Marriage and Money: The wedding industry is big business for our region

Bu Joy Jordan
­The decision to get married is a big one – and often, an expensive one. Weddings are big investments and big business for our regional economy.
Nationwide, there were 2.21 million weddings in 2016, with an average cost of $26,720, for a total spend of $59,086,336,800, according to Th­e Wedding Report.
In Barnstable County in 2017, according to the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, there were 1,532 weddings, with an average cost per wedding of $34,681 and total industry sales of $53,131,292.
And since weddings involve such a wide variety of vendors, that amount has a tremendous ripple effect. In addition, Cape Cod and the South Shore, due to their vacation appeal, are home to a large number of destination weddings.
Jamie Bohlin is founder and owner of Cape Cod Celebrations, an event-planning company that manages scores of weddings and other events each year. Bohlin notes that the $53 million figure only includes the dollars spent with wedding vendors, from florists and DJs to wedding planners and photographers.
“­This does not include the fact that weddings bring hundreds of thousands of people to Cape Cod every year,” says Bohlin, “most of which are spending money at hotels, restaurants, activities and more. With hundreds of weddings each weekend, the economic impact of the wedding industry on the Cape is substantial!”
­The effect is much the same in Plymouth County. Amy Naples, Executive Director of the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, notes that Plymouth is a destination to tie the knot, and has grown significantly in the past 10 years.
“Collectively, the Plymouth Area Chamber and Destination Plymouth receive thousands of wedding related inquiries from out-of-town couples,” says Naples. “Weddings are a large part of our local tourism economy and have a significant economic impact from start to finish. Weddings bring family and friends to fill hotel rooms for multiple days; they are shopping, dining and sightseeing while in town.
“In addition, hundreds of jobs and businesses involve serving the wedding industry. ­They are not just venues and hotels, but services proving music, photography, drone photography, retail, jewelers, make-up, hair salons, florists, and the list goes on.
“Th­e average cost of a wedding is $28,000 to $32,000, and when adding lodging, travel, dining and other purchases and services, millions of dollars each year are spent on wedding related expenses resulting a large impact in our region.”
Th­at ripple effect is in play not only at the time of the wedding, but often into the future as well.
Experiencing a special event like a wedding can also help endear that location to brides, grooms, families, and guests for years to come.
“Because of Cape Cod’s popularity as a wedding destination, there has been a strong economic impact throughout our region,” notes Peggy Garrahan, owner of Cape Destinations, which provides a variety of forms of transportation for weddings, including limousines, trolleys, buses, and more.
“Th­ere are the obvious impacts on wedding vendors (venues, transportation, florists, etc.),” says Garrahan. “But much of the economic impact of weddings may not be directly linked to the wedding industry. Most out-of-town guests stay a minimum of three nights, so there is the increase in hotel revenue and restaurants. While here, they are shopping, visiting attractions, buying groceries, and going to the beach. And often that quick visit gives them the love for the Cape that will keep them coming back for years.”
“About 98 percent of our wedding business is from non-local clients who have some sort of connection to the Cape – they have been summering here since they were little, their parents have a house here, etc.” Jamie Bohlin
As with any industry, trends will affect the way business is done. And much like other sectors, technology has certainly created changes to the wedding industry – including the rise of social media, thus often intersecting and layering upon each other.
“Some of the trends we have seen impacting the industry would be technology, DIY and social media,” says Bohlin. “Technology has come a long way in a short time for the wedding industry. With wedding websites, online planning tools and electronic invites and RSVPs, millennials are tending towards tech friendly planning. Many of our 2018 clients have also mentioned some aspect of their wedding being DIY. From decor and invites to make-your-own-photo booths, brides and grooms are looking for ways to save, but also put a fun twist on their day. Social media is also playing a huge role in the planning process and the wedding day. Almost all of our clients create a fun hashtag for their friends to tag photos and many are also creating Snapchat geo‑filters for their wedding day.”
Perhaps due to the ability to plan from afar and the immense bounty of ideas that can be found online, weddings have in many ways grown in size and scope.
“Weddings have gone from being a one-day event to now being multiple events over several days,” says Garrahan. “Th­ere are welcome parties, rehearsal dinners, after parties, and departure brunches. Th­ere are often trips planned for sightseeing, golfing or beer/wine tastings.
“We have seen a shift from the traditional wedding transportation to unique travel experiences,” Garrahan adds. “Traditionally, transportation was in a limousine, with the bride arriving with her parents and departing in the vehicle alone with her husband. It is now the norm to travel with all the wedding party together, which means larger vehicles, like our Sprinters or Trolleys.”
While technology and trends can extend the reach when it comes to weddings, a resulting impact is the desire by many brides and grooms for a more intimate, personal experience.
“­The largest trend that has impacted the industry in our region is the smaller, more intimate wedding,” notes Naples. “­This impact has been positive to the region due to the lack of large event space to hold large weddings with over 300 attendees. Couples are looking at venues outside the box for a unique wedding location.
“Another trend throughout the region has been that couples today want their guests to really notice the efforts gone into planning their special day. ­They create new ways to entertain their guests, whether it be creative food and desserts; with going all out on desserts or having food trucks stop by for some late-night snacks. ­Their decor is extravagant, with themed weddings and their favors are not the traditional items and more of local goods; from local honey to bottles of wine or beer from a local winery or brewery. Couples provide an experience to their guests, from checking into their hotels with gift bags to special items at their wedding.”
Challenges and growth
Some of the very things that lead to expansion of the wedding industry, such as technology and personalization, can also take the form of challenges. In many ways, the Internet and social media have expanded knowledge along with expectations.
“I would say that the biggest challenge for the wedding industry are the clients that are looking to save by doing more DIY type weddings and finding creative ways to cut costs,” says Bohlin. “­There are many couples out there as well that just do not know what is involved with planning a wedding. ­They make assumptions where they can best cut costs, but are not fully aware how the end result will turn out for them the day of the wedding. Another challenge for some vendors is how saturated the market can be. One example would be photographers. ­There are so many photographers from all over the country who will come and shoot on the Cape, it makes it a must for local photographers to be sure that their website and pricing structure is competitive as to not lose business to off-Cape vendors.”
As Executive Director of the Plymouth Chamber, Naples echoes that concern.
“Th­e DIY couple, who would prefer to make their own goods, decorations, etc. versus hiring or purchasing these items, is a challenge for those businesses working in the wedding sector,” Naples adds.
In addition, Naples points out that the Internet has changed how couples search for wedding vendors. Couples order products online out of the convenience of checking items off their list than spending dollars locally. Th­e competition of online vendors impacts local business. In particular, renting a wedding gown, versus buying a dress at a local bridal store. Businesses will need to invest in differentiating from online competition.”
For Garrahan, the roadblocks are similar to those faced by a majority of business in our region: staffing.
“Th­e wedding industry is facing the same challenges as the rest of the industries on Cape Cod: finding qualified staff to provide exemplary service,” says Garrahan.
When it comes to finding areas for growth, Bohlin would love to see more beach venues be available for weddings, but notes that we don’t really have the land available for this to happen, outside of private homes.
In the Plymouth Area, Naples sees the opportunity for growth within the smaller, more intimate venues and restaurants for hosting wedding celebrations.
“Th­e trends have shifted to smaller events and the region has amazing potential on hosting smaller weddings at boutique hotels, wineries, waterfront restaurants, local homes and outside venues,” she says.
Vendors who can provide a customized, personal experience will thrive, says Garrahan. “Whether it is a unique vehicle or venue, specialty drinks, or customized wedding favors, the couple wants to feel that there was something exclusive and personalized about their wedding.”
Spending trends
Is spending on weddings increasing or decreasing?
Jamie Bohlin: “We work with a mix of clients with large budgets and smaller, more cautious budgets. Overall, I would say that wedding budgets have been increasing, but not by much.”
Amy Naples: “Local wedding venues and experts say wedding spending remains constant with an increase on spending money with other vendors such as bakeries with creative desserts, gifts for their guests and unique wedding upgrades. The average cost of a wedding in Plymouth ranges from $28k-$32k.”
Peggy Garrahan: “We saw about a 10 percent increase in our wedding business in 2017 and all indicators show that we are on track for the same in 2018.”
Facts and Figures
The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce recently presented in-depth data about the wedding business at a recent industry forum, and the chamber kindly agreed to share that data with our readers.
How many weddings were there in Barnstable County in in 2017?
1,532 weddings in 2017
What was the Average Cost Per Wedding?
What were the total wedding industry sales in Barnstable County in 2017?
Total annual spending per category:
Attire & Accessories
Dress Accessories: $375,493
Tuxedo/suit/other Accessories: $171,737
Tuxedo/suit/other Rent/purchase: $347,841
Wedding Dress/es: $2,039,015
Beauty & Spa
Hair Service: $114,977
Makeup Service: $80,399
Manicure & Pedicure: $73,888
DJ/MC: $1,181,356
Entertainment lighting: $308,177
Live Band: $911,969
Musician(s): $521,064
Flowers & Decorations
Bouquets: $555,963
Boutonnieres, Corsages: $245,963
Event Decorations: $734,977
Event Flowers & Arrangements: $959,645
Event Table Centerpieces: $538,498
Gifts & Favors
Gifts for Attendants: $157,673
Gifts for Parents: $165,517
Tips: $672,395
Wedding Favors: $417,700
Ceremony Programs: $167,019
Engagement Announcements: $107,562
Guest Book: $96,056
Invitations & Reply Cards: $356,573
Postage: $165,916
Reception Menus: $114,594
Save the Date Cards: $155,130
Table Name and Escort/place Cards: $101,158
Thank You Cards: $142,629
Bracelet: $109,814
Earrings: $155,896
Engagement Ring: $5,964,229
Necklace: $157,490
Wedding ring/band for HER: $1,370,987
Wedding ring/band for HIM: $797,559
Digital or Photo CD/DVD: $354,903
Engagement Session: $540,765
Photo Booth: $221,313
Prints and/or Engagements: $319,851
Wedding Albums or Photo Books: $517,326
Wedding Photographer: $2,822,021
Wedding Videographer: $1,050,676
A La Carte Services: $114,961
Day of Coordinator: $246,958
For Getting Started: $66,565
Full Service: $924,838
Month of Direction: $113,245
Venue, Catering & Rentals
Ceremony Officiator: $392,958
Event Accessories: $599,625
Event Bar Service: $3,856,779
Event Food Service: $8,582,494
Event Location: $6,640,990
Event Rentals: $3,191,692
Hotel Room for After Reception: $518,276
Limo Rental: $391,855
Other Transportation: $360,143
Rehearsal Dinner: $949,932
Wedding Cake/dessert: $768,451