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Engaged couples flock to Tampa Bay for pandemic weddings

Event and travel restrictions in other states are driving many couples to host destination weddings in Tampa Bay.

TAMPA, Fla. — The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the wedding industry, forcing couples to cancel, postpone and rethink the wedding of their dreams.

The pandemic has also impacted venues, caterers, photographers, florists, entertainers and wedding planners as weddings morph into smaller affairs to comply with event restrictions. 

In many states, restrictions are just now easing for the first time to allow gathering and late-night soirees. That's led many couples to consider tying the knot in Florida, which has had relaxed gathering guidelines for much longer. "Marry Me Tampa Bay," a local wedding planning guide, polled its wedding vendors about current pandemic trends. 

Many vendors said they're seeing an increase in out-of-state couples looking to get married in the Sunshine State.

"We've always been a destination because of our weather and beautiful beaches," explained Anna Coats, the editor of "Marry Me Tampa Bay." She says the state's relaxed restrictions, in addition to the climate, have attracted many couples. Her vendors said some couples are tired of postponing their nuptials and just planning for smaller weddings in Tampa, others are concerned about continuing restrictions in their original states making planning more difficult and more couples inquiring about beach ceremonies. 

One of the "Marry Me Tampa Bay" vendors said they're seeing three to four couples a week that aren't from Florida planning weddings in the area. Couples aren't the only ones flocking to Florida. Wedding industry pros are coming, too. 

"We've had so many new talent come to Tampa because they were stuck in New York and California and had no work, but Florida was opening and bars were opening," explained Jesse Soplinski, a wedding planner at Breezin' Entertainment's wedding division. The CEO of Breezin' Entertainment, Cindy Dervech, said she's fielding calls daily. "We get calls from DJs, violinists, bands that are looking to come down here and work with us."

This influx has been great for wedding vendors, getting back to work with smaller, boutique-style weddings. It's not so great for newly engaged couples or couples looking to re-book their postponed weddings. 

"A lot of couples from 2021 have pushed their weddings to 2022, so that makes the availability pool even smaller. If you're getting married in 2022 and there's a date you want, a certain vendor, go ahead and put down that deposit because they are going very, very quickly," Coats explained.

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