Wedding prices are on the rise as pent-up demand and inflation force couples to cut spending

Nicole Brandfon and her fiancé Adam Alonso are planning a wedding in Colombia instead of Miami because it was more affordable.

Source: Nicole Brandfon

Nicole Brandfon and her fiancé Adam Alonso will board a plane from Florida to South America early next year to celebrate their wedding. Traveling abroad wasn’t part of their original plan, but they’re saving money.

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

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

Brandfon and Alonso’s decision to marry abroad is just one example of how couples are getting creative as they battle the rising costs of organizing a wedding. Vendors are overwhelmed due to unsatisfied demand caused by the Covid pandemic. They also face obstacles in the supply chain, leading to shortages. At the same time, inflation increases the cost of everything from food to labor.

Read more: Rising prices are making consumers wonder: Can I live without it?

As a result, many couples are compromising and rethinking priorities – opting for a dream wedding dress or open bar over extravagant floral arrangements.

Brandfon and Alonso will say yes in February in the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena, Colombia, for a fraction of the cost they have quoted closer to home. According to Brandfon, they now have a wedding planner and intend to serve a variety of dishes for dinner with full seating.

“Actually, in Florida or somewhere in the US,” she said, “if we wanted anything extra, it seemed like it would be another couple of thousand dollars.”

Reducing positions

About 7 million couples in the US are expected to tie the knot in the next three years, according to industry research firm The Wedding Report. The pandemic has delayed weddings for many of them and hastened relationship timelines for others, spurring engagements between partners who spent more time together and enjoyed extra company when lockdowns were in place.

Couples are expected to have about 2.5 million weddings this year, up 30% from the previous year, according to The Wedding Report, and the number hasn’t been seen in four decades. That number is expected to drop slightly over the next two years, the national trade group says, but not by much. Americans are projected to plan 2.24 million weddings next year and 2.17 million the year after.

The amount that couples spend to tie the knot also continues to rise. In 2021, the average couple spent $27,063 on their wedding, compared to about $24,700 per couple in 2019, according to The Wedding Report. in the amount of $20,286.

As the celebration returns, couples are finding articles they can cut back on.

According to Kim Forrest, senior editor at WeddingWire, more couples are opting for weekday weddings. This helps with limited seat availability, but it also comes with a price advantage: some places offer discounts on events that take place on less frequented days in the middle of the week.

For example, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina is charging a $10,000 wedding venue fee in Deerpark for a Saturday wedding this fall. On Friday or Sunday, the fee will set you back $8,000.

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

Shane MacMurray

founder of The Wedding Report

Forrest also noted that weddings held in the South tend to be cheaper than those in the Northeast, and cities like Boston and New York have a higher national average.

Prices for basic wedding expenses this year are forecast to be “much higher” than in recent years, due in large part to higher costs for food, labor and transportation, said Shane McMurray, founder of Wedding Report. In addition, suppliers who are seeing a surge in order demand now have the ability to name their price, he said.

“That’s what people care about the most – the food and the bar, the photography and of course the venue,” he said. “The number of guests has also increased and it will cost more money.”

That means couples could make sacrifices elsewhere in the planning process, he says, which would be a loss for some providers. For example, couples can waive wedding planner fees if they don’t mind doing the extra work themselves.

According to the Wedding Report, on average, couples spend less money on beauty and spa services, ceremony and souvenirs for guests at the wedding. With these elements, there’s more flexibility to find less costly options that will still get the job done, McMurray says. Add-ons, such as a photo booth or videographer, are usually left out entirely to stay within budget.

“Have to raise prices”

Sellers feel the pressure try to be more accommodating, knowing that many couples are experiencing a shortage of time and money.

The 2022 wedding season is in “full bloom” after the downturn caused by the pandemic, said Samira Aragi, founder and owner of San Francisco’s WildBride bridal boutique.

That means bigger business for WildBride, which offers a selection of bohemian-inspired wedding dresses from brands like Pronovias and Willowby through its website and its one and only store on Fillmore Street.

There were times during the pandemic, she said, when society seemed to be reopening and couples were free to hold large gatherings. But it has been a bumpy recovery due to periodic spikes in new variants of the virus.

“When delta [variant] came, everything was canceled again. And then when the omicron came, everything was canceled again,” she said. “We are definitely seeing a return to normal-sized weddings right now.”

The most pressing issue WildBride is facing today is receiving finished products by mail, Araga said, noting that many suppliers have closed and some fabrics, dresses and styles have been discontinued. “Supply chain issues are very important right now,” she said.

WildBride, a San Francisco-based bridal boutique, is seeing a surge in demand for its dresses, coupled with an increasingly complex supply chain.

Source: Photo of Buena Lane.

Looking for solutions, WildBride has begun offering ready-made choices during the pandemic. The dresses in the collection are either old styles or those that can be easily bought in bulk from designers. Some dresses are discounted, depending on the condition.

According to Araga, it has become an attractive option for women who plan to make a last-minute walk down the aisle or face logistical issues trying to purchase one more dress before the big day. It’s also an option for more price sensitive customers so they don’t shop elsewhere.

Aragi said that she hasn’t been forced to raise the price of goods yet due to widespread inflation, although she knows it happens in other stores such as flower and jewelry stores.

However, as shipping costs continue to rise, she said businesses will inevitably have to make adjustments — possibly before the end of the year.

“I really think it will, yes, we will have to raise our prices,” she said.

Fall after boom?

James Marcum, chief executive officer of David’s Bridal, doesn’t think the bridal boom or consumer sensitivity to higher prices will disappear anytime soon. That’s why the company is investing in its digital loyalty program and vertically integrated supply chain to be able to offer more perks and produce more dresses, he explained in a recent interview.

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

“You start hearing rumors about budget sensitivity,” he said.

Of course, this does not mean that the bride will refuse the dress altogether. She just might choose the less expensive option, Markum said. “You will still see a strong, bright [wedding dress] business, but in fact it extends to 2022 and 2023,” he said.

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

By 2024, the number of U.S. weddings will fall closer to 2018 levels, to 2.14 million, according to Wedding Report. Couples can be sure that some places will be easier to find by then. But it is not clear where the prices will be.

Victoria Sela and her fiancé Ricardo Gudi are planning to get married in 2024.

Source: Victoria Sela

Victoria Sela, a 27-year-old account manager at a public relations firm in Florida, is betting on the downturn.

Sela and her fiancé Ricardo Gudi got engaged in March. Instead of rushing down the aisle, the couple is planning their wedding for early 2024 so they have enough time to save up for expenses, Sela said.

“Our parents will help us, but we obviously want to do our best,” she said. “It’s a luxury because we have more time.”

They plan to hold their ceremony at a family member’s home in Coral Gables, just outside of Miami, allowing them to invest their money in more ways than just the venue.

Sela hopes that sellers’ prices won’t be so high by then.

“Every time I go to a website and look at their prices, I think, ‘OK, maybe we need to increase the budget a bit,'” she said.

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