Ah, the unmitigated beauty of a September wedding on the East coast! It's a lovely time of year, the boiling stench of summer having subsided but the chill of deep fall still at arm's length. The weather is reasonably predictable and the leaves are still on the trees. For a wedding, it's a perfect canvas—until the Pope marches in and pisses all over everything.
When Chill Pope Francis announced that he would be making his first trip to the United States in 2015, it sounded good. He'll crash in Philadelphia for three nights, make the rounds at the huge World Meeting of Families conference, and deliver mass to a couple million people. Pope-y stuff, you know how it is. The issue, however, is when this all goes down: the weekend of September 25-27. Peak wedding season.
There are more than a few couples in the greater Philadelphia area planning to get married that weekend. And if you're hosting a wedding, what do you need? Clonazepam, yes, but also hotel rooms for your guests. Hotel rooms that are suddenly unavailable for the weekend of September 25-27 because hotels have set aside some 30,000 rooms in the Philly area to accommodate the influx of conference attendees and Pope fans.
Jack Ferguson, the head of the Philadelphia Visitors and Convention Bureau, wants to help you understand.
Imagine if, on one weekend, the downtown convention center was hosting 30,000 people while Beyonce and Jay-Z performed on a nearby public stage at the same time the area's major sports clubs — Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, 76ers and even the Union soccer team — were playing championship games at local venues.
"That's how you can get the magnitude of what's happening," he said.
Yes, it's a very big deal. We get it.
Brides have reported calling hotels, inns and B&Bs in the surrounding suburbs, New Jersey, even Atlantic City—nada. Not all hotel rooms are completely booked, but because the papal visit and conference is a three-day extravaganza, many hotels won't release rooms for just one or two nights. So there's no reserving the traditional two-night hotel block for your guests. Moreover, if you do have guests who are actually willing to spend three nights in your host city, they can expect to pay a jacked-up price.
A wedding is about the bride and groom, yes, but if any couple expects people to fly in for their wedding without providing them with reasonable accommodations, they are monsters and will probably end up divorced within five years anyhow.
Ed Gross, Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, was not particularly apologetic about the situation. "The papal visit is the biggest event in our generation in Philadelphia and the economic impact and the jobs and the exposure for the city is priceless," he said (and he's not wrong). "I'm very sympathetic and I hope that 10 months' notice was enough."
No, Ed, 10 months' notice actually isn't enough. Planners will tell you that May through October are the most popular months for weddings; if you intend to get hitched in a major city during that time, you need to plan at least a year ahead (in my experience, think more like 16 months).
Now these couples have little choice here but to change the date of their celebrations. If save-the-dates haven't yet gone out, theoretically this is not a massive deal. Except it absolutely is, seeing as you've got to reschedule with the venue and god knows how many vendors who are getting booked up fast. It's a miracle if all of those separate calendars are clear to make a switch. In some cases, it's been possible but not under ideal circumstances: To avoid starting from scratch, one couple moved their Saturday, September 26 wedding to Friday, October 9 at the same venue. Which, phew, but if you didn't want to get married on a Friday in the first place…
The planning process can range from overwhelming to nightmarish; having to scrap everything and start over again is a stroke-inducing prospect. Not chill, Pope. Not chill at all.
Image via Getty.