On an ordinary Saturday, the Rev. Phil Landers performs one or two weddings, allowing time in between to mingle with the guests and maybe snap a few photos. But July 7, 2007, is no ordinary Saturday.
Wedding watchers say the 7/7/07 date, with its string of lucky sevens, is the most sought-after wedding day in a century, chosen by couples eager to start their lives together with luck on their side. So Landers' schedule is shaping up to be a road trip, a marathon of matrimony that will have him driving throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, marrying five couples.
"I had five times the number of requests for that day. I was talking to my colleagues to see if they had availability, and they were booked, too. So I had to turn a lot of people away," said Landers, an officiant in the Evangelical Free Church who also operates I Do Weddings. His last ceremony is scheduled to end precisely at 7 p.m.
That 7/7/07, a date that occurs only once a century, falls on a Saturday, during a popular month for weddings, is creating the perfect storm of love, according to wedding professionals.
Thousands of couples around the world will share the day. About 38,000 brides have listed July 7 as their wedding date on TheKnot.com., a clearing house for wedding information. That's more than three times the average of 12,000 weddings for a typical July Saturday, according to the Web site.
As part of the frenzy, Six Flags is hosting "Thrilled Ever After - A Wedding to Remember," in which 98 couples will be married at 7 a.m. on various rides at its parks nationwide. Wal-Mart will marry seven couples in the lawn and garden section of seven of its stores as part of its "Lucky in Love Wedding Search."
On the higher end, the Ritz-Carlton New York in Central Park has the Lucky No. 7 wedding package. For a group of 77, it's offering a seven-bottle champagne toast, a seven-tier wedding cake and seven Tiffany & Co. diamonds for the bride. Room 2007 will be available for the bridal party to get ready in, and afterward, the couple gets a seven-night honeymoon at any Ritz-Carlton hotel - all for $77,777. A seven-day advance payment is required.
Kathleen Murray, deputy editor of TheKnot.com, said July 7 is shaping up to be a big wedding date. Nothing else - not even Dec. 31, 1999 - has come close, she said.
Many brides, Murray said, are carrying the seven theme throughout their ceremonies, such as having seven bridesmaids, seating seven people at a table, or choosing a Seven and Seven as the signature cocktail at the reception.
While many picked the date for superstitious reasons, Murray said some women also saw a practical reason to get married July 7.
"We've had brides write that their guys have a hard enough time remembering their birthday, much less an anniversary," Murray said. "7/7/07 is easy to remember."
Stacy Spenser, 26, a social worker from Chicago, agrees. She said her fiance, Brandon Ackley, is "a very sweet guy - but not the best memory in the world." There'll be no excuses, she said, for him to forget their anniversary with a 7/7/07 wedding date.
At first, Spenser didn't realize how popular the date has become.
"We tell people we are getting married on that date, and they say that they wanted to get the same date and couldn't, and I feel bad, and they are jealous," Spenser said. "So I don't always say, 'I'm getting married on 7/7/07.' I just say, 'The wedding is the first week of July.'"
Ernie Di Monte, 42, of Westchester, Ill., said he and his fiancee like to take chances, so it was fitting to get married July 7. Di Monte said seven always has been a lucky number for him - his birthday is Feb. 7 - and getting married on 7/7/07 means "great luck for life."
Surprised at how big the date has become, Di Monte said he's thrilled at the idea of sharing the day with so many others.
"We feel this is our destiny," Di Monte said. "This is love as big as love gets."
Kayce T. Ataiyero writes for the Chicago Tribune.