Weddings and next year’s economy

He’s a lawyer and a wedding photographer. So Matt Brenengen has two cool vantage points on the Minnesota economy. We asked him recently about the wedding business and he told us the signs he’s seeing for 2010 don’t look great.

Because most people plan their weddings months in advance, Brenengen has a window on how young adults are feeling about next year.

“I had two couples that had to cancel their weddings this year because they had gotten laid off and/or their investments tanked,” said Brenengen, a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network. “Normally, I would have 10-12 weddings booked by this time for the following year. So far, I have one.”

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No matter what the economy pundits predict for 2010, “each couple is looking at their own tenuous situation,” he says.

“Remember, most are new to the job market, and either having a hard time getting a job, or are worried about holding their jobs (and) those parents who were paying for it have seen their retirement income slashed.”

MPR News in February examined the recession and its effect on wedding decisions. Many couples were cutting back and being cautious about where they spent their dollars. Some were waiting it out for better times.

Given what Brenengen’s seeing we asked some others in the wedding business what 2010 looks like. We found a mix of upbeat news and caution.

“About 20 percent of our 80 vendors have had record breaking years and 2010 is looking even more promising,” says Adam Welz, president of the Central Minnesota Wedding Association. Most vendors, he said, reported that sales were stable from 2008 to 2009. “A small percentage had their worst year ever.”

Two weeks ago we did our annual bride panel which is a panel of 5 newly married brides that get asked questions from were you shopped, what you spent, and what would you have done differently. The average wedding cost for our 5 brides was $29,000.

We found that brides are still spending BIG money on whats important to them. Whether it’s photos, food, flowers, DJ, etc. brides still see value in hiring professional vendors (and) are willing to pay if it’s something they are passionate about.

He pointed me to a surprising statistic: Despite a recession, the average cost of a wedding unexpectedly jumped 34 percent from $16,546 earlier this year to to $22,121 in the third quarter of 2009, according to a survey by theweddingreport.com. Increased demand plus October weddings contributed to the jump, the site said.

Welz says wedding vendors who use technology — DJs, photographers and vidoegraphers — are having the hardest time in the recession, which may partly explain what Brenengen’s seeing. There’s a lot of competition for those services and they’re also costs easy to trim.

“While it is true that some wedding businesses we speak and work with are seeing a decline in bookings for 2010, most are thriving,” adds Josh Franz, president of the Twin City Bridal Association.

Franz agrees that photographers and videographers seem to be having the toughest time while bridal shops and other apparel business seem to be fine.

Overall, “there are less wedding businesses out there as the weaker ones have gone out of business,” he adds, “which has of course decreased our membership somewhat.”

Brenengen hopes the economy and wedding spending roars back in 2010. “When that does happen, I am going to have a lot of open weekends for them…”

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Are you in the wedding business in Minnesota? Or are you someone who’s trying to make wedding plans in this recession? Post below and tell us what you’re seeing, or contact me directly.

Click on the map icons below to read what others in our Network have been telling us about their household saving and spending decisions. Then share your story.

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