Births, weddings and deaths are the three recession-proof events in most people’s lives.
With celebrity ceremonies, royal nuptials and a reality series focused on brides, weddings remain a big business in Oklahoma and the nation. In 2006, the national spending for weddings rose to $73 billion, according to Conde Nast Bridal, which means brides were spending almost double what they did 15 years prior.
According to The Wedding Report, a research company, the spending market for tying the knot in 2010 improved over 2009. Spending was up 23%, with wedding professionals expecting better conditions for 2011. In a recent Wedding Report survey, 86.6% of wedding consultants surveyed reported an increase in average amount spent, with 55.7% expecting “excellent” conditions for sales.
In a January 2011 report, the average cost of a wedding increased 22.9% between 2009 and 2010, from $19,581 to $24,066 in 2010. For 2011, the average price of weddings nationally is up to $28,704.
“I think the economy has affected the wedding business more in other cities, but we’re not experiencing that so much in Oklahoma City,” says Judy Lehmbeck of Judy Lehmbeck Bridal and Party. “There has absolutely been a big drop in the wedding business, and experts from all over are feeling the crunch, but we haven’t felt it as bad here in Oklahoma.”
The white wedding dress may be one of the most expensive purchases for the big day, unless the bride is willing to choose a more budget-friendly option.
On the lower end of spending, a dress can cost $200 or less if buying off-the-rack or synthetic fabric from a department store or chain bridal retailer. The midrange cost ranges from $500 to $1,000 for dresses with more detail, and higher-end custom-made designer dresses can cost between $2,000 and $10,000.
The recession has created a ripple in the wedding industry, but the dress is still worth spending extra.
“It has changed brides’ priorities and caused them to re-evaluate their budgets,” says Meg Guess, designer and owner of Meg Guess Couture Bridal and Boutique. “Brides are still spending, but they are cutting corners in areas that are less visible, and are focusing on important things like the dress.”
Trends in dresses this year have leaned toward “girlie and soft,” Guess says, with cascades of fabric and texture, instead of sparkle, adding the oomph.
“Bold accessories, whether that’s a giant flower in the hair, a large sash or a statement necklace, are hot,” she says, adding that many brides choose not to skimp when choosing a dress. “A wedding is the girlnext-door’s only chance at a ‘red carpet moment.’ It is what will be captured in the pictures she will show for years to come. At the end of the day, the bride is the main focus of the entire event.”
Flower arrangements and bouquets are an integral part of any wedding, but even florists will admit they are “a luxury item.” Still, whether the budget is large or small, brides look for petals to perk up an event.
“Brides are definitely watching their budget more these days,” says Stephanie Humes, CEO and lead designer at A Date with Iris floral studio. “We still have the heavy-hitter weddings, but the younger girls who are ‘do-it-yourself’ types may just get little jars set up with one or two blooms in them.”
Since environmentally friendly weddings are on the rise, A Date with Iris specializes in locally grown flowers. Hunes says her clients like the personal touch, but are at the mercy of the seasons.
“Locally grown is more cost-effective, but it depends on the season,” she says. “We try to offer something different than just roses.”
Vintage arrangements are an ongoing trend, as well, she says, with brides going for the nostalgic feel. One bride collected old books to use as part of her table arrangements, dotted with a few flowers here and there.
“The vintage feel is big this year,” Humes says. “It’s very light and ethereal. We’re always going to have those big weddings, but I do have those who are watching their budget very closely.”
Gene Milligan of Hydrangea floral studio in Oklahoma City hates to talk in terms of trends. When it comes to where weddings and receptions are held, there are no trends, he says.
“It’s really up to the bride and what she wants,” says Milligan. “With gas prices the way they are, a lot of people are choosing places like country clubs, where they can have the wedding and then just go inside for the reception, too.”
“Cookie-cutter” wedding packages are also popular now, he says, with venues offering three-hour services that are fully prepared.
“Nice hotels are very popular, too. Again, having a wedding and the reception in the same place is a big deal,” he says. “Right now, the trend is no trend — it’s basically what a bride can afford, due to the economy.”
Destination weddings are on the rise nationally, but don’t expect to spend any less. In a recent Condé Nast Bridal Group American Wedding Study, the average cost of a destination wedding is $25,806. On the flip side, according to Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazine, the occurrence of destination weddings is up, constituting 15% to 20% of all weddings.
“For awhile, it was all about the destination wedding. People were buying wedding packages to places like Disneyland, Cabo and Mexico,” Milligan says. “It’s smaller. People wanted to get married on the beach.”
Other venues, such as museums and convention centers, also are gaining popularity.
“It all depends on the size of the wedding,” he says. “If it’s a small wedding, you have a lot of choices of venues. If you have 200 or more people, you’ll have to look at the larger, more expensive venues.”
Nationally, catering spending is down. According to the National Association of Catering Executives, 48% of catering executives surveyed said they saw a decline in wedding spending. In Oklahoma City, spending isn’t necessarily down, but awareness of where dollars are going is up.
“People are definitely more costconscious and are looking for ways to get more bang for their buck, more ‘wow!’ for their dollar,” says Maggie Howell, owner of Aunt Pittypats Catering.
Brides are choosing more of a reception-style of catering over heavy sitdown meals, she says, and that’s a trend she expects to continue.
“They’re heavy into hors d’oeuvres stations and stand-up reception stations, and that’s been a big trend in the last three years,” she says. “Again, people are being a little choosier on what they are spending and are tightening up on the frivolous costs.”
Howell says unique, interactive cooking stations are a popular choice for receptions, with station offerings ranging from risotto to sliders to Cajun shrimp.