Couples all around the globe were forced to halt their wedding plans when COVID-19 first struck. After more than a year of lockdowns, masks and vaccines, a flood of postponed weddings finally happening means prices are also increasing — and the rise of the Delta variant is only complicating matters.
The number of new marriages in the United States is expected to jump by more than 50 percent this year following a pandemic-induced slump, according to industry research firm The Wedding Report, Bloomberg reported.
Lauren Kay, executive editor of The Knot, told the Associated Press that because 47 percent of couples who'd had a wedding date set between March and December 2020 pushed their nuptials back, a "pent-up demand" for venues and vendors is limiting availability and causing prices to jump.
"I'm working seven days," Liz Stellassie, owner of the New York City bridal store Designer Loft, told Bloomberg. "[In January] we were painting walls, fixing chairs, keeping the place pretty. Now, we don't get lunch."
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That influx of customers on businesses like Stellassie's — as well as the effects of losing customers in 2020 — means owners now have to make the "difficult, but necessary, decision to raise their prices," Valentina Ring, a U.K.-based wedding planner, told Insider.
"Sadly, the uncertainty and increased logistical complexity that the more 'physical' wedding service providers are facing, like florists, caterers or décor hire companies, has meant that their expenses and running costs have increased — which in turn means they need to increase their fees in order to run a sustainable business," Ring said.
According to The Knot 2020 Real Weddings study, the average wedding cost in 2020 was $19,000 — and the cost per guest jumped $30 to $244 compared to 2019 prices.
The study found that couples reported spending an extra $280 on average on health and safety measures for their guests, including hand sanitizer and masks.
COVID has had other effects on costs, too — if couples want more space to allow their guests room to social distance, that could cost more, said Melanie Tindell, owner and event planner at Oak + Honey Event Planning Co. in Cleveland.
"If you're going to need to keep track of who's vaccinated and who's not vaccinated, that could potentially become a cost because you may want an additional vendor to handle that," she told the Associated Press.
With two types of couples in the planning mix — those who already had their weddings delayed, and those who fear variants of the virus such as Delta could spark additional lockdowns — the typical timeline of planning a wedding has been thrown off course.
"Never in my 20 years in bridal has a designer given me a confirmation date and then just arbitrarily switched the date to two months later," Sellassie told Bloomberg. "It's happening now."
She noted that rush fees from designers have almost doubled, and prices on older stock have been raised; according to The Wedding Report, shoppers are expected to spend around 5 percent more on their dresses than in 2019.
Jennette Kruska, a spokesperson for the New York City bridal store Kleinfeld, told Bloomberg that alterations typically run customers $895 and start eight weeks before the wedding — but alterations made less than 45 days before can jump to $1,395.
She said customers typically come in nine to 12 months before the wedding, though 2021 has seen a timeline closer to four to six months.
"The wedding industry makes people feel like they're 'running behind' because it's good for business," Elisabeth Kramer, a day-of wedding coordinator based in Oregon, told Insider. "People who feel pressure often make hastier buying decisions. They're more willing to spend money that they might have spent on purchases that, upon second thought, don't align with their values."
While Tindell recommended wedding insurance in case of postponement or cancellation, other experts had other suggestions for keeping costs low, such as replacing professional bartenders and decorators with friends, looking into suburban venues instead of city ones, trimming the guest list, marrying in an off-peak month or scheduling the wedding on a Sunday or weekday, NerdWallet reported.
Others emphasized the importance of hiring an experienced wedding planner, who in a best-case scenario could help couples save 10 to 20 percent of the total event costs, Kourtney Perry, wedding expert and founder of 7 Centerpieces, told Brides.
"The thing I want couples to keep in mind is to not let this reality turn up the heat on their personal decision-making," Kramer told Insider. "Couples need to talk to each other. They need to identify what has the most value for them for their wedding and put the bulk of their budget there."