A Date With Destiny

 

A Date With Destiny

The New York Times
March 2, 2007

By Michelle Higgins

CHRISTMAS. New Year's Eve. Spring break. There are certain dates on the calendar when travelers know that hotel rooms in prime vacation spots will be nearly impossible to come by, even if they try to book months in advance.

This year, add another day to the list: Saturday, July 7.

That's because that date - the almost numerically perfect 7/7/07 - is being sought after by couples around the country as the ideal day for a wedding. More than 31,000 couples have already signed up with theknot.com, a wedding-planning Web site, saying they plan to marry that day, a figure that is roughly triple the number for any other Saturday that month - and nearly 20,000 more than the number of couples who got married on the corresponding weekend a year earlier.

And it isn't only prospective spouses who think that the 7-7-7 combination could be lucky for them. The travel site Vegas.com said its hotel reservations for the weekend starting on Friday, July 6, are about six times greater than those for the previous weekend. "We've never seen anything like this," said Bryan Allison, vice president of marketing for Vegas.com. "We were all shocked."

Meanwhile, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Miss., which was originally scheduled to open just days after Hurricane Katrina hit, says it plans to open on July 7. William Hill, the noted British bookmaker, has placed the odds at 7 to 1 that Tony Blair will resign on that date. And when the Pepsi 400 Nascar race at the Daytona International Speedway takes place on July 7, will Clint Bowyer - who drives the No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet car - have an unfair advantage?

The number 7 has held a special significance at least from the time of the ancient Babylonians, who revered the seven sacred planets, and it is a crucial numeral in the Bible, as in the seven days of the Creation to the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer. Evie Bagwell, 23, and Derek Novotny, 22, from Brownsville, Pa., say they chose the date for their wedding because of its spiritual significance. "The Bible explains 777 as being perfection, and that is how we feel together," Ms. Bagwell said.

The Ritz-Carlton chain reports that more than 65 percent of its hotels in the United States are playing host to at least one wedding on July 7 - and for some, it's two, three or more. The New England Inns and Resorts Association estimates that more than 50 percent of its 250 members have at least one wedding scheduled then. Other hotels and resorts across the country, already long booked with weddings on July 7, report that they have been turning dozens of couples away.

"We're getting between three and six calls a week specifically asking for this date," said Michelle O'Neill, director of catering sales for the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev.

Some July 7 brides say they believe they are being forced to pay a premium for services that wouldn't cost as much on any other Saturday this summer. "Once we told them we were getting married on July 7, the tone changed," said Esther Marius, from Brockton, Mass. After calling 20 limousine companies, only to find that they were all committed to other weddings on July 7, she ended up paying $400 more than she had planned to secure the 24-passenger stretch limo she wanted to arrive in on her wedding day.

If it weren't for the deposit she has already paid to the wedding hall, Ms. Marius said she would consider changing the date. "It's gotten to a point where we said if someone wants to buy the date, we'll sell it," she said. "We could get married the month before or the month after."

Others aren't so flexible. Jennifer McVay, social and travel sales manager at the Sagamore resort in Lake George, N.Y., which is holding four weddings that day, said that at least three brides demanded to be put on a waiting list in case any of the weddings were called off. One has even checked back to see if any of the other couples had decided to break up.

"They're just desperate for that date," Ms. McVay said. "I really appreciate it's such a big day and it's really special - but I was surprised they weren't as willing to move to another date." She said several couples had already turned down her offer of July 6, which has plenty of openings.

Among those who have had to scramble to find a place for their wedding on the 7th are Lisl Kludzuweit, 33, and her fiancé, Artie Jones, 35, both from Philadelphia. After calling roughly half a dozen places only to find out that other couples had already taken them, Ms. Kludzuweit booked the Camden Windward House in Camden, Me., sight unseen. (Still to be found: a photographer who is free that day.)

Ms. Kludzuweit said it was important to her to secure this specific day for her wedding, despite the hassles. The couple picked July 7 after finding out that a tumor removed from Ms. Kludzuweit's abdomen last year was benign. "For us it was symbolic," said Ms. Kludzuweit. "It just felt so lucky."

Even destinations like the Caribbean that tend to slow down in the summer are seeing a surge in bookings that weekend. One bride has bought out all but nine rooms at the 40-room Jumby Bay in Antigua, plus most of the resort's other accommodations like villas. The Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort and Casino, which accepts only one wedding a day, has had to turn away at least 10 couples looking to marry on July 7. The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, which has the added cachet of being on Seven Mile Beach, said one groom settled for July 8 after learning that July 7 was already taken, but emphasized that "price would be no object if he could migrate to the 7th," said Melissa Ladley, the hotel's communications director.

Given such heated competition for July 7, some couples are having a hard time finding a band, photographers or other wedding professionals. "It is a bit challenging to find vendors who are still available for that date," said Karle Coppenrath, a wedding consultant and owner of Weddings by Design in Port Townsend, Wash. "Many photographers, for instance, tell me they have been booked since the summer of 2005."

Jill Ann Parrett, 27, from North Providence, R.I., was caught off guard by how popular the date was. "Every vendor we were considering said they got a call that someone else was interested." Because of the pressure, she added, "we ended up pulling the trigger sooner than we would have wanted." She'll marry at an estate on a University of Rhode Island campus in West Greenwich.

Some hotels around the country are trying to capitalize on the date with packages that play on the lucky-seven theme. The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park has created a Lucky No. 7 Wedding Package for a party of just 77 people with seven guest tables, a seven-tier wedding cake, seven diamonds for the bride from Tiffany & Company, Room 2007 for the bridal party to dress in, and a seven-night honeymoon at any Ritz-Carlton hotel for $77,777. Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes, Vt., is promising any couple who books a wedding that day for 100 or more people a free seven-night stay on their seventh anniversary.

Wedding planners love the thematic possibilities of the date. One bride at the Sagamore is planning to include Lucky 7's scratch-off lottery tickets in the party favors. Others are doing everything from serving seven courses at the reception to seating seven people at each table.

Oddly, some numerologists aren't sure what all the fuss is about. "For most couples, this is not the most desirable wedding date for long-term bliss" said Daniel Hardt, a numerologist and owner of the Life Path Numerology Center in Indianapolis. "The triple 7 can lead to miscommunication. Interactions between the partners is likely to be strained." Marriage is difficult enough to sustain without the added burden of a potentially troublesome anniversary date, he said. "Sorry to be so negative about this unique date," he added, "but I read the numbers, I don't create them."

Meanwhile, none of the hotel wedding planners said they had had an event planned for a slightly similar - but apparently not as popular - date last year. Somehow 6/6/06 didn't have quite the same ring.