Plan a destination wedding to Luray
By Josette Keelor - firstname.lastname@example.org
LURAY - Recent news that Luray came in second only to Jackson Hole, Wyo., in TLC's list of "Ten Beautiful Destination Wedding Locales" is not surprising to those who live and work in the community.
In fact, local wedding experts say Luray offers a lot for couples looking for a scenic retreat for their special day.
"I think it really appeals to all kinds of brides," said Pamela M. Flasch, director of communications and tourism marketing for the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center. "We knew how popular it is, but we didn't know that someone like TLC [was interested.]"
The television network, part of Discovery Communications LLC, lists Luray among the likes of Kauai, Hawaii; Puerto Rico and Niagara Falls, N.Y., on its website http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/weddings.
"It really has become quite popular because it is so close to D.C.," Flasch said of Luray.
More than being convenient to sightseeing and shopping, however, the area draws in visitors because of its scenery and laid-back atmosphere.
"Natural beauty, the national park opportunity and the national forest" are what John Shaffer, director of public relations at Luray Caverns, lists as part of the region's drawing power.
It offers what he calls "a bucolic-type experience."
Leslie and Keith Knotts, of Wadsworth, Ohio, were looking for someplace to have a quiet wedding when they happened upon the South Court Inn, where they were married on Sept. 4.
"Since we were on the motorcycle, we were looking for someplace scenic, someplace without a lot of traffic," Mrs. Knotts said by phone.
They searched online for their options but settled on Luray because it offered what they were hoping to find.
They ordered the elopement package, which included a CD of the ceremony and one night stay at the inn.
"So for us it was reasonable," she said.
The inn provided flowers and photos and even the cake, said South Court Inn owner, Tom Potts. The inn specializes in destination weddings or smaller weddings, he said, particularly elopements.
"We're a small bed and breakfast, done up in elegant Victorian style," he said. Those who choose the inn typically expect to have 10 or fewer guests, he said.
"And then we put together packages that blow everybody else out of the water [price-wise]."
"When we got there, we were very pleased," Mrs. Knotts said. "We were hoping that we would get lucky," and the couple did.
From there they hopped on Skyline Drive and rode down the Blue Ridge Parkway, she said.
Easy access to Skyline Drive also attracted Christopher and Valerie Odom, who have homes in Halifax County and Accokeek, Md., as well as Chicago and Los Angeles.
When the couple was looking for a place to marry on Oct. 10, they also came upon the South Court Inn, and despite access to a wedding locale anywhere around the country, they decided on the Northern Shenandoah Valley.
"We tried to find a bed and breakfast, and that's how we came across South Court Inn," said Odom. He and his wife, both 50, eloped but said they had a lovely experience at the inn.
"That's the best place we've ever been."
"We didn't tell anybody we were going to get married until we did," he said by phone from Chicago. "It was a wonderful experience. ... We were just looking for a place to go away, because we both work 13-hour days," he said. They were looking for some place "peaceful, quiet."
"We wanted the mountains with, you know, the Skyline Drive. ... And then we had the Luray Caverns."
The couple spent a long weekend in the area before returning to Maryland. They plan to have a reception with family and friends this year in Chicago on their first anniversary.
Other couples who make Luray their destination spot to get married find the caverns or other locations the perfect spot for making their own vows.
The caverns have seen 450 weddings since the 1800s, Shaffer said.
"They're done after hours not to interfere with the tours," he said. Most of their weddings take place in a part of the caverns called the Ballroom, or sometimes the Cathedral. From the 1880s until the 1950s the caverns were more popular for weddings than they have been since, but Shaffer said the caverns still serve as a popular destination for brides and grooms.
"It's something that certainly has historical ties," he said. "We're delighted to continue the tradition."
He hopes the Luray Valley Museum, a converted church dating back to 1825, which opened last year, will be the sight of future weddings at Luray Caverns.
"It just lends itself to that," Shaffer said of the Elk Run Meeting House, adding that the historic building is conducive to weddings.
The Mimslyn Inn, which saw $8 million in renovations to its historical structure in 2006 and 2007, also hosts weddings year-round, she said.
"The majority are destinations," she said of the weddings she has encountered at the inn. "People coming in looking for their guests to stay."
The inn, which has 45 rooms, does its own catering and can accommodate up to 300 people for an outdoor wedding, provides "a getaway for their families too," she said.
"Luray itself has a lot to offer," said Gina Sours, sales manager at the Mimslyn Inn in Luray. "It's a live, work, play area."
"You also have a friendly community that is very outgoing," she said.