The wedding boom is winding down but inflation is still driving up the cost to say ‘I do’

The wedding boom is winding down but inflation is still driving up the cost to say ‘I do’

The explosive wedding boom seen last year is winding down, but the average cost of nuptials is still going up, according to new data from Zola

Couples will shell out an average of $29,000 this year to say “I do” – up from $28,000 last year, the digital wedding planning platform found. In 2019, before the Covid pandemic created a congested wedding market, that number was closer to $24,700.

The expected jump is in large part because of the rising, inflationary costs that vendors are facing, the company said. 

In a January survey of about 300 wedding vendors, 83% reported the cost to run their business will increase in 2023, 26% reported the cost of goods have gone up and 17% said couples have smaller budgets for services.

More than 77% of vendors surveyed said they raised rates for 2023.

Emma Dykstra, the office manager of family-run Deborah’s Specialty Cakes in Athens, Georgia, said supplier costs have in some cases “tripled or worse,” forcing her team to raise prices twice in the last year. 

“We’ve had to kind of adjust for that, and then also we want to make sure we pay our employees as well so we’ve had to up their hourly rates” said Dykstra, whose mom started the bakery. “That translates to slightly higher costs for the customer.” 

The bakery has had to raise prices by about a third or more, she said, which she says is leading more customers to shop elsewhere. Dykstra estimated that before costs jumped, one in 10 customers would take their business elsewhere because of pricing concerns — now she estimates it’s closer to one in five or one in six.

“We haven’t raised our price in ages and we hate having to do that because we really want to be as accessible to people as possible, but we’re definitely having to cater to a higher income clientele,” she said. 

Couples held more than 2.6 million weddings in the U.S. last year, according to Emily Forrest, Zola’s director of communications. That number is coming down in 2023 as backlogs related to the Covid pandemic start to clear. 

To mitigate rising costs, Forrest said she’s seeing more couples forgo typical traditions, shop on the secondhand market or even opt for a weekday or morning celebration.

“They’re really very eyes open about what the cost of a wedding is and what decisions they need to make that fit their personal style and fit the day that they’ve maybe been thinking about for a long time,” she said.

Paige Thom, co-founder and lead planner of Weddings by Leigh, a Las Vegas-based wedding planning service, said she isn’t seeing many couples cut their budgets but noted many are far more focused on the value of services than they were in the past. 

Thom said couples are increasingly asking questions like, “What services am I getting? How much time am I getting? What is really the best bang for the buck right now?”

“What am I getting for this and is it worth it?” 

Catering costs and other labor-intensive services are a particular pain point, Thom said, as vendors raise wages to support workers.

“Florals or installations or anything that’s really decor-heavy that requires extra labor on site, those costs are rising dramatically,” she said.

“Everyone’s kind of feeling the hurt — rent, groceries and gas — so if you’re trying to keep a team, just like we are, you’re giving raises,” she continued. “The idea of cheap labor isn’t really a thing anymore.”

(With inputs from CNBC)