What Do Weekday Weddings Say About Your Local Economy?


October 14, 2013 – By Melissa Preddy

Spring may be the traditional season of brides, but fall is when a lot of wedding planning takes place.

Party planning trends also can make for interesting local economic indicators, and with holiday season coming up you can double-dip in interviews, getting a read on corporate and private Christmas bookings as well as nuptial trends.

First, though, I wanted to point out an interesting story that made the rounds recently, but that I couldn’t fit into a blog post: Usually we write about weddings from the bridal party’s point of view, or from the businessperson’s angle — but as Marketwatch reported, 43 percent of people polled by American Consumer Credit Counseling said they have declined wedding invitations because of the expense. MarketWatch cited an American Express study that found average guest costs are $539 — up a whopping 60 percent from 2012. Here’s the American Consumer Counseling media release, which also says that a good many people would go into debt to participate in a wedding. So keep this in mind when you write about the wedding industry; an infographic about guest costs, or the spin-off business generated by guests (transporation, lodging, child care, attire, gifts) is one that your audience can relate to even if they aren’t anticipating a trip up the aisle.

Meanwhile, wedding expos are one place to start for an overview of the myriad local businesses, from calligraphers and photographers to caterers and tailors, that depend on bridal business to keep their small- and medium-sized businesses afloat. This interactive map from the Association for Wedding Planners International is a handy directory to expo and bridal show promoters by geographic areas; the promotors themselves are an interesting subject for a profile, in addition to being excellent sources of leads to exhibitors. And they can probably provide historical stats to show how exhibitors in various categories have waxed and waned with the economy — presumably dresses and rings are less expendable than frills likepersonalized bottled water and doggie formal wear. What are trends in wedding venues, entertainment, food?

Speaking of the bottled water, the niche of wedding favors, goodie bags (also known as “welcome bags” or “amenity bags”) for reception guests, out-of-town visitors and others involved in the big day seems to have created an industry unto itself; that’s one niche you could focus on, as illustrated by the site MyWeddingReceptionIdeas.com, which offers “essentials” like guest towels, personalized coasters and swizzle sticks in addition to personalized gift bags and the like. Craft stores are another source of information about products and services in this category.

How is technology changing wedding spending; this infographic says paperless invitations and ceremony streaming are on the upswing, while music downloads are replacing DJs. Who gains and who loses as technological changes take hold?

Traditional wedding spending on the bridal party’s attire, the service, rings and a honeymoon generate revenue for the related service and retail sectors. And the business of coordinating all of those items is pretty big, too — a recent report from the market research firm IBISWorld says that while the wedding planning industry is expected to wane a bit in coming years, it’s still growing due to the economic rebound. (Hint: How are wedding planners making up for lost business? What is their business model, anyway — commissions from vendors or a fee from the consumers, or both? Are they branching out into bat mitzvahs, baby showers, quinceaneras, engagement parties and holiday planning?)

Professional organizations abound, from the National Association of Wedding Professionals to theAssociation of Bridal Consultants to the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants; you might see which groups are most active in your region and tell consumers what these credentials mean for them, if anything.

Non-weekend weddings are an interesting trend, or other consumer money-saving ploys like purchasing items or booking services without using the keyword “wedding,” Huffington Post reported last spring on British and Australian studies that found costs were higher — for the same items — when booked for a wedding vs. a “family party.” Is that happening in your market?

What effect are demographic trends having on wedding-related spending? A recent release from the research firm Demographic Intelligence, which publishes The Wedding Forecast says marriage rates are falling and that younger, less educated women are less likely to marry.