America's betrothed are increasingly wooed by made-to-measure weddings, in which arrangements are handled by professionals and couples often tie the knot in exotic destinations.
Fairytale settings and all-inclusive packages are the drivers in this new trend. Out of some 2.2 million weddings registered in the country annually, 16 percent are organized outside the regions where the couples live.
AdvertisementThe number represents a four-fold increase over the past 10 years, according to Brides Magazine.
"Disney is a very popular place to get married, but other places are also very active: the Caribbean, Hawaii and Las Vegas, of course, are very pro-active with numerous theme resorts," Millie Martini-Bratten, editor-in-chief of Brides Magazine, told AFP.
The Jamaican hotel chain Sandals is now specializing in weddings and honeymoon trips. About 40 percent of revenues generated by about a dozen hotels of the chain, which usually offer package deals, stem from events related to marriages, said Sandals spokesperson Caitlin Austin.
Las Vegas, a traditional destination for those looking for a quick marriage ceremony that can be performed 24 hours a day, celebrated 33,968 weddings in 2007, according to The Wedding Report.
Disney amusement parks attract each year 2,000 couples who want to say "I do" in a story book setting.
One of these clients was young New Yorker Lauren Cappel, who came to Disney World in Florida to realize her childhood dream.
"Everyone is happy, they are relaxed, they are on holidays," she said. "We are just having a great time, and there is just a good feeling here."
Her Irish husband, Dermot Murphy, knew nothing of wedding ceremonies of this kind, but acceded to the wishes of his bride.
"Lauren is a huge Disney fan," he said. "She suggested it. I came down and took a look. They organize everything. It is a very seamless wedding."
According to a study conducted by The Knot, a firm specializing in analysis of the matrimonial market in the United States, Americans on average spend 27,882 dollars on wedding ceremonies -- honeymoons not included -- and invite 153 persons to the average wedding reception. But the number of guests falls to 47 if the wedding ceremony takes place far away from home.
Since 1991 some 30,000 couples -- or five a day on average -- have gotten married at Disney parks.
Among them were many foreigners, particularly from Britain and Asia, who were attracted by a weak dollar and guests dressed like Mickey Mouse, said Korri McFann, who has been organizing marriages for the Disney company for the past 12 years.
A wedding ceremony in one of the hotels at the amusement parks can cost between 4,000 and 400,000 dollars.
The lower price would not buy you access to the big ballroom or the conjugal suite, but you will have a wedding cake, a toast with champagne for 20 guests and the services of a violinist and a limousine.
"In a typical Disney wedding, about 100 guests are invited," said McFann. "Including food, floral and entertainment, it costs around 30,000 dollars."
The ceremony is very quick, and the couple has 48 hours to validate with authorities a marriage certificate issued by Disney.
The company has even produced a line of wedding gowns inspired by the famous fairy tales about Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
For an extra 2,700 dollars, the couple can leave the chapel in Cinderella's carriage pulled by six white horses.
They can also choose to exchange rings in the Tower of Terror, where the newlyweds can follow their "I dos" with a simulated free fall of an elevator from the 13th floor.