The Business of weddings: the shift to thrift

A guest blog post for you today – as couples focus on saving money, the wedding industry will be there to help! Wedding budgets have fallen by £6k in 6 years… and guest blogger Tom’s article explains why, and how, and what it means. He had me gripped with this one… and I know you’ll like reading it. Oh! And the presentation is the coolest thing ever to play with… click Play, and Enjoy! Claire x

In 2013, the cost of a wedding is set to fall. Again. Whereas in 2007, the average cost of a wedding was around the £22,000 mark, 2013 will see wedding spend dip down towards the £16,000 mark.

What’s fascinating about this is that the economic downturn has really focused the happy couples’ minds on driving down the overall cost of the wedding, and it’s really focused the wedding industry on providing added value in a turbulent economic period. The trend is not necessarily towards less lavish weddings – the trend is towards getting the best price for every single item on the list.

More and more people are cutting down the costs of stationery, for example, by doing it all themselves. Stag and Hen parties have taken a hit, and wedding planners are increasingly being sought not for the whole shebang, but for different aspects of the wedding, such as finding the venue, sourcing musicians, or even the flowers.

It’s still a £10bn industry, even if it’s not really new

Last year, Hitched claimed that the Wedding Industry (I’ve used capitals because it’s that big) is worth £10bn. Their figures were based not just on the spending of the bride and groom, but on the collective: everyone who attends a wedding has to spend money, at some point: clothes, travel, gifts, stag & hen parties… this brings the total cost of a wedding up to £36,127 on average.

However, it’s how this £10bn industry is re-shaping itself that is of particular interest. Look at the American version of Dragon’s Den, Shark Tank, and the founder of Nearly NewlyWed, Jackie Courtney. Her pitch to the ‘sharks’ was for 10% of a business that sold second-hand wedding dresses.

The sharks were reticent, but Courtney is part of a growing market – the ‘pre-loved’, ‘nearly-new’, or let’s be brazen about it, the ‘second-hand’ wedding market. Her example was an $11,000 wedding dress that sold second-hand for $3,800.

For a dress that you only ever wear once, a third of the original price is tempting. What’s more, you can sell the dress back to the retailer afterwards for half of the price. This turns it effectively into a rental service (in all but name), meaning that the business has near constant inventory, choice and margin.

Over here in the UK, there are hundreds of websites where brides and grooms alike can sell their wedding goods, from dresses to suits, bridesmaid’s dresses, accessories and more. This is an industry responding to the economic downturn by appealing to the thriftiness of the nation (and equally, their desire for a lavish celebration).

Along with these opportunities to save money, brides are turning to technology to help them save time and money on planning their wedding.

Even the insurers are in on the act

We love a bit of insurance in the UK. We’ll insure anything that moves, and what’s more, we’ll insure anything that doesn’t move. Therefore, it’s no surprise that wedding insurance is increasing in popularity. Currently, 47% of brides take out insurance, at an average of £24.23. This covers loss of the rings, failure of suppliers to deliver, stress counselling (yes, stress counselling), and way more beyond this. The biggie, of course, is cancellation.

It’s no surprise, really, given the expense involved, that some kind of insurance is proposed, but the burgeoning market in wedding insurance is proof that these rising costs need to be protected.

We’re getting thriftier; we’re doing things ourselves. We’re hiring wedding planners who can dip-in and dip-out of the planning process. We’re insuring ourselves. We’re even wearing someone else’s wedding dress.

Times have changed, and the wedding industry is moving with them.

Today’s guest blogger Thomas Siddle, is an experienced wedding industry and
wedding planning writer for Only Weddings: expert wedding planners based in
Buckinghamshire, UK.

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.



  • Peter Falconer
    8 years ago

    Very interesting article.

    As a musician who plays a lot of weddings, there’s been a definite shift from people hiring larger bands to hiring smaller lineups or solo musicians.

    Corporate gigs looking to save money are more likely to forgo a band altogether and hire a DJ, which is not always that much cheaper and certainly never as fun!

    But it’s good to see that people wanting a really great wedding day are still insisting on live music, even if they have to hire, say, a 4-piece band rather than a 9-piece monster!


    • Claire Gould
      8 years ago

      Thanks for your comment Peter 🙂

      It’s another interesting point – I was reading a blog post earlier this week by a musician I admire about money and being paid for gigs / recordings. He mentioned as an aside that the best paying gigs in the UK – at least for smaller bands – are weddings.

      With that in mind, I’d like to encourage anyone reading who loves music to hire a live band for your big day. Keep the independent artists alive…

      The same goes for your finer details too: choose to manage without a cake / flowers / favours / reception stationery / calligraphy / vintage car / chair covers – because you don’t need everything. Choose a couple of things that really matter to you – like stationery for example – and buy good quality items from an independent designer or business!

      (Thanks for inspiring that one, Peter!)

  • I always find it interesting to read the amount of money spent on other aspects of the wedding. Being a photographer, I always say that it’s great to invest in what ultimately will be the longest lasting purchase of your day. Maybe I might be alone when thinking that its strange people generally invest more money in items that are one offs for the day, like the dress, cake, chocolate fountain etc. There doesn’t seem to be a logical link the cost and value for many weddings I’ve attended in the past couple of years. Maybe I am going out on a limb but, the facebook age seems to have made many weddings more about what the guests see of the day than what the bride and groom have as a result. For instance I covered a wedding last year for a couple who decided to spend £400 on a chocolate fountain company that was there for two hours and not have their first dance captured by me even though I would have charged half the cost.

  • Nathan
    8 years ago

    My own experience from last year is a bit confused to take trends from. Is there any where with break downs as averages can be seriously misleading?

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