You might not think of the village of Riverside as a wedding “destination,” but the idea might not that be far-fetched, local officials believe.
Members of the Riverside Economic Development Commission at their meeting on Jan. 11 agreed to begin gathering information on local businesses whose products and services might attract couples looking for a special place to host their weddings.
What makes commissioners optimistic Riverside might be able to leverage some of its businesses and facilities to make Riverside a desirable wedding destination? In part due to the fact that weddings have in fact been held in village parks in the past.
Even more to the point, Brookfield Zoo, which is located partially within Riverside’s corporate limits, already is a wedding destination.
Jennifer Baader, vice president of government affairs for the Chicago Zoological Society told commissioners at the Jan. 11 meeting that Brookfield Zoo hosted between 65 and 75 weddings each year in four different venues, two of which are located within Riverside’s corporate boundaries.
Brookfield Zoo actively markets the park as a wedding destination, said Baader. In addition to posting ads on social media, Brookfield Zoo buys print and radio advertising to promote its venues for weddings.
“Our marketing department is highly engaged in the strategy and the outreach for our weddings to maximize the revenue from them,” Baader said.
Brookfield Zoo also has an onsite “showroom” where couples can sample food that is catered by the zoo. The zoo also provides prospective wedding customers with a list of preferred vendors for services related to weddings – florists, photographers, entertainment, etc. – as well as business cards and fliers for other local resources.
And while the zoo prefers to promote itself as a one-stop shop for weddings – from the ceremony to the reception – Baader said the zoo would be open to providing information on local churches or other places as wedding ceremony venues.
The Economic Development Commission is interested in providing a way for local businesses to get in front of couples seeking to wed at the zoo and benefit from a booming wedding industry in their own backyard.
Baader said the zoo would welcome business cards, fliers and other information from Riverside businesses offering wedding support services.
As far as Riverside being a destination for receptions, it’s not that unusual. Wedding ceremonies have been held at the Scout Cabin, Big Ball Park and at the downtown train station. And while Riverside Township has resisted renting the township hall for events featuring alcohol, Riverside Public Library is available for such rentals.
The village might also want to market itself as a photography destination – and promote local photographers at the same time — since there are numerous picturesque locations in Riverside perfect for wedding photos.
Commissioners suggested that the Riverside village website might include a wedding destination page, which could be promoted on social media and through email blasts. Riverside might also provide wedding destination information that could be included as part of its membership in Visit Oak Park, a regional tourist agency to which Riverside belongs.
“People need to see that something is happening,” said Jack Buoscio, a member of the Economic Development Commission at the Jan. 11 meeting. “Whatever comes of this, it’ll evolve naturally.”