Timeless Savannah spots become popular wedding venues, boost local economy

ByZach Logan|January 10, 2020 at 9:22 AM EST - Updated January 10 at 9:29 AM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - There’s a good chance you or someone you know recently got engaged. Wedding vendors say they usually see a spike in engagements over the holidays.

A lot of people look to Savannah for their special day, which puts a lot of money into our economy.

Several well-known spots were never meant to serve as wedding venues. But with Savannah now becoming a wedding destination, WTOC found a couple of places that are taking advantage of all of the "I Do's."

Established in the 1740s,Bethesdawas meant to serve as an orphanage. Today, it’s a private school for boys in grades 6th through 12th. Other titles it holds include the oldest existing children’s organization in the United States and a popular wedding spot.

“We are quintessential Savannah. We’ve got the marsh, the oaks, the moss, and that’s what people want when they come to Savannah,” said Terry Longworth, oversees Bethesda’s wedding enterprise.

Longworth says the property offers two different venues for a couple’s ceremony. They also have two options for receptions. A wedding at Bethesda can cost anywhere from $500 to $3,500.

“After 10 years, we realized we could make a profit, so we started offering more incentives. We opened a bridal room, a restroom. We charged a higher fee, but also included someone on-site to help just in case something went wrong,” Longworth said.

The money spent at Bethesda Academy goes into a scholarship fund to help students pay for tuition.

“All students that go to Bethesda do pay tuition of some sort. It is based on a sliding scale,” said Longworth.

The city of Savannah says the Hostess City has become a wedding destination, and many businesses are also hoping to profit from it by turning their own spaces into wedding venues.

Longworth says the school has seen a slight decline in wedding interest due to local competition.

“People are noticing that this is a good market for destination weddings and a lot of people are getting into the business so we have to share it,” Longworth explained.

Longworth said last year, they took some time to step back and tweak their wedding enterprise, and they’re looking forward to seeing more happy couples in 2020.

“Things are starting to pick up. I’ve booked a couple of weddings last month when there’s a spark in the engagement season,” he said.

The city is also capitalizing on weddings. Last year, Savannah was issued more than 320 permits for couples to privately wed in a city square or park. The money raised from these permits goes into the city’s general fund for citywide services.

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Photo: WTOC

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