While the phrase “wedding boom” might seem a bit played out, there’s no better way to describe the post-pandemic surge of celebrations that filled the industry in 2021 and 2022. Postponed weddings piled on top of newly-booked weddings, pushing event professionals to work overtime to keep up with market demands.
So as we reach the midway point of 2023, is the wedding industry still in a “boom”? Or is it safe to say we’ve reached the other side as events level out?
Yes, inquiries are down across the industry.
But “down” is relative to the unsustainable workload of 2021 and 2022, so while many pros have seen a decline, they’re staying busy at a rate closer to pre-pandemic times. However, fewer inquiries shouldn’t cause worry as couples’ preferences evolve.
For one, many couples cut back on expenses during and directly after the pandemic. Job insecurity, inflation, and supply chain challenges caused economic turmoil that was reflected in event budgets, even after the industry reopened. But now, couples are moving past the uncertainties of the pandemic to plan weddings with fewer restraints.
“While we have noticed a decrease in inquiries, we have noticed an increase in budgets,” confirms Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss. “Fewer weddings with higher pay? That is what event pros dream of.”
Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings also notes that competition is not as overwhelming, as couples no longer have to make instant decisions to secure an overbooked vendor. “Inquiries have slowed a bit, but also I’ve noticed less intensity in bookings, meaning they are not as pushed for struggling to book the vendors right away ‘or else,’” she says. “They seem to be taking their time again in picking, searching, and vetting.”
But Sarah Chianese of Mangia and Enjoy! cautions that many couples are on shorter timelines, even if they take longer to book their vendor team.
“Newly engaged couples are trending towards planning less than a year out,” she reveals. “This is a generation of instant gratification! If you’re doing everything right, the inquiries will come and arrive in fervent spurts with shorter timelines to push into gear.”
No matter your market, you’ll likely experience a slowdown in bookings if you haven’t already. As you adjust to this new normal, here are a few ways to use your time to boost your sales and marketing.
Revisit your fundamentals
Remember that business plan collecting dust in your file cabinet? Or is your budget barely breaking even? There’s a good chance you need to freshen up your foundation, especially if you haven’t dedicated time to work on your business recently.
“Many event pros finally have the time to breathe and are reworking their contracts, their pricing structure, and taking a hard look at budgets,” Sheils says. “Pros will likely need to up their fees (if they haven’t already) and make sure they have an ironclad contract protecting them in case the unthinkable happens (again) in the future.”
It’s easy to get lost in client projects, but remember that your company must function properly to keep steady work flowing in. And when the inside of your business makes sense, you’ll have more time and energy to give back to your clients without worrying about something breaking internally.
Get familiar with the modern couple
From virtual school to socially-distant dating, it’s safe to say the pandemic changed life for everyone. Now that we’re on the other side, it’s clear that couples’ expectations have shifted in response to market fluctuations.
Perhaps most significantly, we’ve welcomed Gen Z to the wedding market in the last several years as the older side crosses into their 20s. With that, Chianese notes the importance of “adapting your marketing efforts and offerings toward Generation Z couples looking for unique experiences.”
Ava and the Bee’s Adrienna McDermott agrees, adding that “Gen Z wants everything to be around a guest experience filled with surprises and delights. Think of how you can start to cater to this audience!”
Market demands vary by geographic region and niche, so your ideal client will look different if you produce luxury weddings in Los Angeles versus South Asian weddings in Miami. So as you learn more about Gen Z, make sure to research within the context of your target audience.
Refresh your website
Inquiries may be slow, but that doesn’t mean couples aren’t actively researching vendors. And if you want to stand out in today’s saturated industry, your website must simultaneously inform and impress potential clients.
“Couples spend an average of six hours per week planning, and 90% is done online,” McDermott explains. “If your online presence isn’t up to date, you are going to miss out on couples. Hands down, your website needs to be where you are focusing a lot of your efforts in 2023.”
A visually appealing website is a great start, but McDermott stresses that content is just as important as aesthetics. “You have just seconds to make a good impression and keep them on your website,” she says. “Make sure it is clear on your homepage what you do, who you serve, and where you are located.”
It’s also worth updating your website with new weddings and testimonials several times a year. Fresh content supports search engine optimization (SEO) and demonstrates a continued commitment to excellence. However, McDermott cautions against adding too much content to your site.
“Don’t have too many galleries,” she warns. “This leads to decision fatigue and overwhelm. The goal of the website’s galleries is to show a wide variety and the best of the best.”
Aim to update your website at least twice a year, if not seasonally. Regular check-ins keep this task reasonable, so you never have to deal with the overwhelm of a website overhaul!
If the wedding boom left you burnt out and exhausted, you can rest easy knowing that we are on the other side. The pandemic’s effects on demand have subsided, so industry professionals can settle into the new normal and look ahead at what’s to come.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.