Weddings Are Back — And They’re More Expensive Than Ever
In March of 2020, Caitlin Corsetti Luscre, 31, was in the final stages of planning her destination wedding. “We both have Italian heritage, so Italy made sense,” she told InStyle two years ago. At the time, she was in a wait-and-see pattern with her Italian planner, crossing her fingers that her June 2020 wedding would still be able to happen. “It’s funny to think about how optimistic we were back then,” she says now.
She and her now-husband, Nicholas Luscre, 32, postponed until the following year. But because of rising Covid cases a few weeks before their second date, in June 2021, Italy imposed restrictions, and the venue called to let Corsetti Luscre know that they were closing. She wound up canceling her Italian wedding completely.
When InStyle‘s executive producer Justine Del Gaudio planned her engagement party in 2020, she set the date for Pi Day, 3.14. “We loved the idea that it was a theme for both of us — dessert for me and math for my smarty-pants fiancé,” she jokes (he works in sports analytics). But the pie party wouldn’t happen, and when the pair were finally able to get married this month, the date itself came down to whenever and wherever it would be possible. Del Gaudio says they looked at 20 venues, and even went into contract on two that fell through due to overbooking or miscommunication, before they landed a gorgeous affair at the Hotel Del Coronado in California.
Your wedding date becomes your anniversary, and sentimental folks (like the kind who plan a pie-themed engagement party) can try to choose carefully. Covid-era couples don’t always have that luxury. “We would’ve taken anything a venue had,” Del Gaudio says.
As a wedding boom erupts across the United States, dominating many social calendars for the season, stories like these represent a trend among couples who tried to get married at any point in the last two years only to face closures, cancellations, or at the very least a long engagement and lots of uncertainty. And vendors and venues attempted to weather a storm that effectively shut down their industry outright, as many predicted it would when we spoke to them in 2020. At the time, they worried about making their next month’s bills. Now, the wedding industry looks a lot leaner than it did then, and vendors who managed to stay in business find themselves busier than ever — and they’re raising prices to meet demand.
According to data released by The Wedding Report and published by CNBC last week, couples in the U.S. are expected to host 2.5 million weddings in 2022, a 30% increase over 2021 and the most in any year since 1982. And they’re spending more, too: The average couple spent just over $20K on their wedding in 2020 (admittedly smaller affairs that year) which increased to $27K in 2021. Anecdotally, brides and vendors alike are reporting bigger tickets across the board in 2022.
“We are most definitely in a boom.”
“[The pandemic] definitely had an impact on my business, and the industry as a whole,” says Stacey Sainato, owner of Peony Events in Morris County, New Jersey. “All of the brides we were working with [in 2020] canceled or postponed. Most rescheduled two to three times, and we also had a few that canceled all together.”
Those cancellations and postponements put some vendors in a tough spot. “2020 was tight, I’m not going to lie,” says Leah Weinberg, owner and creative director of Color Pop Events in NYC. “I definitely had to get creative with my cash flow.” She does, however, note that the beginning of 2021 was almost harder. “Those first few months were the toughest financially, because I wasn’t booking any weddings, and larger weddings still weren’t allowed in New York City.”
Like Weinberg, many other vendors had to reimagine their jobs or test their skills in non-wedding related outlets. “My work is obviously service-based, so without that, there was no income,” says Samantha Linn, a makeup artist based in New Jersey. “I used that time to build up my brand, including a blog and social media, and even offered virtual lessons, consultations, and online makeup courses.”
Latasha Fields, founder of L Prestigious Events, actually saw business spike with the help of some virtual weddings. She also launched a coaching side of her business to help support aspiring wedding professionals who want to get into the industry while it’s booming.
Now that restrictions are lifting, vendors are seeing bookings begin to fill up and they’re stretching just to meet the demand. “My inquiries for 2021 were double that of 2019, and I was fully booked for 2022 by August 2021,” says Weinberg. “That has never happened before. Also, my inquiries for the first part of 2022 are double what they were for the same time period in 2021. We are most definitely in a boom.”
Sainato also notes that more couples are seeking planners now than they did before. During the pandemic, she says, “We went from wedding and event planners to pandemic-induced faux-therapists troubleshooting next steps based on government updates and announcements,” and this added support is something couples have come to rely on. “They want our guidance throughout the entire process instead of just a few months or weeks leading up to their big day, and brides [have been asking] what other brides were doing and how they were navigating that unique wedding season.”
All this added demand becomes just the cost of doing business, and all the vendors interviewed for this piece have increased their prices since we met them in 2020, anywhere from 5-35%. Some event planners, like Saintano and Linn, say that their price increases are in line with their normal increases year over year. But others point to factors like inflation and the increased costs of labor and gas as reasons why couples may have to plunk down more cash. “There have been floral shortages, for example, which has increased the price-per stem,” notes Fields.
“Some brides will pay for what they desire, no matter the investment.”
Del Gaudio confirms that eventually planning her spring 2022 wedding came with major price hikes. “Every venue we looked at, and nearly every vendor we spoke to acknowledged that pricing was up, noting it has been a huge issue,” she says.
“Covid was a learning process, and labor shortages [came as] a result,” says Lauren Postma, founder of Lo&Co Event Design. She says gas prices have played the biggest role in her price increases, because she’s constantly driving to events and managing deliveries. At the time of publication on Monday, May 16, the U.S. hit its record high with every state charging more than $4 a gallon, according to AAA data. Del Gaudio attests: “The amount of money we had to pay just for deliveries was pretty astronomical.”
Vendors we spoke to for this story say their brides aren’t batting an eyelid at the hikes. “Some brides will pay for what they desire, no matter the investment,” Fields says. “Others will lean more toward cutting out items, reducing guest lists, and skipping the bells and whistles to remain true to their budget.”
Corsetti Luscre wound up rescheduling her wedding for August 2021 in the states, but planning a second wedding in a short amount of time did come at a premium. “Not only has the wedding market changed so much from when we planned the first time, but it’s generally more expensive to get married in the states,” she said. “We also didn’t have the luxury of time, so it wasn’t like we could do deposits and wait six months to pay.”
For that reason, Sainato advises her couples to book their venue and vendors ASAP. “It should be a high priority as we’ve seen too many of our favorite vendors unavailable at times, since couples book a year or two out,” she adds. “Simply put, don’t wait.” And if one bride’s calendar is any indication, Del Gaudio says she has seven weddings to attend this year — now that she’s done with her own. “It is pretty intense but wonderful to be back celebrating,” she says.
And Corsetti Luscre did end up at the end of her aisle, even if it wasn’t as planned in Italy. “It was perfect. Truly,” she says. “But I don’t think I want to plan another wedding ever again.”