THE May bank holiday weekend traditionally marks the start of the summer wedding season. Over 20,000 couples tie the knot each year. The wedding market in Ireland is estimated to be worth between 600 and 800 million per annum, with an average spend of 30,000 per couple. However, weddings are yet another area of Irish life that are reflecting the recent economic downturn.
More and more coupeles are turning away from the idea of a huge shindig in a fancy hotel. People are increasingly interested in cutting costs or putting a more individual stamp on their Big Day.
It's a trend that has been noted by Colette O'Loughlin, who is Editor & Director of the popular website http://www.SimplyWeddings.com
"Couples are most definitely cutting back as they are feeling the pinch and so are certain suppliers to the Weddings Industry.
I speak to a cross section of suppliers on a weekly basis and over the last couple of months the feedback hasn't been wonderful to say the least. Three that spring to mind are the following:-
(a) A service provider who's aimed at the higher-end of the weddings market supplying chairs, red carpet, flower stands etc., When a couple starts to review their budget and basically "what we can do without?" this is one of the first to be axed. Any "add on's" will be the first to go.
(b) Certain bridal shops have suffered significantly in the first quarter of this year. The problem lies wherein the brides-to-be make an appointment with the shop, try on sometimes several dresses taking up significant staff time but then buying the dress on-line. More and more brides are "taking their chances" with buying the all-important wedding gown from the States due to the sheer amount of money that they are saving.
On the flip side, the owner of the bridal shop cannot afford to sell these dresses at the same price as brides-to-be can purchase them on-line. They have their overheads, i.e. rent, heat, light, esb, staff etc., to be paid out of their "profits" which isn't always as much as people assume either. Having spoken to both owners and managers of bridal shops they have confirmed that they simply cannot sustain this downturn in business. If a % of bridal shops do have to close their doors, brides-to-be will have to travel farther & longer to view their chosen dress and shops won't be carrying as many lines of designer gowns as they used too henceforth you won't be able to source "the dress" until it arrives in the post!
(c) Hotels are also beginning to feel the pressure with bridal couples demanding more "bang for their buck". Some would argue "its about time - didn't they have it their own way long enough?" and possibly there is some truth in that, but everyone is in business to make money. Quite a number of hotels whilst still actively involved in the weddings market are now beginning to focus their attention in other areas that will generate business for them and aren't quite as demanding as Weddings both in terms of time, staff, costs etc.,"
Another huge change is the increase in civil ceremonies. The new law that came into effect in November 2007 allows couples a much wider choice of venues for civil ceremonies. Getting married abroad with a smaller wedding party in tow also continues to be a popular choice with Irish couples.
Attending a wedding can also cause sizeable expense to the guests, by the time you factor in accommodation, travel, clothes and drinks - well as the thorny issue of how much to spend on a present for the happy couple.
"The cost of the actual wedding present normally comes in around 150 per couple", suggest Colette."The Rule of thumb: If you have a nagging feeling that the present isn't enough - well, then it isn't. Alternatively, ask yourself "If we received this gift from them what would we think?"
*Feedback and comments to belindajhiggins@gma