Two weeks ago, on July 26, CBS Sunday Morning featured a segment called “How a Wedding Photographer Captures Special Moments,” about a New Jersey-based wedding photographer named Inku.  World-renown for capturing love in pictures, his work is pretty amazing.  But the coolest thing about the segment was where Inku was shooting love while the CBS cameras followed him.  He was right here in Denton capturing a couple on the Courthouse lawn, at a downtown coffee shop and as they held hands and strolled the square – she in her wedding gown, he in his tux.

So how does a high-dollar, world-famous guy like Inku end up working a wedding in Denton?  The answer is that Denton is a wedding destination.

The CVB has been working the wedding market for several years.  We’ve touted our venues and suppliers at wedding shows, at our own Planner Zone Expo and through Pinterest, the digital go-to for dreamy-eyed brides-to-be.  And most recently, just two days after the CBS Sunday Morning feature, we hosted DFW area wedding planners on a Denton familiarization tour.

The tour was the brain-child of CVB Director of Sales Dana Lodge.  She identified the planners, created and sent invitations, planned the itinerary, handled logistics and facilitated the day.  The timing of the CBS Sunday Morning feature was a lucky break that just added to the tour’s draw and success.

Seventeen of DFW’s top wedding planners boarded a luxury motorcoach in Dallas bound for the Denton tour.  They toured six of Denton’s 15 wedding venues, each offering unique wedding experiences.  During lunch at Hidden Springs wedding venue, Vizcarra Hospitality catered a legitimate wedding banquet among bedazzled tables, floral arrangements and decorations showing the vast array of vendor options and quality found in Denton.  Denton singer/songwriter J.R. Byrd cooed ballads from the stage, a snapshot of our entertainment talent pool.  And around the ballroom, Denton hotels, photographers, bakeries, florists, and other wedding services showed planners the local abundance Denton offers them.

Kathy McNaughton is the General Manager of Hidden Springs, part of the Springs Event company who owns 17 venues on 13 properties across the country. “Weddings are big business,” the 30-year marrying-business veteran said.  “But we sell more than just a venue.  We sell an experience the bride will remember the rest of her life.”

Kathy says today’s brides are creative, designing their weddings around their personalities.  Denton is very appealing to them because of all the city offers in amenities, entertainment, character and the beautiful surrounding countryside.  Planners love Denton’s many wonderful local vendors, and sourcing local often saves the bride some money.  Kathy is confident The Springs made a wise choice when they selected Denton as a venue site since five more venues have opened or are under construction since they opened in May 2014.  More than 200 couples have said, “I do,” at Hidden Springs since then with an average attendance of 150-200 people and an average price tag of about $30,000.

Ashton Gardens on the south side of Denton has a similar story.  Open six years now, they host about 30 weddings per month.    “Couples are doing what it takes to get the best deal and best place for their special day,” said Ashley Love, Marketing Manager.  “Denton is eclectic with easy access to Dallas and Fort Worth.  It gives guests options when they are here.”  She said that having all-inclusive venues is a plus too.  Brides can relax and really enjoy their wedding and their guests.

Most of the Denton wedding business hails from the DFW area, about 85 percent.  But Denton hotels are reaping their own share of the business, some reporting more than 100 wedding parties in a year that round out to more than 2,200 hotel room nights and nearly $250,000 in revenue.

CBS Sunday Morning reported that the average spend on American weddings today is $31,213 not counting the honeymoon.  Denton’s 15 venues don’t even include church wedding business.  Let’s do the math.  At a conservative 20 weddings at $30,000 in 15 venues, that is $9 million spent in one month on weddings.  Add to that the local sourcing for services and hotels, and we are talking major economic impact.

As for our tour, success is in the numbers.  At the end of the day, planners left with packets about all of our wedding venues and services.  Several venues tell us planners from the tour have already called, some already putting couples on the books.  Sounds like a match with a very bright future.