- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2004

Twenty-four-year-old Coleen Long knew she wanted to get married in September, the month of her birthday and the month her father and stepmother married. But the Alex-andria resident knew September 11 was not a good date for a wedding.

Justin Covington, 25, had asked Ms. Long for her hand in marriage in December 2002. The two ended up with a nearly two-year engagement, since the venue they wanted — a country club in Ms. Long’s hometown of State Park, Pa. — was booked in September 2003. As for this year, they had the choice of Sept. 25 or September 11.

The choice was obvious for Ms. Long and Mr. Covington.

“Weddings are happy days. They are a day you want everyone to celebrate and have a good time,” Ms. Long says.

As for the other date, “Everyone was scared, and you don’t want that kind of feeling associated with your wedding.”

Ms. Long is not alone in wanting to avoid having her wedding on September 11, the first time the date falls on a Saturday since the 2001 terror attacks. A few others, however, are scheduling their weddings and events that day to give it new meaning. September happens to be the third most popular month in which to hold a wedding, following June and July, according to Bridal Guide magazine in New York City.

“What we found, the closer you get to New York, the less likely people are to get married [on September 11],” says Lisa Dickens, vice-president of marketing for Bridal Guide Magazine. “Outside of New York, people are still getting married. They want to counter the tragedies of that day with something happy in their lives. They want to remember this date for something special and positive, and they don’t want the terrorists to win.”

Bridal Guide magazine polled wedding venues in cities across the nation to find that the majority of couples in and around New York City are avoiding September 11 for their weddings. Hotels, country clubs and event spaces in other cities have fewer weddings booked that day than last year, though not by a significant amount, the poll shows. The venues were about 75 percent booked. However, venues in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles were split with about half booking a wedding that day.

In New York, “people were more directly affected, so people are less likely to want to do something on that date,” Ms. Dickens says. “This was so in your face all the time.”

David Painter, president of Event Rentals in Chantilly, noted a 7 percent drop in weddings, fairs, festivals and other events the company is planning for the second Saturday of the month. The day normally accounts for 21 percent of booked reservations for the month for tents and party item rentals.

“It’s such a logistical nightmare to plan a wedding,” Mr. Painter says, adding that the planning depends, in part, on when relatives are available and venues can be booked. “I think a lot of the pressures to not celebrate on September 11 is overweighed by the realities of the situation.”

As such, the September 11 tragedy differs from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Painter says. Thirty years after the bombing, Americans continued to avoid scheduling events on December 7, he says.

“I see some reluctance on September 11, but it’s not the same sort of thing. The date doesn’t seem to be as symbolic. The event certainly is,” he says.

Matters of Taste Catering in Alexandria has two weddings and a couple of other events scheduled on September 11, says Cheryl Connors, event planner.

The brides-to-be who planned their weddings for that day said it was time to move on, Ms. Connors says.

“The fact people aren’t afraid to book weddings on that date sends a big message,” she says. “It’s not something people are going to shy away from. It’s a date we’re going to honor.”

Linda Garner, owner and president of Gala Events Inc., a party and event planning company in Bethesda, does not have any events scheduled that day. A shower scheduled on Sept. 12 was originally planned for Saturday, she says, but after a month or so of planning, the hostess changed her mind when she realized the second Saturday was on September 11.

“The hostess felt uncomfortable with it and switched it,” Mrs. Garner says, adding that, “You want a party to be upbeat and fun. You don’t want people arriving at an event and feeling uncomfortable, not because something could happen but because of the memories of that particular day.”

The September 11 date was a moot point for Potomac Management Resources this year, but not so in past years. The Alexandria company plans association and corporate events during the week.

“In the past two years, people have avoided that date. Partially, it’s out of respect,” says Carol Montoya, chief operating officer for the company. “When you say September 11, it conjures up the reference to the attacks as opposed to people being able to focus on what the event is. … Any other day doesn’t bother people. It’s just that one day.”

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