Wedding Planner

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Economic Environment

December 2010–January 2011 The RMA Journal

Wedding Bells
Are Ringing

••After a downturn caused by a troubled economy
and fewer marriages, wedding-related businesses are on the rebound.

LiquidLibrary, Hemera/THinksTock
by Toon van beeck and GeorGe van Horn While not an industry in itself, the wedding business is a key revenue contributor to a diverse mix of local busi- nesses. Weddings are customized, and therefore not prone to efficiency, and they often occur on an irregular timeline. The clients (bride and groom) dream of perfection, while someone else (their parents) usually pays the bills. In the same way department stores rely on the holiday season to help define the ultimate success of their year, many small business operators depend on the number and extravagance of wedding events to distinguish a good year from a bad one. This article provides a quick evaluation of the wedding industry’s contribution to local economies and the small army of business service providers that support it. High- lighted here are the health of the wedding business, the size of the market, and the reliance of key industries on wedding-related revenue.

Going to the Chapel
Weddings are big business. From the proposal to the return flight of a honeymoon, a typical wedding will have a direct and indirect impact on more than 100 industries. The list ranges from gold mining to travel agencies, but in this article we will look only at industries directly affected by the wedding event. While this categorization whittles down the industry impact considerably, the wedding market remains a sizable $47.2 billion sector. Let’s put this revenue in perspective: If weddings were compared to holiday-generated spending, they would rank just behind Christmas and easily ahead of Thanksgiving. The infrequency of weddings is more than made up for by their extravagance. They generate more revenue than Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Easter combined.

One cause of concern is that the number of couples tying the knot has been in a persistent decline. Marriage rates have tumbled over the past few decades, falling from about 10 marriages per 1,000 people in the mid-1980s to 6.8 mar- riages in 2009. This decline is a result of social influences (fewer couples looking to commit) and attitudinal changes, as consumers hold off for financial and lifestyle reasons. However, the fall in the marriage rate has not resulted in a complete disaster for the industry. In fact, the decline has led to a higher-than-average wedding spend, meaning even greater profits for those involved (Figure 1).

The Wedding Industry and the Economy
Coming off of 2005 and 2006, two of the most prosperous years in the wedding industry, the sector plummeted as the economy entered recession. Revenues fell from a high of $67.5 billion in 2005 to $42.9 billion in 2009. Industry performance is expected to improve in 2010, expanding an estimated 10% to $47.2 billion, but still far below the

Figure 1

Number of Weddings versus Average Wedding Spend

years, so businesses need to put in place appropri- ate strategies to capture that increasing demand. The average engagement time in the United
States is 17 months, so long-term targeting and

2,600,000

2,500,000

2,400,000

2,300,000

2,200,000

2,100,000

2,000,000

1,900,000

$35,000

$30,000

$25,000

$20,000

$15,000

$10,000

$5,000

1985
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$0

Number of Weddings (LHS) *Average Wedding Spend (RHS)
*In 2010 constant U.S. dollars

retaining strategies must be implemented. Addi- tionally, businesses need to take proper financial considerations into account because the product or service in demand may be months away from payment and delivery. Planning for the future, along with having a good customer base, is...
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