PARRISH -- Members of the National Association of Catering Events' Tampa Bay chapter watched a cake descend from the ceiling on a custom-made platform at Bakers Ranch in Parrish while discussing plans for their industry's upcoming busy season.
With the cooler weather come the destination nuptials -- on beaches, in parks, out in the country.
The area also attracts weddings because of the variety of options available to couples said photographer Carrie Wildes.
Lauren Jones, associate director of catering and conference management at Loews Don Cesar Hotel in St. Petersburg, said the hotel sees about 130 weddings a year, many of which are destination weddings.
She said it's "because of the beaches, the laid-back lifestyle and it's different than the Miami or Fort Lauderdale scene."
Of the 40 chapters that make up the National Association of Catering Events, the Tampa Bay chapter is one of its most active, said Sylvia Buell, membership and community relations coordinator for NACE.
The chapter hosts meetings every month to bring together the bay area's event and wedding professionals from dress vendors to caterers to photographers. Samantha Valentin, chapter president, said membership has increased about 20 percent in a year.
Alla Levin, the owner of Bakers Ranch, a bakery that also provides a ranch-style wedding venue, said they had been working on hosting last Tuesday's event -- a cake-decorating contest -- at Bakers Ranch for some time.
Though many chapter members also service other types of events, they rely mostly on weddings.
The Tampa Bay area wedding industry stays busy year-round. Unlike wedding industries in other states, the area has two seasons for weddings; one starting in October and ending around the winter holidays and another starting in mid-February and extending through the end of June.
Amanda Allen moved to Tampa from San Diego about 10 years ago to take advantage of the area's growing wedding in
dustry. She and her husband, Matt, moonlighted unloading trucks at Target, while building MMD Events, their Tampa-based event rental company.
When the Allens first started the company, Amanda Allen said renting furniture and accessories like chair covers was "unheard of." Now customization for every element of weddings is expected.
"We'd just seen it start in San Diego," Amanda Allen said. She said about 75 percent of MMD's business comes from weddings and many characteristics of the southwest coast of Florida make it suitable for starting a company in the event industry.
"Obviously, people like the culture and weather," Amanda Allen said. "And there is a younger and fresher attitude here people want to take advantage of. There is vibrancy in this area and I think that really helps."
According to the Wedding Report, a firm dedicated to research on the wedding industry, the St. Petersburg-Tampa-Clearwater metropolitan area ranks 20th out of 930 metropolitan areas in the United States for number of weddings. The North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota area took number 86 on the list.
The recent growth of NACE's Tampa Bay chapter comes from the relationships within, Jones said.
"All of us are very close knit and work together all of the time," she said. "If people call one of us, we know lots of other people they can work with. We try to make it as easy as possible to let people have weddings in the Tampa Bay area."
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter@jayohday.