For richer, for poorer: The wedding business is booming
After a pandemic imposed shutdown, the wedding sector is booming once again.
But that surge in demand, coupled with inflation means those looking to say ‘I do’ can expect to pay higher prices for their big day.
Those working in the industry say the price of hosting a wedding is up around 20% compared to 2019, pre-Covid.
Wedding planner Tara Fay said the average cost of a wedding of 100 guests was around €26,000 in 2019.
“That is getting closer to €30,000 or €32,000 for a wedding in 2023 or 2024,” she said.
Despite higher prices, more couples than ever are looking to tie the knot, following a two year pause of big celebrations between 2020 and 2021.
While the official figures from the Central Statistics Office have yet to be published, Ms Fay said she believes up to 35,000 weddings could have taken place last year.
“In a normal year there would be anything from 19,000 to 23,000 weddings in Ireland,” she explained.
That demand is set to continue this year, and into 2024, according to Ms Fay.
She has also noticed a surge in inquiries from couples outside of Ireland who want to get married here, particularly Americans and Europeans.
“They fancy the idea of a romantic countryside wedding in Ireland,” Ms Fay said.
“They’re prepared to spend the money, and they’ve often got six figure budgets,” she added.
But for those who don’t have an endless supply of money, booking your dream wedding at the moment can be tricky.
“It is probably the single biggest bill a couple will ever have to face in their lifetime for a mere 24 hours – a lifetime of memories, but a mere 24 hours,” said Michael Magner, National Vice President of the Irish Hotels Federation and Owner of the Vienna Woods Hotel in Cork.
He said most venues in Ireland have had to raise their prices to deal with rising input costs.
“Nobody foresaw what was happening in terms of inflation and the level of inflation that businesses across Ireland have been exposed to,” he said.
On top of higher electricity and gas prices, Mr Magner said there are other costs that have increased that many wouldn’t think about.
“There are costs connected with the linen that goes on your table, the table napkins that you use – the cost of laundering those have increased in some cases by over 50%,” he explained.
The cost of preparing your wedding meal has increased significantly, he added.
“It is not a case of the hotels or businesses making more profits, it is a case of businesses trying to keep abreast of those input costs to ensure that the venue can deliver the couples’ expectations on the day of their wedding,” Mr Magner said.
Aside from high prices, high demand means less availability for everything from venues to bands.
“We have bookings for 2025, even 2026 which sounds a bit crazy but they’re there,” said Daire Killian, Manager of the Bentley Boys Band.
Last year, the band had an additional 30% of bookings that were rescheduled from 2020 and 2021.
He said midweek weddings are also becoming more popular, with requests to perform at weddings everyday of the week.
“The strong demand means capacity for the weekends is much more limited than it might normally be.
“So midweek weddings are definitely a thing at the moment,” he said.
Like all those working in the wedding industry, the Bentley Boys Band is delighted to see business booming again, after an extremely difficult few years for the sector.
“It is a very happy industry to work in and it is a real privilege for us to be involved in peoples’ special day,” Mr Killian said.
So, apart from getting more expensive, have weddings changed much since Covid hit?
Michelle McDermott, owner of wedding planning firm Dream Irish Wedding said in her experience, people are opting for more “understated” weddings, with family and friends the big focus.
“The more OTT stuff is gone.
“It is all coming back to the core values of what a wedding is about – the couple and their bond, and bringing everybody together to have fun,” she added.
Ms McDermott is also noticing that the wedding ceremony is taking on a new prominence again.
“Couples are seeing the ceremony as being a very important part of the day, and they’re taking a lot of care when planning it.
But she acknowledged that some people are struggling when it comes to booking their dream venue.
“Some people who want to try and get married within the year are finding now that this is not possible because venues are already booked out,” she said.
She said some of these couples will opt for the midweek days that remain, while others will look to push out their wedding until next year or beyond.
“There are still options available in lovely venues all around Ireland for 2023 – if you’re flexible really on the day of the week,” Ms McDermott said.
Sharing some advice for newly engaged couples, Ms McDermott said to stick to your budget and do what you can with the money you have.
“It is the people at the end of the day who are going to make your wedding,” she said.
Wedding planner Tara Fay also stressed the importance of sticking to your budget.
She advised couples to do a cost per guest analysis, before booking anything.
“That is essentially the cost that you’re willing to spend on your wedding, divided by the number of guests – and that’s the cost per guest.
“Then it is not just the cost of putting one bum on a seat for dinner that you are looking at, it is the overall cost of the wedding divided by the number of guests,” she explained.
Ms Fay said she would advise couples to seek advice from an expert.
“Weddings are an unusual thing and that people make very large financial decisions based on emotion.
“So, by having somebody who is used to working in this industry day in and day out, they can guide you as to the best way to spend your money.
“A the end of the day, it is a huge amount of money and a huge investment in your future – and you don’t want to mess it up,” she said.