The wedding business is booming. But higher prices mean smaller ceremonies, industry says

A model poses in a wedding dress at Canada’s Bridal Show, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, on Jan. 13, 2023. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
A model poses in a wedding dress at Canada’s Bridal Show, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, on Jan. 13, 2023. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

More couples are planning smaller scale weddings as prices for fabric, marriage ceremonies and services are seeing markups — but demand is still at a record high, according to the industry.

After lockdowns, closures and other public health measures to contain COVID-19 over the past two years, wedding businesses say they've experiencing a demand like never before.

"The industry now is flourishing at a very rapid rate because of the last few years of closure," said Teale Malek, who manages Canada's Bridal Show, a major event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this weekend.

"Companies that service the industry [have] basically gone from zero to 100 miles an hour," Malek told CBC News.

From gowns and suits to decorations and wedding venues, Canada's Bridal Show will feature more than 350 vendors and Malek said she expects about 20,000 people from across Ontario to attend.

Wedding businesses still tackling backlog

Malek said many wedding businesses are still tackling a backlog of events due to the pandemic. But with a higher cost of living, she said both customers and businesses have taken a hit.

An average wedding could cost nearly $50,000 in comparison to previous years when such an event would cost anywhere between $30,000 to $40,000, Malek said.

"The price of food, the venues have to charge more for food and beverage, flower to decor to DJ … everything has gone up [and] everyone's had to put their prices up to be able to survive."

Submitted by Teale Malek
Submitted by Teale Malek

But that's not stopping couples from celebrating their special day. Malek said more of them are having smaller scale weddings, which she defines as anywhere between 50 to 100 guests.

Erin Caravaggio, owner of Valencienne Bridal shop in Toronto, said as a business owner she's feeling the effects of inflation.

"[We're] dealing with our suppliers, we're seeing bigger price tags than we had before on things like our fabric because we make all of the dresses in house," Caravaggio said

"But what's nice about being a custom [shop] is that we not only create custom dresses, but we're able to fit into custom financial situations."

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

Caravaggio said at the height of pandemic restrictions, the bridal shop still saw some demand but on a much smaller scale.

"Now we're getting back to bigger weddings and more people, larger events, which is something that we're so excited for."

But not all businesses are seeing an increase. While many couples were forced to downsize their weddings due to COVID-19, micro-weddings are now becoming increasingly popular for couples, which typically include up to 50 guests.

With the wedding season set to pick up at the end of April, Malek said wedding and hospitality businesses are facing staffing shortages across the board that are of concern.

"Basically every sector of our industry, from venues to florists to decor to limousine companies to the fashion world, there definitely is a common thread here of companies looking to acquire new employees."

Couples taking more time to plan weddings

Malek said couples are also taking more time to plan their weddings. She said they are giving themselves anywhere from a year and a half to three years due to financial constraints. Previously, she said, couples would only plan up to a year in advance.

"They need to get more time to plan the beginning of their life together, more time to pay off their university student loans, find a place to live [and] save money," she said.

"There are so many elements that they have to consider and prepare for prior to planning their wedding."

Some companies are also noticing couples are opting to host intimate weddings of less than 30 people and put off the splashy reception due to financial constraints, said Kyra Cabrera, director of operations with Bellamy Loft and VintageBash — sister companies that specialize in event venue rental space, wedding decor and floral services.

"A lot of our couples want to get married soon and then save the reception or the big party for later or whenever they're ready to have that," Cabrera said.