TRENTON, N.J. --
Sept. 11 conjures varied memories for Yolanda Coleman.
For most of her life, she knew the date as her father's birthday.
Three years ago, the businesswoman was working in lower Manhattan and watched firsthand as the World Trade Center towers crashed down.
Now, Coleman and fianc De Carlos Gamboa plan to put their own stamp on the date _ by getting married.
"At first I was a little mixed," said Coleman, 35, of Piscataway. "I think three years later there's a bit of distance. We want to replace those negative memories with something that's positive."
New Jersey couples-to-be and wedding facilities find themselves conflicted this year _ the first time that Sept. 11 has fallen on a Saturday since before the terrorist attacks. The state's proximity to New York, with its many commuters who head into the city, still finds many grieving for loved ones and colleagues. Nevertheless, steep discounts and the wedding season's limited number of choice dates are expected to help draw couples to the altar.
"It really does strike people as, 'Boy, that's a hard anniversary' and not enough time has gone by and, especially in our area, many of us know people who were killed," said Sharon Naylor, a Madison-based author of 23 books on wedding planning.
On the other hand, said Naylor, "It is a Saturday in September and those days are not so easy to find." Kyle Brown, head of the Bakersfield, Calif.-based Bridal Association of America, said his informal research shows that that nearly three times the number of brides are registered for Sept. 18 compared to Sept. 11.
Based on the work done by his invitation printing business, Brown said the date appears to be eschewed by all but some military couples who have told him they want to "honor" the day by being married.
Erik Kent, who runs a wedding planning site, NJWeddings.com, said some of the couples he assists are getting married on Sept. 11. But more are choosing the Saturday before or after, he said.
Coleman said she expects to save as much as $6,000 on her 200-person wedding at a West Orange banquet hall that features what she called "Old World charm" and French doors opening to gardens. There, guests will hear the bride and groom's African American and Guatemalan backgrounds reflected by a band playing R&B and Latin music, and by watching Coleman and Gamboa, of East Orange, "jump the broom" _ an African American ritual created by slaves who could not legally marry. She's also planning a moment of silence.
Jacqueline Farthing refused to get married at the Ramada Inn in Toms River on Sept. 11.
"That was the absolutely only time they had available and I said no, I'd rather do it in August," said Farthing, 29, a Trenton teacher who lives in Toms River. "I just don't want my anniversary to be the anniversary of all those deaths."
A cancellation allowed her to scoop up a reservation for Friday night, Sept. 10.
One man in Farthing's wedding party lost his brother-in-law in the attacks; she is planning a morning prayer service during a day-after brunch.
Couples who do choose Sept. 11 for their weddings should try to be sensitive to invitees who may be offended "because there is no right way to feel," said Millie Martini Bratten, editor-in-chief of Bride's magazine.
Bratten said she has found the date is more an issue on the East Coast, especially around New York area, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., where the four planes crashed.
She said people who got married in the days and weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, had to make similar emotional decisions.
"Life goes on and there is great happiness and weddings are all about hope and the future," Bratten said. "There's no need to be ashamed of happiness."
Nancy Androsky, a Byram Township native, said Sept. 11 worked out for a variety of reasons. Considerations included her fianc De's brother heading to college in August, and Jewish relatives who will be observing holidays in late September.
"Once we say it, everyone kind of just pauses for a second and some people react, 'Why did you choose that day?' But it doesn't bother us," said Androsky, 24. "We get it from everybody. It's the day we chose and we're happy with it, and if they're not, it is their problem."
By now, Androsky's initial worries about the date have taken a back seat to preoccupation with more typical details, such as her Mount Olive reception site's three serving stations _ pasta, salad and carving, with turkey and roast beef _ and the purple and white rose bouquet she will carry.
"It is a sad day and we're going to make a happy memory of the day," said Androsky, of Ellicott City, Md.
That sentiment may be a tougher transformation for a venue such as The Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, about 40 miles from New York City.
There are tentative plans to host a birthday party at the inn this Sept. 11, but no wedding receptions are booked that day.
The inn held six funeral and memorial services for people who died Sept. 11 three years ago, on what assistant general manager Diane Carr says has "almost become a reverent day."
"We are extremely sensitive to it because we lost so many people and a lot of the brides that might be coming here to look at us for a wedding site may have lost family members or friends and out of respect for that they would not pick a wedding day that might be sad," Carr said.
She said she has gingerly approached brides, offering discounts as low as $100 per person _ rather than the usual $160 _ for five hours of open bar, food and a wedding cake. While every other weekend at the inn is booked, with weddings also planned for Sept. 10 and Sept. 12, Carr said nobody has paused to even consider that Saturday.
"It'll probably be the last possible day that somebody wants to pick. I think it's going to be a long time before somebody picks it as a wedding day," she said.