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Wine Country Weddings See Massive Downturn After North Bay Wildfires

SONOMA (KPIX 5) – Wedding planners in the North Bay say their businesses are taking a huge hit following the wildfires.

In Sonoma, bookings have nosedived.

It's one of California's most popular spots to say 'I do' but since the wine country wildfires many couples don't choose the area for their special day and its taking its toll on the industry.

Wedding planner Samar Hatter said, "It's a pretty catastrophic time for many of us."

Hatter runs Blissful Events, one of top planning companies in the area. This time last year, she was 80 percent booked. Post-fires, she's only 15 percent booked.

She says venues and vendors are feeling the pinch, too.

"It's so unfortunate that there are so many vendors in this industry that have lost their homes and are now are on the line for losing their businesses," Hatter said.

The Visitors Bureau doesn't track revenue from weddings, but you can believe it's a big business. So much so, they have a complimentary referral website for brides-to-be.

It's been quiet in even the busiest booking time of the year and you can blame misperception.

Charmaine Louzao with Sonoma County Tourism said, "So we've recently done a survey and the consensus is that we've burned completely, we've burned down. And that's not the case. We are absolutely open for business."

So while Sonoma County only lost one wedding venue in the fires, the collateral damage of the blaze will likely be millions of dollars in lost revenue, which is why the industry is trying to get word out -- with social media, photo shoots, and advertising -- that they are more ready than ever to host your happily ever after.

Christy Simon, general manager at Thomas George Estates said, "It's a time for new beginnings. Just take the time to start life new with a wedding in a place that's rebirthing itself from a tragic event."

Wedding planners hope visitors will get the word out that Sonoma County is indeed open for business.

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