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What is supposed to be the happiest day of a couple’s life has turned into concern of complete havoc for would-be brides and grooms with weddings planned during Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia Sept. 26-27 for the 2015 World Meeting of Families.
While the announcement of the pope’s visit was made last November, many weddings are planned a year or more in advance. For those who set aside the end of September in the city had to face the reality of either moving the date or the venue.
“We are fortunate that anything that needed to be rescheduled or moved as a result of the papal visit was done months ago when this visit was announced,” said Jaimi Gordon, director of public relations at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. “Anyone who needed to make adjustments did so knowing that there might be challenges resulting from the visit.”
The Loews Hotel is one of several venues in the city that are being used to accommodate the mass of people coming to the city for the World Meeting of Families.
Even wedding planners have had to try and handle the unusual situation as best they can.
For Lynda Barness at I DO Wedding Consulting, once the pontiff’s visit was made official, it was time to work.
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“The minute I heard the date for the World Meeting of Families, I put it on my calendar,” she said. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t take a wedding anywhere near Center City for that weekend.”
Though Barness has had experience working around major events, she knew nothing in her past would be anywhere near as large as the World Meeting of Families would be.
Even weddings being held outside of Center City are affected by the visit.
Mary Ellen Kleger’s daughter is set to get married Sept. 26 at The Old Mill in Rose Valley, about 20 miles from the city.
“Thankfully, she did not want a Center City wedding,” Kleger said.
While the pope’s visit doesn’t force a venue change, there’s a little trouble accommodating out-of-town guests.
“Once I had the venue, photographer, florist and all the big stuff booked, we started looking for hotel rooms for our out-of-town guests,” Kleger said. “We had a really difficult time when it came to that.”
Hotels in the city have been blocking out hotel rooms since even before the announcement of Pope Francis’ visit. The Klegers felt the brunt.
“We are putting people who are coming from out of town up in the Chadds Ford area,” Kleger said. “We couldn’t get anything closer to where the wedding is actually going to be held. All the hotels that I contacted said, ‘Sorry, but we’re blocking rooms for the pope’s visit.’”
The hotels in Chadds Ford may be closer to the venue, but farther from the Philadelphia International Airport.
Also posing a problem are the road closures in and around the city starting the night of Sept. 25.
“We have a lot of people coming from Center City out to the wedding,” Kleger said. “I’m concerned about them being stuck in traffic and having to allow many hours to get to a place that should only take them half an hour. Also a concern is getting back into the city that night.”
Though Kleger’s daughter has been luckier than most since her wedding is outside the city, but the World Meeting of Families has definitely added extra stress on her and the family.
“We’ve had some pretty intense moments every time something new is coming out from the city about the roads being closed or where you can and can’t go,” Kleger said. “It has been a bit of a hassle for us on top of just the regular wedding jitters.”