By Joann Mackenzie
---- — Cruiseport Gloucester outdid itself last Sunday, transforming itself with practiced precision inside a single morning into what has arguably become the hottest bridal industry event north of Boston: the Gloucester Wedding Expo.
In just four years, attendance has exploded from under a hundred to more than a thousand, and a beaming Sheree DeLorenzo says “it’s all because of my wonderful staff.”
“This is not a trade show, not a profit maker,” says DeLorenzo, Cruiseport’s president. “It’s a service event, a treat for brides and their wedding parties, and every one of them who comes through our doors we treat like a guest.”
Promptly at noon, more than thousand of those “guests” started streaming through those doors, into the grand ballroom, where a small army of black-tied servers deftly navigated through the crowds bearing trayloads of tasting samples from Vinwood Caterers of Ipswich.
These were hungry lunchtime hordes, and Vinwood — Cruiseport’s exclusive catering partner – kept an all-star lineup of finger-food favorites coming at them by the hundreds, while downstairs in the Harbor Room, Vinwood’s Tom Lang manned a packed antipasto bar, and dieting brides-to-be tossed willpower to the winds and dove in, before moving on to neighboring vendor tables to level towering tiers of wedding cakes.
Then it was back upstairs to the fashion runway, where the gowns were by Bella Sera in Peabody, and the runaway look was a racey take on lacey — a trend that took the bridal gown industry at warp and woof speed in the time it took Kate Middleton to hit the center aisle at Westminster Abbey in her dainty, demure, tapered take on traditional Lyonnaise lace.
By last fall, when the models hit the catwalks at New York’s Fashion Week, Kate’s look had been reinterpreted by the queen of American bridal designers, Vera Wang, who’d added her own spin on lacey, as in lace-up corsets, daringly integrated into the bodice itself, for all to see.
While lace reigned royally on the runway, linens still ruled in table design, laying luxurious landscapes of rich color, where trends run a gorgeous gamut from Asian-influenced organic (moss greens, bamboo, orchids), to Euro ornate (aubergine on black, gleaming with gilt), to resort casual (clear lucite chairs, coastal colors).
Of the 55 local vendors at Sunday’s event, floral designers took center stage at these designer tables. But, says Cruiseport event planner Tanya Biloskirka, “The whole idea of the expo is really about ideas themselves.
“Brides come in here and you can see their imaginations taking off,” she says. “‘Oh my god,’ you hear them saying, ‘have you seen this? Tasted that? Smelled this? Heard this?’”
Vendors say that although the event is big, Cruiseport’s intimacy gives them an unusual chance to bond with brides on a personal level. “It’s awesome,” says Julia Bishop, a Manchester-based photographer, “ I attend a lot of these things and this one is a stand out.”
Like god and the devil, a wedding’s success is all in the details, and nowadays those details add up to a multi-billion dollar wedding industry in the U.S. In Gloucester, it’s hard to say just how much revenue Cruiseport’s wedding business generates, to say nothing of the jobs it creates.
“We average three weddings a weekend, “ says Biloskirka, “we’re full service partners with local vendors, fully booked through 2013 and beyond into 2014, and we’re a destination venue.”
At “an average cost of $30,000 per wedding,” said Vinwoods’ Lang in an earlier interview, “well, you do the math, and we’ll make the magic.”
Joann Mackenzie may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.