THE LOCAL wedding industry is bracing for a rush of loved up couple’s keen to tie the knot in the Douglas Shire next year.

While the COVID-19 lock down restrictions have thrust the industry into hibernation in 2020, many business owners are staying optimistic and looking to the future.

Nick White at Eventcore, the shire’s largest supplier of hire equipment & services for weddings and events, works closely with Port Douglas Catering & Events to offer exceptional wedding locations, on beaches, in the rainforest, high in the hills, on cane farms or tucked away on exclusive private properties.

Nick said the 2021 calendar was quickly filling up to the point they are now looking for alternative venues.  “We need your help!”

“Demand is so high; we are now actively seeking expressions of interest from landowners to host outdoor events on their properties.”

“Ideally, we would like to develop two to three new locations, no further than 20 minutes’ drive from Port Douglas with no near neighbours,” he explained.

“We bring everything in—no infrastructure is required. Where someone sees a broken-down shed, Tommy at Port Douglas Catering says he sees a kitchen!”

Nick is urging property owners to see their land in a different light and the incentive is they can earn money.

“We can help you to generate an income from what you may see as unusable space but through our eyes it is a beautiful location to host a wedding!” he said.

According to Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD), there are an estimated 500 weddings held in the shire each year, which is about nine times the national average.

It is therefore unsurprising Tommy Young, director at Port Douglas Catering & Events, believes the Port Douglas wedding industry really “punches above its weight.”

“For a small community, we have high quality suppliers and stunning venues which has meant there’s always been solid demand.

“It is a happy marriage which has flourished over the years to the benefit of many locally owned businesses including photographers, hairdressers, wedding celebrants, caterers, retail outlets, bus companies, accommodation, it touches the whole town in some way,” Tommy said.

“You could say it is a marriage made in heaven!”

Tracey Miller, Douglas Shire Council’s Team Leader Frontline Services, handles the bookings for the heritage-listed Sugar Wharf and Little Cove, two of the shire’s most sought after wedding venues.

“We had 110 wedding receptions booked at Sugar Wharf and Little Cove in 2020. That number has plummeted by 70 percent,” Tracey said.

Tracey has been working with many frantic brides, trying her best to reschedule bookings for 2021.

“At this stage from March to October 2021, there are no Saturdays left at either venue and just one Friday remains. There’s only a couple of Sundays and some months no Thursdays are available,” Tracey said.

“I don’t envy the wedding planners. They have been so amazing and I wouldn’t do their job for quids as they would be getting the brunt of frustration. Not only have I had to refund some weddings and transfer the majority, there are also new brides trying to get dates for 2021. There is such a limit on dates now.”

Nick agrees it is a challenging time, but Eventcore are bending over backwards to help wedding couples find new dates and locations within the shire rather than cancel or change location, which would create greater economical strain on Port Douglas.

Nick estimates the wedding industry contributes over $100 million into the local community each year.

“While all our bookings from March to July this year have completely disappeared, we have a few hopeful clients apprehensively hanging onto bookings from August to November, praying state borders open and interstate flights resume.

“On top of our team of wedding designers giving these clients advice and support, we are trying our best for those who are rescheduling, as well as fielding new enquiries.  It is a difficult, challenging but rewarding time and we are determined to keep and encourage couples to continue to pursue their Port Douglas Wedding dream!” Nick said.

Eventcore is hoping to build long term plans on selected properties, Nick is encouraging interested property owners to contact him via email for an initial discussion.

Nick also urges people with a great work ethic who will be seeking employment to come forward.

“We are looking at squeezing two years of events into the last few months of this year and into 2021, so we need good people,” Nick said.

Venues aside, Nick said there is still a fair amount of work to be done by the industry around compliance with social distancing guidelines at future events.

“One example,” Nick explained, “is that a standard trestle table is 760mm wide and 2.4m long. Under current guidelines, we would need three trestle tables wide to seat just four people as the space in between is shared. An average wedding would end up with a table length of around 48m long or 109 square meters of table.  This is simply not currently viable.”

The wedding industry is facing a very uncertain and challenging future, however Eventcore and Port Douglas Catering both feel that with some help from Douglas Shire Council and our shires land owners coming forward with available event spaces that the challenges can not only be met but a stronger industry can prevail.

Please go to Eventcore’s website to see what may be possible at your place.

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