DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Steve Li, Audra Stevenson, Louis Donato and Kellie Peterson modeled wedding fashions yesterday at the Hawaii Bridal Expo at the Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall. CLICK FOR LARGE
Isle wedding businesses get a numeric boost as scores of couples set their marriage dates for 07/07/07
JASON VONACK and fiancée Liz Harris are not superstitious. But they are lucky to have booked their marriage arrangements on what's quickly becoming the busiest wedding day of the year.
"The 07/07/07 thing seemed pretty cool. It's supposed to bring good luck," said Vonack, 33, who is taking a week off from his Air Force job -- or seven days -- to exchange vows with Harris at Waimanalo Bay on July 7. "It's a Saturday, summer, so it kind of all fits."
The desirable date is more than five months away, but wedding planners, photographers and ministers on Oahu are already having trouble fitting scores of requests into their schedules.
Easy-to-remember running-number dates like 07/07/07 are usually a popular choice for couples, except for last year's 06/06/06.
"On six, six, six, we did one or two, but that's like a demonic number. A lot of people are superstitious and didn't do that. Friday the 13th is also a slow day," said the Rev. Toni Baran of A #1 Hawaii Weddings, who has received 300 inquiries for July 7 so far. "What I'm telling people on the mainland is, if you want that date, do it now or yesterday," she joked.
The Rev. Howie prefers to marry one couple a day "to really put our hearts into it." But on July 7, he will be forced to stack ceremonies. Photos will be done later, he said.
"It's way off the charts. It makes Valentine's Day look like 9/11," said Howie, who's been marrying people for more than 30 years and has a record nine appointments on 07/07/07.
"I guarantee you, in my lifetime, it's going to be the busiest day I'll ever have," he said, adding he just received e-mails from two more couples claiming to have had the greatest wedding idea ever. "There will be more, and I'm going to try to talk them out of it."
For bride-to-be Jennifer Lee, the number seven has always been associated with slot machines.
"We were just looking for a Saturday in the summer, and then I said, 'Look, lucky seven, seven, seven,'" said Lee, who met her fiance, Matthew Okumura, in Hawaii at a friend's wedding.
The date also falls after the Fourth of July holiday. "So it makes it easier because a lot of our friends and family live on the mainland, and it will be a nice vacation for them," Lee said.
Hawaii is already one of the top destinations to tie the knot. In November alone, more than 13,000 tourists flew to the islands' sandy beaches and lush rain forests to become husband and wife. Nearly 39,000 others came to honeymoon, according to the state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism.
Christine Zehnder is one of the people flying to Hawaii to get married on July 7. The 29-year-old New Jersey resident met Vincent Patalano, an actuary, while giving cheerleading classes for his daughter. She said it's just fate that she's getting married on 07/07/07 in Hawaii. She's flying here because she's always wanted to visit the islands, not because of superstition.
"I've never been there, I always wanted to be there for my honeymoon, so just wanted to get away and do it privately there," she said.
Weddings have always been "a huge business" for Hawaii because it stimulates several sectors of the economy, said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert.
"They tend to come in big groups. So it's not just the bride and groom, it's that wedding party," she said. "It's not necessarily just the hotels that prosper from it. You got photographers, videographers, the ministers, the caterers, and on and on and on."
Photographer David Murphy said people started reserving the July 7 date a year in advance.
But couples who miss out this year still have time to pick another auspicious date, if they can wait 18 months.
"Next year, 08/08/08 is going to be a big one, specially for Chinese," he said. The number eight is associated with prosperity in Cantonese and is considered a good day to start a new enterprise.
"That will be a really good luck day," Murphy said.