Rest assured, romantics: All the weddings canceled over the last couple of years have found a happy home, and that home is … 2022.
Roughly 2.5 million weddings are expected to happen this year, the most since 1984, according to the Wedding Report, a trade group that gathered its data through a survey of vendors and consumers.
And the events that are not 2020 or 2021 reschedules — the majority — are likely to be dominated by couples who got engaged during the pandemic.
“When people started quarantining, they started prioritizing their relationships more,” said Elizabeth Overstreet, a relationship and love coach in Raleigh, N.C. “They had a lot of time to think about, ‘Is this the person I want to be with?’ The way I would put it is, love has taken precedence in people’s lives. Wanting to partner up and possibly get married has been the crescendo.”
For context, the uptick in weddings this year is substantial but not mind-blowing. Around 2.1 million weddings happened each year between 2009 and 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (with a relatively puny 1.3 million happening in 2020 and 1.93 million in 2021, according to the Wedding Report).
For those forging ahead, bottlenecks aplenty could await, especially because the pandemic has spurred challenge after challenge for the multibillion dollar wedding industry. Less clear are the elements that will shift the most, and how couples and guests can get a grip on them.
Shane McMurray, the Wedding Report’s founder, has a tip. “If you’re going to go through with a wedding in 2022, be patient,” he said. And financially flexible, too, because he anticipates that the average cost of a wedding in 2021, around $22,000, will rise to just under $25,000.
Tara Melvin, the founder of Perfect Planning Events in Washington, D.C., said the added expense this year can be blamed on inflation and continuing supply chain kinks. “Our vendor partners, especially floral designers, are having a hard time getting things from manufacturers,” she said. “Even paper for invitations is hard to come by.”
For those same reasons, wedding guests can also plan on increased expenses. In 2019, guests spent an average of $430 to attend a wedding, according to a study by WeddingWire, a site that tracks trends and operates an online marketplace for the industry. But in 2022, that number is likely trending up. Not just because of all the registry gifts and bridesmaid dresses or other attire people invited to multiple weddings may need to purchase, but also because as fuel costs rise, transportation has gotten more expensive, too.
The higher cash outlay for couples planning weddings is not necessarily an indication that 2022 celebrations will get bigger. Mr. McMurray said guest counts have been diminishing since the mid-2000s, and he expects 75- to 100-person weddings to continue to be most popular.
That doesn’t mean huge, extravagant weddings won’t happen. Maryam Mudrick and Justine Broughal, the owners of Greater Good Events in Jersey City, N.J., are seeing more couples who want nothing to do with the micro-wedding trend that sprouted in response to the pandemic.
“The reaction this year has been, ‘We’ve waited so long, we want to go big,’” Ms. Broughal said. “People who booked us in 2019 are moving to 2023 if they have to, because they want to keep their initial 200-plus guest count.”
Why 2023? Couples may not want to get married on a Tuesday. Because of all the weddings, weekdays may be all that’s available at popular locations this year. Leanne Bybee, the founder of Leanne Lane Weddings in San Jose, Calif., said she is helping couples negotiate whether to marry on weekdays or at unpopular hours like 9 p.m. “This is no ding against venues,” Ms. Bybee said, “but they’re so overrun, people are getting lost in the shuffle.”
A recent survey by David’s Bridal found that three out of four brides now put securing a venue at the top of their planning to-do list. At Brooklyn Winery, a popular wedding venue in New York, bookings have picked up “aggressively,” said its chief revenue officer, Rachel Sackheim. “What we have left on the calendar for this year is scarce,” she said. Mostly, that’s a relief. “The last two years have been so challenging. This boom is reinvigorating.”
If it’s already sometimes painfully obvious to brides and grooms that venues and wedding vendors, including caterers, planners and dress designers, are more in demand in 2022, what may be less obvious is that such businesses have not exactly hit the jackpot.
“People should realize that this is not growth in the industry, it’s just pent-up demand,” Mr. McMurray said.
Most are playing catch-up from two years of Covid stagnancy. “Some of our vendor partners are doing wild amounts of work,” Ms. Broughal said. “They’re essentially putting two years of weddings into one year.” The opportunity to recoup lost income has revitalized such vendors. “But I think some people are already drained,” she said.
Where some planners see long days ahead, Mr. McMurray sees opportunity for newcomers. “There’s a pretty low barrier of entry to the wedding industry,” he said, jokingly.
For example, “if you’re a D.J. or a photographer, all you have to do is buy some equipment. I think what we’ll see in 2022 is a lot of new competitors.” Those competitors, especially the ones who market themselves effectively or capitalize on trends that splurge-minded couples are asking for, will likely benefit the most from the boom, he said.
But let the buyer, or in this case the contract signer, beware. Ms. Melvin, who is also the founder of the National Society of Black Wedding and Event Professionals, has noticed a swell of new vendors. She said couples who hire them should read customer reviews and check references. They should also make sure vendors are licensed and have insurance. “You can ask to see these documents,” she said. “A business owner that is invested in their business will be invested in you.”
Because of the many obstacles to pulling off a wedding this year, couples are taking greater care with their guest lists, Ms. Bybee said. “People are really focused on their V.I.P.s,” she said. “They are very much not inviting their mom’s neighbor and their cousin’s new girlfriend.”
They’re also making even more of an effort to show appreciation to those who do attend. Some guests may have gotten vaccinated just for the occasion. Others, especially those over age 65, might feel vulnerable in a crowded setting. For that reason, “we’re seeing a shift where couples want to convey a sense of gratitude and meaning,” Ms. Mudrick said. “Not pomp.”
The feelings of sincerity guests walk away with probably won’t need to be manufactured, planners say, because couples who marry in 2022 will tend to be a grounded, earnest bunch. With Omicron in the background and the possibility of new pandemic variants, determination to move forward — and the postponement fatigue driving it — is guiding many.
“At this point, people have said, ‘We’re going on two damn years of this, and we’re not going to put it off, even if it means our V.I.P.s can’t come,’” Ms. Bybee said.
Mr. McMurray, of the Wedding Report, also doubts we will encounter more Covid-related reschedules. “I don’t see many postponing again,” he said. Ms. Melvin has found a silver lining in the reluctance to let pandemic worries rule the day: “Our industry has been very diligent in getting info out there to keep people safe at weddings,” she said, whether through vaccine requirements, masking or both. “By now we know what we’re doing.”