By Parija Kavilanz, CNN
New York (CNN) — Weddings are back, in full force. That’s the good news. But engaged couples will pay a tad more to get hitched in 2023.
The average cost of a wedding, nationally, this year is $29,000, up $1,000 from 2022, according to online wedding planning site Zola. And in some big US cities, the cost is $35,000 and above.
The price tag for a happily-ever-after day is higher year-over-year for two reasons, said Zola – inflation and demand exceeding supply of wedding related goods and services. “Wedding industry vendors have had to raise their rates because they’re also paying more for goods and services like food, flowers and labor,” Emily Forrest, Zola’s director of communications, told CNN.
Weddings started roaring back from a pandemic-triggered halt to all kinds of celebrations in 2022, and, ever since, the industry has seen a surge in demands for venues, photographers, wedding planners, florists and wedding cakes. Add to that a Gen-Z era desire for very customized weddings (hint: don your scuba suit), and prices are rising.
The Zola report was based on a survey of 4,000 engaged couples getting married in 2023.
The report ranked New York City at the top of the list among the most expensive cities in the US to have a wedding this year. A wedding in the Big Apple is expected to cost about $43,536, followed by San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose ($37,284), Boston ($35,902), Philadelphia ($34,111), Miami-Ft. Lauderdale ($33,622), Washington, DC ($33,199), Chicago ($32,281) and Los Angeles ($30,712).
The average guest list, according to the report, is expected to include between 130 to 150 invitees.
But Esther Lee, deputy editor at The Knot, a wedding planning and vendor marketplace company, said the guest list for some weddings might be getting tighter.
“In 2022, we saw an average of 117 wedding guests, but in 2023, we discovered 39% of couples are trimming their guest list. It’s no surprise that people may be prioritizing more intimate ceremonies this year,” she said.
Unique weddings having a moment
Less traditional can sometimes mean less expensive, experts said. David’s Bridal, a leading wedding-dress retailer, said its business has been dented by the number of brides wearing casual or vintage dresses. But unique can also inflate costs.
“Unique weddings are having a moment with the onset of hyper-personalization, meaning couples are drawing out influences most meaningful to them and infusing these touches into their wedding day details,” said The Knot’s Lee.
“For example, history buffs are interested, as of late, in an antiquities-themed wedding or honeymoon that may involve an ancient book reading or coin motifs from the Byzantine or Roman Empires.”
Pinterest said it has an indication of another trend. It said searches for alternative weddings – especially underwater weddings – have jumped 305% on its platform. “Underwater weddings are a great example of the unconventional wedding searches we see happening on the platform right now,” said Jenna Landi, director of brand research at Pinterest.
“Though slightly challenging logistically, it should be interesting to see the data for underwater weddings in 2023,” said The Knot’s Lee. “It may be of sudden interest due to the live-action version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. “
Wedding photographer Kimber Greenwood, who specializes in underwater wedding photography, is booked to photograph 20 of them this year. “There’s been a huge jump in interest,” she said.
Greenwood, a trained scuba diver based in Gainesville, Florida provides a package through her adventure photography business, Water Bear Photography, that includes an officiant, gown to wear for the event (but not to keep), flowers and photography for $3,000.
“I have never had a couple say they’ve regretted the experience,” she said.
When asked about who is footing the bill for weddings, the Zola report showed 33% of couples said they are contributing to their wedding budgets in some way, but another 16% said they are paying for the wedding completely on their own.
The wedding industry should enjoy the recovery, because it may not last. Jewelers report that, because many fewer would-be brides or grooms met their partners during the Covid-19 quarantine era, the rate of recent engagements is way off.
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