AKRON, Ohio — With all of its gardens, greenery and unlimited photo opportunities, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Akron is a popular site for weddings.
The daffodils are starting to pop up. The trees in The Birch Allee, a favorite spot for ceremonies, have yet to bloom but requests for weddings at Stan Hywet are booming.
The major reason is the easing of the pandemic after two years of weddings being rescheduled or canceled.
"We're extremely busy," said Sara Crane, the sales and catering manager. "Everybody from 2020 moved to 2021. People that got engaged in '21 couldn't get married in '21 because everything was booked up so they've moved to '22 and we're fully booked for ceremonies through August, September and October."
Typically, Stan Hywet books about 60 wedding ceremonies and 20 to 25 receptions each year. However, in 2022, 76 weddings and 38 receptions have already been reserved.
"I was reading an article the other day where about 40% of the wedding industry is having a boost compared to previous years," Crane said. "A lot of our clients are having a hard time finding other vendors: photographers, officiants, DJs because everybody's been booked up for so long now."
Miranda Dobbins and Patrick Smith, of Akron, decided they didn't want to wait any longer to tie the knot.
The couple, who met at work at Huntington Bank five years ago, delayed possible wedding dates because of pandemic restrictions, but on Friday afternoon they were among several couples who got married at Jilly's Music Room.
The ceremonies were officiated by Judge David Hamilton from Akron Municipal Court, announced as a special offer by the court back in February.
Dobbins and Smith said they heard about the April Fool's Day weddings on social media and liked the idea.
"We're just weird. I'm big. She's tiny. Like our whole life is just being unique and fun," Smith said.
"We're funny people. We like jokes. We're not serious about traditions, etc. It just goes along with the uniqueness," Dobbins added.
Dobbins fought through tears during the wedding vows. The day was extra emotional for her because her best friend, a 27-year-old man named Vince, died from cancer several months ago.
"I just wish he could be here," she said. "Everything I do is with his name in it."
After Hamilton pronounced the couple man and wife, Smith picked up his bride and spun her around.
It was a day filled with special memories to remember and the Smiths are now looking forward to anniversary dates that will be hard to forget.
"To me, it's just a piece of paper, but she's happy to have that piece of paper that says we love each other, so I'm happy to have it too," Smith said.