Park Begins Charging for Weddings

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Gatlinburg, Sevier County (WVLT) - The wedding business in the Smokies is bigger than ever, but starting this weekend, it will cost you more to have a wedding inside the national park.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb shows you why Uncle Sam will soon be collecting a fee.

Weddings are a special time and the Smoky Mountains has always been a special place for weddings.

But professional wedding businesses have taken hold of that concept and park officials say it has become a problem.

"We've seen a huge increase. Five times more weddings inside the park in the past three to five years," says Nancy Gray, National Parks spokeswoman.

Gray says the influx of weddings has gotten to a point where it has interfered with tourist traffic so the park service will begin regulating weddings inside the park with permits which will help schedule when and where weddings are being held. "So now we can schedule and manage those activities as they apply for those permits."

But it's coming at a cost. For single weddings it's 50 dollars but commercial wedding businesses must pay 200 dollars for a two year permit and 10 dollars a month.
Some feel it's unfair but others see the need.

"I think what they're attempting to do is they are attempting to prevent commercialization in the park so the general public can have ready access to the park," says Douglas Cunha, Chapel at the Park, Owner.

Rick Joyce has already applied and received his permit. He doesn't mind paying the fee. He says the new regulations will help clean up all the black market weddings going on.

"One didn't have businesses licenses, weren't paying sales tax. They were basically working out of the trunks of their cars just collecting money from the public," says Rick Joyce, Cupid's Petals, Owner.

The area has seen an overall decline in all types of weddings so Cunha says they've developed a website to encourage weddings in the Smoky Mountain area,