationwide average of $27,000.

"But we're extremely reasonable in the Berkshires compared to what they'd pay for a wedding in those three cities," said Carberry.

"Newport did such a great job of marketing themselves as a destination for weddings," she added. "Newport is lovely, they have the ocean, but we have just as many beautiful venues and locales, and we're just as convenient from the major cities."

"We need to stand up and be noticed, we need to market the Berkshires," said tour organizer Catherine Lockridge, president of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce and owner of Classical Tents. She cited Ver mont as another strong competitor, as well as Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

"The very high level of brides that we are servicing is different from those we worked with years ago," Lockridge added. "They know their product, they know they want a very high level of service, and you have to be responsive and very quick."

Among the emerging local sites for weddings is The Mount, home of the Edith Wharton Restoration, which is hosting 14 this year, up from four last year.

A highlight of the tour is a showcase at the Seven Hills Resort from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13, with as many as 47 booths staffed by Berk shire lodging owners, caterers, photographers, cinematographers, fashion designers, florists, DJs, musicians, liquor stores, party-rental firms and transport ation services. Pro spective brides are invited to attend the showcase.

Also on the schedule are receptions, meals and gatherings at Cranwell Resort, Wheatleigh, Blantyre and the Apple Tree Inn.

Ferried around by Abbott's Limousine and Livery Service of Lee, the wedding professionals will check out the Church on the Hill, Shakes peare & Company, Ventfort Hall, The Mount, Stonover Farm, Lenox Club and several other locales, as well as various inns.

Carberry emphasized that the overall goal of the tour is to promote the entire county as a top-tier wedding destination.

To contact Clarence Fanto: cfanto@berkshireeagle.com or (413) 496-6247.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.

If you go

n What: Second annual Lenox Wedding Tour, a showcase for up to 70 area businesses serving the bridal industry, with visits to sites, lodging facilities and dining establishments.

n When: Nov. 12-15.

n Deadline for RSVPs: Oct. 24.

n Highlight: Wedding Showcase, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 6-8 p.m., Seven Hills Inn, 40 Plunkett Street, Lenox. Also open to area brides, grooms, bridesmaids, family members, friends for $40 per person, $75 per couple.

n Information and tickets: www.lenoxweddingplannertour.com or on Facebook (search Lenox Wedding Tour.)