Windsor

Low cost weddings draw out-of-town couples to Windsor, Ont.

Wedding season is upon us, and in Windsor, Ont. hundreds of couples will get married over the next few months. But many of the grooms and brides do not live in Windsor--they're coming from other cities.

Tourism campaign making region a wedding destination

Farrah Tran and Thomas Sing live in Kitchener, but decided to get married in Windsor-Essex. (Eryn Shea Photography)

Wedding season is almost here, and in Windsor, Ont. hundreds of couples will get married over the next few months. 

But many of the grooms and brides do not live in Windsorthey're coming from other cities.

Windsor and Essex County is becoming a region where people come to tie the knot. It's the result of Nancy Campana, a local event planner who began marketing the area as a "destination" wedding location just over two years ago.

A good choice financially

"We were starting to see a trend that people from out of town were coming back here to get married," Campana told CBC News.

"Many in the age demographic of 25 to 30 had moved out of town during the 2008 downturn of the economy here for jobs elsewhere. We wanted to create a promotion that reached those people and ensure that they knew coming home to get married was a good choice financially," she said. 

Nancy Campana started the "Get Married in Windsor-Essex" campaign 2.5 years ago. She says the Detroit skyline is a huge draw for couples. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

Compared to big cities like Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, Campana estimates it's nearly 30 to 50 per cent cheaper to get married in Windsor. 

Farrah Tran and Thomas Sing will get married at Caesars Windsor in July 2016. Though Tran was born in Windsor and has family here, the couple said they looked at a few other destinations before choosing the city.  

"The riverside is just so nice. That's where we're doing our photos. It's really nice scenery," she said. "Windsor would [also] be the lowest cost in comparison. For example, if we were to do a wedding here [in Kitchener], it would cost a couple thousand more." 

Sing chimed in, too, citing a coworker who recently got married in Cambridge. 

"Even the hall rental is unreal in comparison," he told CBC News. "In Windsor, the highest we were quoted for the hall rental was maybe $500. With [my friend], she did it at a golf course and it was $1,200."

Windsor becoming 'destination'

Along with a national spread in Wedding Bells Magazine, social media is the newest way Campana is selling the region as the perfect place for young couples to wed. "Get Married in Windsor-Essex" uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even Pinterest to get the word out. And, if you're about to watch a Youtube video, an ad promoting getting married in the region may pop up first. 

Windsor-Essex wedding advertisement in Wedding Bells magazine. (Nouveau Event Planning)

These ads sell Windsor's riverfront, wineries, venues and diversity. Caesars Windsor caters specifically to large, Indian weddings. 

"Windsor has the highest number of cultural clubs per capita than anywhere in the country," said Campana. 

Before the campaign began, Campana said she was seeing out-of-town couples get married in the dozens. 

This season, more than a hundred couples will tie the knot in Windsor and Essex County. 

"[The] Canadian Club has told me almost every single wedding they do now have one or two partners from out of town," she said. "Not only have [the venues] seen couples coming home to get married because one or the other is from Windsor, they're now starting to see out-of-towners coming to Windsor who have absolutely no connection to Windsor."

While the advertising campaign targets couples from pricier places in Canada, like Toronto, Windsor is also getting international attention. 

"We have a few people from Detroit who are coming over," said Rosita Blackman Smith, a manager at St. Clair College Centre for the Arts.

"Neither the bride nor the groom are from Windsor. They totally chose our venue because of the view we have, looking out on the Detroit skyline and the proximity we have to the hotels. And when you do the exchange rate with the American dollar, it's definitely exciting to be here." 

Economic spinoff 

Campana is seeing the work pay off, more than two years into the campaign. She's also partnering with local tourism officials to have a bigger effect. 

"The economic spinoff of that is huge. The average wedding in Canada is $32,000 dollars right now. People who come from out of town normally spend even more. They're booking hotels. They're staying here whole weekends. They're going to restaurants." 

In addition to the lower cost and scenery, Sing points out another plus. 

"One thing I respect the most of the experience of planning everything is [the venues] were never cutthroat," he said. "They would always say good things about the other venues. I didn't feel any pressure. No negative energy." 

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