Marriage Costs Rise as Retained Demand, Inflation Forces Couples to Cut Budget

Nicole Brandfon and her fiancé Adam Alonso are planning a wedding in Colombia, rather than Miami, because it was cheaper.

Source: Nicole Brandfon

Nicole Brandfon and her fiancé, Adam Alonso, will board a plane from Florida to South America early next year for a destination wedding. The international trip was not their original plan, but it saves them money.

The couple, who have been engaged since June last year, dreamed of having their wedding in Miami, where they both work and live. But as they started planning, the duo quickly realized that prices were out of reach and site availability was minimal for the targeted time frame, late 2022 or early 2023.

“We spent three or four months looking at many different locations and realized we couldn’t afford Miami,” said Brandfon, a 29-year-old account director at a public relations firm.

Brandfon and Alonso’s decision to get married abroad is just one example of how couples are getting creative to cope with the rising costs of hosting a wedding. Sellers are overbooked with pent-up demand created by the Covid pandemic. They also face headwinds in the supply chain leading to shortages. At the same time, inflation drives up the cost of everything from food to labor.

Read more: Rising prices force consumers to ask themselves: can I live without it?

As a result, many couples make compromises and rethink priorities – opting for the dream wedding dress or the open bar over the extravagant floral arrangements.

Brandfon and Alonso will say ‘I do’ in February in the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena, Colombia, at a fraction of the price they got closer to home. Now they can have a wedding planner and plan to serve a variety of dishes at a full seated dinner, Brandfon said.

“Florida, or anywhere in the US for that matter,” she said, “if we wanted something extra, it looked like it would cost a few thousand dollars more.”

Cut line items

Nearly 7 million couples in the US are expected to tie the knot in the next three years, according to research firm The Wedding Report. The pandemic delayed weddings for many of them and accelerated relationship timelines for others, leading to unions between partners spending more time together — and enjoying the extra company — as the lockdowns continued.

This year, couples are expected to host about 2.5 million weddings, a 30% increase from the previous year and a number not seen in four decades, according to The Wedding Report. Over the next two years, the number is expected to decline slightly, the national trading group says, but not by much. Americans are expected to plan 2.24 million weddings next year and 2.17 million the year after.

The amount couples spend to tie the knot also continues to rise. In 2021, according to The Wedding Report, the average couple spent $27,063 on their wedding, compared to about $24,700 per couple in 2019. In 2020, around the start of the pandemic, many couples opted for smaller ceremonies with fewer frills, spending an average of $ 20,286.

As the celebrations roar back, couples find line items to cut.

More couples are choosing to host midweek weddings, says Kim Forrest, senior editor at WeddingWire. That helps with limited venue availability, but it also comes with a cost advantage: some venues offer discounts for events held in the middle of the week on less frequented days.

For example, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, charges a $10,000 facility fee for the property’s Deerpark location for a Saturday wedding this fall. For a Friday or Sunday, the fee is $8,000.

The number of guests has also increased, and that will cost more money.

Shane McMurray

founder of The Wedding Report

Forrest also noted that weddings in the South tend to be cheaper than those in the Northeast, with cities like Boston and New York pushing up the national average.

According to Shane McMurray, founder of the Wedding Report, prices for major wedding expenses will be “much higher” this year than in years past, largely due to higher food, labor and transportation costs. In addition, suppliers who see demand for bookings rise now have the option to quote their price, he said.

“These are the things people care about most: the food and bar, the photography services and of course the location,” he said. “The number of guests is also increasing, and that will cost more money.”

That means couples can make sacrifices elsewhere in the planning process, he said, which would be a loss for some sellers. For example, couples may give less priority to paying for a wedding planner, as long as they don’t mind doing the extra work themselves.

According to data from the Wedding Report, on average, couples spend less on beauty and spa services, a ceremony official, and party favors for their wedding guests. There’s more flexibility with these items to find cheaper options that still get the job done, McMurray said. Add-ons like a photo booth or a videographer are often thrown out altogether to stay within budget.

‘We will have to raise our prices’

Sellers feel the pressure try to be more lenient, knowing that many couples feel they are tight on time and money.

The 2022 wedding season is in “full bloom” on the heels of a pandemic-induced downturn, said Samira Araghi, founder and owner of San Francisco bridal boutique WildBride.

That means more sales for WildBride, which offers a selection of bohemian-inspired wedding dresses, from brands like Pronovias and Willowby, through its website and at its physical store on Fillmore Street.

There were times during the pandemic when it felt like society was reopening and couples were free to hold larger gatherings, she said. But the recovery was difficult due to the periodic spikes of new virus variants.

“If the delta” [variant] came, things were canceled again. And when Omicron came along, things got canceled again,” she said. “Right now, we’re definitely seeing a shift back to full-sized weddings.”

The most pressing issue facing WildBride today is getting finished products through the mail, Araghi said, noting that many suppliers have closed and several fabrics, dresses and styles have been discontinued. “The supply chain issues are a big problem right now,” she said.

WildBride, a bridal boutique in San Francisco, is seeing rising demand for its dresses coupled with increased supply chain complications.

Source: Buena Lane Photography

Looking for solutions, WildBride began offering an “off-the-rack” selection during the pandemic. The dresses in the collection are either older styles or the ones that can be easily bought in bulk from designers. Some dresses are discounted depending on the condition.

It has become an attractive option for women who are planning a last-minute walk down the aisle or encounter logistical challenges while trying to get their hands on another dress for the big day, Araghi said. It’s also an option for the more price-sensitive customer, so they don’t shop elsewhere.

Araghi said she has not yet been forced to increase the prices of items amid widespread inflation, although she knows this is happening at other suppliers, such as florists and jewelers.

However, as shipping costs continue to rise, she said it is inevitable that the company will have to make adjustments — possibly before the end of the year.

“I really think it’s going to happen that, yes, we have to raise our prices,” she said.

Downswing after the boom?

David’s Bridal Chief Executive Officer James Marcum doesn’t see the wedding boom and consumer sensitivity to higher prices going away anytime soon. That’s why the company has invested in its digital loyalty program and a vertically integrated supply chain to offer more benefits and produce more dresses, he explained in a recent sit-down interview.

Marcum said he was starting to notice that some brides were hesitant to spend thousands of dollars for a dress. The retailer has a fairly extensive selection, with prices ranging from $70 to $2,000.

“You’re starting to hear rumors about budget sensitivity,” he said.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the bride forgoes a dress altogether. She could just opt ​​for a cheaper option, Marcum said. “You’ll still get a robust, brighter [wedding dress] company, but it’s really spreading out over 2022 and 2023,” he said.

According to the Wedding Report, brides spent an average of $1,499 on a wedding dress in 2021. That figure is expected to hit $1,527 this year, the report said.

According to the Wedding Report, the number of marriages in the US will be closer to the 2018 level by 2024, at 2.14 million. Couples can rest assured that some locations may be easier to find by then. But it is unclear where the prices will stand.

Victoria Cela and her fiancé Ricardo Goudie plan to get married in 2024.

Source: Victoria That

Victoria Cela, a 27-year-old account manager at a Florida public affairs firm, is betting on a downturn.

Cela and her fiancé, Ricardo Goudie, got engaged in March. Rather than rushing down the aisle, the couple is planning a wedding for early 2024 to give themselves enough time to save money to cover the cost, Cela said.

“Our parents will help us, but of course we want to contribute as much as possible,” she said. “It’s a luxury because we have more time.”

They plan to have their ceremony at a relative’s home in Coral Gables, just outside of Miami, a choice that will allow them to spend their money on things other than the venue.

Cela hopes that sellers’ prices will not be so high by then.

“Every time I go on a website and gauge their prices, I think, ‘Okay, maybe we should increase the budget a little bit more,'” she said.

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