Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fredericksburg inns are wooing weddings

The new Historic Inns of Fredericksburg will hold an open house May 1 to showcase their venues to brides planning destination weddings

THE newly formed Historic Inns of Fredericksburg have banded together to promote downtown as a location for destination weddings.

Members will hold their first Downtown Bridal Open House on May 1 to showcase their venues, and are encouraging downtown merchants to participate as well.

"It's an opportunity to come into town that day and wander around and go in all these lovely inns and other venues," said Barbara Lucas, who handles marketing for The Olde Silk Mill Inn.

Brides can register at the inn, a 27-room bed-and-breakfast at 1707 Princess Anne St., from 1 to 5 p.m. that day for prizes and sample wedding, sweet and savory cheesecakes provided by The Cheesecake Garden. Owner Susan Palma currently takes orders online but plans to open a storefront downtown.

From there, brides can either walk or drive about a dozen blocks to see the other bed-and-breakfasts in the organization. They are the Kenmore Inn, 1200 Princess Anne St.; The Richard Johnston Inn, 717 Caroline St., and its sister inn, The Caroline House, 528 Caroline St.; and The Schooler House, 1303 Caroline St.

Several other businesses already plan to participate in the open house as well. Trolley Tours of Fredericksburg, for example, will have a banner about the event; and I Thee Wed, which is at 2201 Lafayette Blvd., will have a display in the Wilson Building, 915 Caroline St.

The Inn at the Olde Silk Mill hosted its own bridal open house last year. It attracted about 100 people. Lucas said she thinks that the May 1 event, which Historic Inns of Fredericksburg hopes to hold annually, will attract more than twice that and will grow even larger in the years ahead.

"Next time, it could be something that everybody looks forward to and plans to attend," she said.

Owners of the five participating bed-and-breakfasts formed Historic Inns of Fredericksburg in January to pool their marketing dollars and boost their profile. They're working on a website, which will have a link on visitfred.com, the area tourism site, and a brochure promoting all five properties that's aimed at tour groups and wedding parties.

"Between all the inns, we have over 50 rooms," Lucas said. "We can easily accommodate an upscale motorcoach group."

The Inn at the Olde Silk Mill will soon add an additional venue. Owner Ed Whelan III is renovating the former silk-mill building behind the inn as a 300-seat event space for weddings, conferences, trade shows and other activities.

"We already have weddings booked for May and June in that building," said inn manager Anna Sanborn.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407
Email: cjett@freelancestar.com

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