The ever changing wedding industry
Associate member Isabel Smith of Isabel Smith Wedding Design , was contacted recently by someone studying events management and asked if she might be able to answer a few questions to assist with her dissertation.
We thought the questions asked (and the answers she gave), might be of interest. So, here’s how it went:
1. Do you think the current economic climate has affected the wedding planning industry?
Definitely. With any wedding, there are certain things that every couple needs or wants – a legal ceremony (be it secular or religious), a wedding dress, a photographer, and every couple will find these things from a source or supplier appropriate to their budget. But a freelance wedding planner is very much a luxury. The truth is that anyone is capable of planning their own wedding, but the people we market to are those who either simply work too long hours so don’t have the time to do so and therefore want a full planning service, or, at the lower end, people who want some expert advice and support at some stage of the planning process. Throughout the recession, where people were worried about job security, they were willing to forgo that extra advice, and take on much more of the planning themselves, rather than risk higher wedding expenditure.
There were of course also a great number of couples who wanted to host a much smaller wedding in order to cut costs, or to simply postpone their wedding until better times. I think that this trend has however peaked, and we are now starting to see a rise in the number or weddings, and the number or enquiries for wedding planners again.
2. What do you think were the wedding trends of 2010?
The biggest trend of 2010 was certainly the ‘throw the rule-book out of the window’ idea. Modern couples are simply less and less interested in the old-hat traditions and ceremonies of weddings past and this idea has certainly been firmly grabbed hold of by the media, with the creation of professional bloggers like ‘Rock’n’Roll Bride’, whose whole careers are dedicated to sourcing truly unique wedding inspiration, and encouraging brides to have a wedding that is truly representative of their characters.
This was a really interesting juxtaposition to the recession too, as historically, in times of economic crisis, people tend to become more conservative in their politics and behaviour, often harking back to older traditions. Vive la revolution!
This idea was characterised through choices of venues (with an increase in marquee and dry-hire venue weddings which allow couples to completely personalise everything, right down to the cutlery), colour (coloured wedding dresses, interesting uses of non traditional wedding colour combinations like yellow and grey or red and aqua throughout the theme), and catering (with less formal dining and a move away from British/French cuisine towards more African and Eastern influenced foods).
3. What do you think will be the wedding trends of 2011?
I think that the trends of 2010 will continue, but perhaps with a move back towards slightly larger wedding parties (over 150 guests).
4. Can you identify any differences to the current wedding industry to that of the past?
One of the biggest changes I have seen relates to wedding fairs. It used to be the case that each region would have one or two really excellent wedding fairs each February and each October, with each fair attracting well over 100 brides each and generating a good return for those who paid to exhibit. Now however, it seems that every wedding venue has jumped on this bad-wagon, meaning that there are so many fairs, only 25 or so brides attend each one, causing a raft of hard-sell tactics from the exhibitors who are desperate to make their stand fee back. This has really turned brides off.
Instead, there is a growth in a new style of wedding show, where couples pay to attend a shorter session (perhaps only a few hours) to receive one-to-one advice from hand picked experts (who have been asked to attend rather than having paid).
5. Do you feel that weddings are changing culturally?
Absolutely. Britain is, in essence a multi-cultural society, but we often take our cue in terms of trends from America. Already, we can see things like the bridesmaids walking down the aisle ahead of the bride, and an increase in outdoor ceremonies – ideas which originated in the US.
We also, as mentioned before, are seeing couples throw out the traditional ways of doing things, and opt to greet their guests during the drinks reception, rather than have a receiving line, or do their speeches before dining so that the speakers can relax and enjoy their meals.
In essence, wedding celebrations are becoming much more about the comfort of the bridal party and the enjoyment of the guests, rather than an opportunity for the parents of the bride to host an event.
This is of course also influenced by the fact that women are choosing to work and have careers before getting married and starting a family. This has resulted in couples tending to marry later in life (in their late twenties/early thirties rather than in their early twenties) and tending to pay for their wedding receptions themselves, meaning they are less answerable to Mum and Dad. This is also what has brought about the increase in civil ceremonies over church weddings.
6. Are there any other cultures that you feel are present in the UK wedding industry?
Aside from the obvious American influences, I wouldn’t say that the average UK wedding includes too many traditions from other cultures. Obviously, there are a huge number or Jewish, Asian, Chinese, Afro-Caribbean and mixed race weddings taking place, all of which will incorporate traditions from their own cultures, however, I think it unlikely that we will see these traditions (like the huge number of guests (500+) that you often get at Asian weddings, the breaking of the glass at a Jewish wedding, or the tendency to avoid a set seating plan that you see at most Afro-Caribbean weddings) creeping into the average ‘White’ wedding.
7. Do you have any predictions for the future of the wedding planning industry?
As per the American model, I would assume that the role of freelance wedding planners can only grow. The challenge remains changing the attitudes of brides from the feeling that wedding planners ‘are only for celebrities/cost a fortune/take all the decisions away from the bride’ towards the reality that our knowledge and experience can only enhance their plans and day.
8. How do you feel the media affects the wedding planning industry?
I think that the media overlooks the roles of wedding planners, for the reasons stated above. It does however encourage brides to work hard to achieve the perfect look/day, without bearing the responsibility that planners do of educating people as to what things actually cost. You often see ‘real wedding’ spreads that feature a £50,000 wedding, shown in a magazine aimed at the £15-25,000 market. There are also often articles like ‘How to save on your wedding flowers’ next to images of arrangements that must have cost hundreds. I think this is where the role of the professional planners and wedding bloggers will grow in the future.
It would be great to hear your thoughts on these topics – post a comment below to answer!