Wedding bells and cash registers are beginning to ring in Hancock County

Special to the Journal of South Mississippi BusinessJuly 9, 2014 

Weddings can be big. Weddings can be small. Whatever the plan, Hancock County is ready to accommodate it all. With promotional help from the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, brides and grooms are discovering the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a wedding destination.

Destination Weddings is a collaborative initiative between Hancock County businesses and the chamber. A Destination Weddings committee was formed, and members say Hancock County can provide all the resources to help make every wedding as individual and special as the two people saying “I do.”

The idea to bring all the players together was sparked by event planner Mary Turcotte, who operates her business called, “Happily Ever After.” As an event planner, Turcotte has more than a dozen weddings under her belt, as well as vow renewals, reunions and various other events where large numbers of people gather together. From experience, she knows that Hancock County fulfills expectations as a wedding destination, as well as a destination for just about any special event.

“We have everything right here in Hancock County for people to have festive celebrations,” Turcotte said. “We are able to offer venues, churches, restaurants, the beach and all the ingredients that go into weddings and special events. And all of our vendors in the area provide services with their own special brand of Southern hospitality.”

With the initial idea in hand, the chamber has become a matchmaker between vendors and wedding planners.

“Mississippi Gulf Coast Destination Weddings and Special Events” is the moniker for the Hancock Chamber initiative and an area of the chamber website lists a network of vendors who can help put the special in “special occasions.”

Tish Williams, executive director of the Hancock County Chamber, said she expects vendors who join the effort will benefit as more people explore Mississippi’s Gulf Coast as a wedding destination.

“Our chamber site makes contact information readily available for prospective customers,” Williams said. “There’s a list of vendor categories on the website and having all that information readily available makes wedding planning easier for everyone.” Alicia Cool owns and operates Imagine That, a floral shop in Bay St. Louis. She joined the Destination Weddings effort as a committee member and she registered her business to add to the area offerings on the Chamber site.

“Our area has a lot to offer for the bride and groom,” she said. “Everything from A to Z.”

For a $25 fee and proper business certifications to qualify as a wedding vendor, Chamber members can be included in a special Wedding Services listing that currently includes 28 categories. Categories include photographers, florists, catering services, event planning, spas, restaurants and just about every resource a person needs to put on a dream wedding.

“We have a quaint area with lots of great wedding venues, including the beach,” Cool said. “The more we market these assets, the more visible we will become as a bridal destination.”

Turcotte said Hancock County’s vendor network and Destination Weddings will soon be advertised in Premier Bridal Magazine, which gets about 1,500 bride registries per month. “It’s a great way to reach our audience,” Turcotte said. Turcotte also said a bridal fair for the county is also a likely future project. If all goes as planned and the marketing pays off, nuptials will be a regular occurrence in Hancock County and wedding bells will ring.

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