Friday, February 13, 2009

Here Comes The....Recession?

Apparently, the economic situation is causing some couples to put their wedding plans on hold:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Maria Ayson and Nolan Green Jr. should be married by now.

The couple set a date, picked their reception hall, bought the dress, booked the photographer and ordered the cake for a Saturday last August. Then came the bad news.

''When he got laid off, we were kind of caught with our pants down,'' said Ayson.

Rather than trying to plan a wedding while Green was looking for a new job in electronics retailing, the couple decided to push their date back a whole year. Ayson said putting off the wedding ''was the best thing for our sanity and for ourselves.'' Especially since his new job forced a move to Los Angeles, while she remained in San Francisco.

The delay until Aug. 9, 2009, also gave them time to rethink their wedding plans and try to find ways to scale back the party, without sacrificing on the celebration.

That's a step that countless couples are taking, as economic reality confronts one of consumer culture's most cherished institutions, the dream wedding. From do-it-yourself decorations to dancing to an iPod instead of a DJ, couples are scouring for savings.

The numbers tell much of the story: This year couples are expected to spend an average of $20,400 on their weddings, down 6.5 percent from 2008. The forecast also marks a 29 percent drop from 2007's average of $28,700, according to The Wedding Report, a market research company based in Tucson, Ariz. [...]

Joyce Scardina Becker, president of the Wedding Industry Professionals Association, said she started to hear from members last year that business was slowing down. Becker, who owns Events of Distinction, a wedding planning service in Marin County, Calif., advises couples to be honest about how much they have to spend, so that they can work with planners to economize in certain areas.

''In the past, brides and grooms liked to hold their budget as if they're playing poker,'' she said. ''They need to be more forthcoming, and lay their cards out on the table.''
Unfortunately, all this economizing is only decreasing the cost of a wedding by about a third; and trends such as couples getting together to purchase one pricey cake-topper to share, passing it along from wedding to wedding, show that the focus isn't--yet--on simplicity and restraint, but on having that big bash at a discount.

And while the Wedding Professionals Industry might be concerned at a drop in spending, seeing weddings go from $30K to $20K in two years' time, some of us think that $20,000 is anywhere from ten to fifteen thousand dollars too much to spend on a single party, except for those few individuals whose annual incomes support such an expense and whose social positions make it an expectation.

Let's face it: most people don't spend twenty or thirty thousand dollars so that all their extended family members can simply gather to witness the beginning of a lifelong marriage between two people who are part of that family. Most people--well, let's look at an average breakdown of costs for a $20,000 wedding, from this site:
Estimated Costs for a $20,000 Wedding
Reception: $7000
Attire $2200
Photo/Video $3500
Music $2000
Flowers $2000
Stationery $400
Rings $800
Transport $800
Gifts $700
Ceremony $500
Gifts, here, mean attendant's gifts; the "ceremony" quote is low, considering some Catholic parishes now "charge" at least $1,000 for the parish's costs involved in a wedding. And the website itself points out that some other fees and costs weren't included in this list--one obvious one is that the average cost of a diamond engagement ring today is somewhere between $3500 and $4000, and so the "rings" in this list are only the wedding bands.

As someone whose whole wedding cost less than the price of an average engagement ring, I can't really feel too much sorrow at the idea that an economic slowdown might mean the end of the over-the-top wedding extravaganza (for most people, anyway).

And for those who think that the huge wedding, the catered reception, the live band, the photographer, and the flowers are traditional and required regardless of economic concerns, consider what Rebecca Mead, author of One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, had to say:
But I think brides and grooms will be surprised to discover how many elements of a wedding that are thought of as essential now were not seen that way not so long ago. I came across one survey done in the 1930s of middle-American, middle-class brides and grooms, and of them, one third had not had an engagement ring, one third had not had a reception in addition to a wedding ceremony, and one third had not had a honeymoon. Of course, these "traditions" of NOT having a ring, reception, or honeymoon are not ones it is in the wedding industry's interests to promote!
It's too early to tell whether the present economic realities will cause a permanent decrease in the opulent and ostentatious display known as the American wedding. But if the pressure on brides and grooms, and their families, to order embossed napkins and ice sculptures and skyscraper cakes and similar excesses can lessen a bit, I think it would be a good thing.


LeeAnn said...

Yep, I plan to give my young daughters (and son) a very realistic idea of what they should expect for a wedding budget from Mom & Dad. And emphasize to them it's the ceremony that is the important part--celebrating with fewer people is also a good thing--you can have a nicer reception for less money. But even if you invite a horde to the church, there's nothing wrong with just a cake and punch reception. The guests are there to witness the ceremony and wish you well, not to be entertained and pampered. In 1994, our wedding cost about $3,500. I made my own dress; a friend embroidered it, and another helped me hem it the night before the wedding!

Anonymous said...

As a tangent, I'm wondering if the marriage rate declines during a depression. Are men less hesitant to take on a wife and possible kids? Does the birthrate drop, the abortion rate rise? This all perhaps points to why (as the popes have written) economics has a huge bearing on morality. (I'm revealing my crunchy con, distributive leanings here).

eulogos said...

My mother always told me she would pay for college but if I wanted to get married I would have to elope.

The guests at my wedding were my parents and sister, his parents and siblings, and one couple who were witnesses. We had roses from my parent's garden. My mother gave the minister 50 bucks and though he asked way too much. My dress was a "Mexican peasant wedding dress" which cost ten dollars (in 1970). I do have a thin gold wedding ring, but I can't remember how much that cost; I never had an engagement ring. My husband got a silver ring, which cost much less than a gold one. After the ceremony we all ate at a Japanese restaurant.
We didn't have a honeymoon. I think even with the rings the whole thing was only a few hundred dollars. Now, I can see having more people than that, but I think a dish to pass in the church hall would be a fine reception. I certainly don't intend to pay for any weddings. I helped out a bit when my son got married; I paid for the reception dinner at a Chinese restaurant and for the motel rooms for the guests from my side of the family. To me those were big expenditures. I hope no child expects more than that from me! But then, unfortunately most of mine seem very slow to marry. Some seem to think they need a greater income than I have even now to attempt such a thing. I am still working on getting the last two through college. After that, I am done and working on paying down debt and retirement.

I bet lots of people marry who don't spend twenty thousand bucks. People marry neither of whose families has ever made more than that much as a yearly income. They just aren't on the radar of these wedding planner folks.

Susan Peterson

Anonymous said...

In the 70's a 'decent' wedding for college kids didn't have to be ostentatious displays of non-existent wealth. A wedding gold band; handmade wedding gown and the once in a lifetime hand-tailored suit, a couple standing in as witnesses, fresh flowers, a simple standup feast of homemade treats (wedding cake made by the bride) and a trip to a local bed & breakfast (well,there weren't B&B back then, and really it was a stay at a cabin in the State Park). It's a personal thing, but in the life of a 50 year marriage does the degree of gorgeousness of ceremonial celebration?

John Thayer Jensen said...

We were married in 1972, had a lovely wedding, I thought. No money, no parental help, but we got wholesale rings from a jeweller in the church, my wife borrowed a dress from a rich friend (who was the same size), was given a diamond by her great-aunt, that sort of thing. Got married at 8AM so we wouldn't have to provide a meal, just cake (her mother made the cake), punch (no alcohol - too expensive).

I am delighted when people with money want to have a big party and the money is no problem. My wife's rich friend was of that sort. Big-name family in the city, I don't know how much it cost but heaps - but they would not have had a problem.

Getting married is the point; splashy parties can be fun, but are definitely NOT the point.

Martha said...

Your last sentence made me laugh -- our wedding was, we thought, very nice (but very cheap.) All the food (appetizer-like things) was made by family friends; my husband bought a suit he could wear again (it is still the only suit he owns); and the reception was at the university I had just graduated from, so relatively cheap to rent. We would have skipped embossed napkins completely but my m-i-l's friend who helping insisted we MUST have napkins with our names on them. When I did not order them, she went and did. Cause we were GOING to have napkins, darn it. (Actually, I just threw the rest of them away in a pre-baby #4 nesting urge. The extras sat in a cabinet for years.) :)