It's unclear whether July 7, 2007, will be the luckiest wedding day of the century, but it will certainly be one of the busiest this year.
Hotels, wedding planners, caterers, florists and bakers are scrambling to accommodate the flood of couples rushing to the altar on 7/7/07. They're juggling more events than usual. Some are hiring extra help. Old hands say the crush will exceed the number of millennium marriages or those celebrated on a typical Valentine's Day.
There are no official numbers for this day. But one indicator is TheKnot.com, a popular wedding Web site. More than 38,000 couples in TheKnot.com's registry are planning to wed next Saturday -- more than triple the average number of couples that signed up to marry on Saturdays in July 2006, said Christa Vagnozzi, a senior editor.
The date is popular for many reasons, as seven is considered an auspicious number in a variety of cultures.
"It's a little extra luck for a happy, long marriage. Any little bit helps," said Deepak Baskaran, 30, of Baltimore, who will be getting married next Saturday in the District. "Plus I'll never forget that anniversary date, or I'll be in big trouble."
In the Orthodox Jewish tradition, the bride circles the groom seven times when she arrives at the chuppah, a canopy used in weddings, symbolizing in part the seven days of creation. Seven candles are lit during Kwanzaa. There are seven wonders of the world. The Big Dipper is formed from seven stars. Buddha is said to have walked seven steps upon his birth. The Islamic tradition involves seven levels of heaven. The ancient city of Rome was said to be built on seven hills. There are seven deadly sins, as well as virtues, in some Christian traditions. And gamblers hit the jackpot with the slot machine combination 7-7-7.
Triple sevens simply amplify the numerological meaning for those tying the knot.
Snatching up wedding venues
Brides and grooms snatched up wedding venues more than a year in advance. Richard Markel, director of the Association for Wedding Professionals International, did a survey of 2,000 hotels and wedding facilities and discovered that 75 percent were already reserved by December for 7/7/07.
"The good news is that nobody raised their prices," Markel said. "They really didn't expect it."
One wedding planner managed to persuade a bride to get married seven minutes after midnight when she couldn't book the triple sevens.
"There were a lot of brides who actually started looking to buy the date from other brides," Markel said.
Las Vegas, the land of economical and impromptu weddings, is particularly hectic. Travel Web site Vegas.com is booking about six times as many hotel rooms as normal for that weekend. Some hotels and casinos are touting "lucky" deals, such as a chance to win a $777 meal and a mass wedding at 7 p.m.
Creative Cakes in Silver Spring stopped taking orders this week because it was so swamped. Bakers and decorators there will be churning out 21 wedding cakes on July 7 alone. On average, the bakery creates 28 cakes in an entire weekend.
Mercedes Marnay, 39, of Fairfax Station, said she felt a lot of pressure to book wedding vendors before other July 7 brides nabbed them. In the frenzy, she said, she put down a deposit on one wedding vendor, who skipped town and shut down his Web site and e-mail.
"I made a lot of harsh, quick decisions because I didn't want to be without a photographer or a wedding planner," she said.
Soiree Special Events in Reston is planning five weddings for the day. Laura Auer, the owner, said she's hiring about three times as many assistants as normal to help wedding coordinators on July 7.
Wilting flowers and melting cakes
Independence Day weekend has also created staffing problems for some wedding companies. July's humidity, with its wilting flowers and melting cakes, has typically been as undesirable time for weddings and perfect for long Fourth of July vacations.
"It's as hot as can be," said Leslie Poyourow, owner of Fancy Cakes By Leslie in Gaithersburg. "Who wants to be sweaty in a heavy bridal gown?"
Apparently, a lot of brides. Poyourow has hired extra hands to replace her vacationing staffers.
The trend in personalized and unique-themed weddings has sevens showing up everywhere. Seven-tiered wedding cakes. Seven-course meals. The Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City is celebrating with deluxe hotel packages for $7,777 and $7 drink specials. The date has also inspired gambling-themed slogans, such as "We hit the jackpot on our wedding," to accompany "777" on chocolate poker chips, hats, buttons and jackets for puppies.
Tammy Barrick, 26, Baskaran's fiancee, is offering M&Ms and candy bars stamped with three sevens as party favors. And there's more: An ice sculpture with the bride's and groom's names intertwined with the date. Mini wine bottles labeled with the triplicate. Seven bridesmaids and seven groomsmen.
"We didn't want to overdo it, but we do have it on a lot of things," she said.
The cost of all this good fortune can be steep.
"That's the unlucky part for the bride's father," said Colleen Evans, a spokeswoman for Ritz-Carlton in the District.
A few companies, such as Wal-Mart and the theme park chain Six Flags, are hosting special wedding celebrations on their premises.
"We go to Wal-Mart on average once, sometimes twice, a week," said Ella Glass, 25, who will be walking down the aisle at the Wal-Mart lawn and garden center in her hometown of Louisville, Ky. "We often window-shop at Wal-Mart together, so it makes sense to extend the Wal-Mart date to a Wal-Mart wedding."
Perhaps Washington weddings will be particularly lucky. After all, the city is at 77 degrees west longitude.
Wedding professionals are now hoping that another triplicate, 8/8/08, will be a popular date, as well as consecutive numbers like 6/7/08.
Somehow, 6/6/06 didn't arrive with the same fanfare.