Hey there, market research fans!
We are going to keep this intro to our blog about forthcoming weddings as brief as possible because, appropriately, your humble blogger is running late towards deadline since (contain your excitement) I got engaged this weekend and am still catching up.
But my fabulous engagement, for as singularly happy as it makes me, is yet another addition to the growing backlog of weddings that will be popping off over the next two years.
People delayed a lot of things for the pandemic: Job hunting, moving, vacations…and, yes, weddings. Between March and September of last year, I was scheduled to attend four. They have all been rescheduled to this year. And, as we shall see, this anecdotal evidence is only backed up by recent research.
But weddings in 2021 will not be like weddings from any time before as brides (and grooms!) must necessarily consider the health and safety of their guests as mandated by local and state regulations.
So, today, we are going to look at the market research behind what is a $55 billion industry each year in the United States. What will weddings look like in 2021, how many of them will there be, and what businesses and industries will benefit the most from this surge?
I’ve always said that I was married to market research but, well, there’s a new suitor in town. Let’s get going as I contemplate whether this constitutes bigamy.
Small Businesses Were Impacted the Most by 2020’s Downsized Wedding Season
According to a recent survey by the online wedding planning company, The Knot, 96% of couples who planned to wed in 2020 altered their original wedding plans in some way to account for the pandemic. I’m honestly not sure what the other 4% did there other than just shout YOLO and host a super spreader.
Regardless, that 96% includes people who scaled down their venue size and guest list, those who moved from an indoor event to an outdoor one, and all the other small, medium, and large ways people reshuffled to make their wedding work (yes, this includes eloping). Of note, this reshuffling almost always involved downsizing, not upsizing.
Also, according to the Knot, nearly half the couples who planned to wed in 2020 (47%) postponed their wedding to 2021 or (gasp!) even 2022.
All this means that the wedding industrial complex, an industry that favors small and local businesses in way that few others do, has taken a severe hit over the last 14 months. Indeed, the industry declined by more than 20% in 2020, which is a whole lot when you consider that weddings in the United States generate over $55 billion/year in revenue among over 330,000 businesses.
The fact that many of these businesses are small and local—no wedding vendor claims more than 5% market share—means that a 20% decline in revenue is oftentimes untenable.
As one Michigan wedding planner confided, "It was kind of crazy we had typically our, our company has anywhere from 35 to 40 weddings. Last year we had 18."
Marriage Market Research: 2020’s Postponements Become 2021’s Backlog
Yet, as vaccines take hold and restrictions ease, those postponed weddings are rapidly approaching what is widely believed to be an unprecedented wedding surge over the next two years.
Sure, it’s possible that a year isolated together on lockdown convinced some couples who postponed their weddings to cancel them entirely—divorces did skyrocket during the pandemic, afterall—but we’d be willing to bet that a lot of 2020 postponements are about to become 2021 and 2022 ceremonies.
Anecdotally, your humble blogger can confide a completely jam-packed spring, summer, and fall, with no less than one wedding per month from here through November (I have SO much shopping to do!). Of the seven weddings currently on my calendar, five are 2020 holdovers.
As I already shared, my man (Feyoncé) proposed just last week. We are eyeing a September 2022 wedding, which is as early as we could possibly do it with the backlog of special days clogging every available venue, caterer, and planner.
“I have a feeling, we’re going to have a lot of orders,” she said. “Last year, people canceled their weddings. And now they just want to do it."
Another vendor agreed. “I’m definitely very hopeful for 2021. It’s going to be great,” he said.
While this surge is no doubt the result of safer conditions and eased restrictions, some vendors also believe there is an emerging sentiment that can be best explained as, well, “eff it!”
Lynne Lampe, who owns what she describes as the premiere event location in Cody, WY (stiff competition), says that, at this point, it is less about safer conditions and more about brides (and grooms!) just reaching their limit and deciding they will be married come hell or highwater.
“The brides [and grooms!] are getting fearless,” she said. “They’re saying, ‘Screw this, I’m having my wedding.’”
Additionally, those who chose small ceremonies in 2020 instead of postponing also have big party plans in the months to come. Indeed, according to the Knot, roughly 1/3 of couples who married in 2020 plan to host larger celebrations (called sequel weddings or anniversary receptions) once restrictions ease.
Do you hear that? It’s every wedding planner in the country simultaneously getting their wings.
Health and Safety Market Research, 2021 Wedding Edition
But, with local restrictions what they are and the possibilities of another surge still lingering, brides and grooms-to-be are not throwing all caution to the wind.
Indeed, an entire health and safety industry has already sprung up around wedding planning. Some venues are now adding security fees to staff events with guards who will collect negative COVID tests before admitting guests. Others will offer temperature checks at the door. And others still are even offering mobile, rapid testing wagons.
According to the Knot, 36% of couples planning to marry in 2021 will require guests get tested before arrival, and 20% of couples will require guests be vaccinated.
But even for couples who want to throw caution to the wind, venues operate under strict guidelines from local and state authorities. Indoor occupancy caps (which, in case you didn’t know, are much more generous if the ceremony includes a religious service), socially distanced tables and seating, and mask requirements (they can only be removed while eating) will all be unavoidable facts of the 2021 wedding season.
Other noticeable differences from wedding seasons past will include the marginalization of wedding buffets, the removal of large self-service appetizers like charcuterie displays, and regulated cake cuttings.
Look, I’m not just saying this because I am now planning my own version of ‘I do,’ but this surge of weddings is good news. The small and local businesses that serve weddings have been absolutely throttled by the last year of pandemic. For them, this forthcoming surge isn’t about gains, it’s about breaking even. All the refunds they had to give, all the orders that went from five figures down to four, all the delays—it was all crippling.
Frankly, this is good news for the types of businesses that need good news and, though we only cheer for the market and market research, we would be lying if we didn’t admit that we are happy these businesses are getting a fighting chance to recover.
Other, less impacted businesses will also feel the surge. Suffice to say, it’s a good time to make and/or sell alcohol.