Key to survival in the wedding planning business is keeping in step with changing millennial tastes
- Toronto Star
- 3 Jan 2019
- HENRY STANCU BUSINESS REPORTER
The wedding industry is alive and well despite some news to the contrary.
“The way we see it, there’s enough business to go around for everyone,” said Toronto-based wedding planner Tracey Manailescu.
Manailescu, who cofounded the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada (WPIC) in 2003, acknowledges that there have been some changes lately.
But things aren’t as grim as they’d seem from looking at things like the financial meltdowns suffered by two of the world’s largest sellers of wedding dresses, prom gowns and formal wear.
“We are seeing a shifting trend in the millennial generation, with couples being careful about how they spend their money. And they are looking for specialized planners, ones with a niche in the industry. They want to be going somewhere spe- cial, and it’s the handmade bridal boutiques where they’re going to have their dress custommade, rather than off the rack,” said Manailecsu, who along with WPIC co-founder Danielle Andrews, has helped train more than 8,000 planners in Canada and at resort locations around the world.
“We’re telling our planners, if they narrow down and refine their specialties and that’s how they promote themselves, they’ll find the interested couples coming to them. I think there will always be a need, from the budget-friendly to the extravagant. They all have to find their niche,” Manailescu added.
It’s similar to the trend that’s made the craft beer industry so popular with younger people, and likely the reason big formal wear companies have lost some appeal, Manailescu said.
A May 2018 Angus Reid poll had 53 per cent of 18- to 34year-old respondents claiming “marriage is not necessary.” A Forbes report last August said fewer millennials are getting hitched than prior generations. And 2017 Statistics Canada figures showed, for the first time in Canadian history, more women were living alone — 53.7 per cent — than men.
In Canada’s 2011 census, almost three quarters (73 per cent) of adults between 25 and 29 said they’d never been married, a huge jump from 26 per cent 30 years earlier (1981).
David’s Bridal, a 68-year-old company with more than 300 stores in Canada and the U.S., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Nov. 17 in a bid to cut its debt by more than $400million (U.S.), a financial predicament that followed the demise of Alfred Angelo, then the second-largest U.S. bridal chain, in 2017.
From big retailers to smaller shops selling wedding and formal gear, the price of a dress can range anywhere from $150 to more than $15,000, yet less desire to tie the knot and the failings of major marriage tack traders doesn’t mean the end is nigh for the wedding business.
According to the website groomnbride.ca, yearly revenue generated by the wedding industry in Canada is more than $4 billion, with more than 150,000 weddings annually, 43 per cent of which are in Ontario.
The average price of a Canadian wedding is anyone’s guess, although a 2017 Ipsos poll conducted for Global News had respondents say about $9,000 was a realistic wedding price tag, whereas a Canadian Wedding Market Report the same year pegged i t at “$30,000-ish.”
In Toronto, about 20 wedding and event planners co-ordinate festivities in an array of styles, themes and ethnicity, at local venues and exotic destinations, ranging from small intimate affairs to opulent bashes with stunning galas.
With a team of four planners, Rebecca Chan Weddings & Events specializes in arranging wedding celebrations and other events in Toronto and abroad, with prices generally ranging from $2,400 to $8,500.
“Locally and abroad, the wedding industry is thriving and growing,” said Chan, owner and lead planner of the company she started 10 years ago.
“There are still a healthy number of individuals who want a traditional wedding to celebrate their union with their family and friends. I don’t see this going away anytime soon.
“With the increase of social media sharing and wedding blogs as well, there are couples wanting their weddings to be bigger productions now than ever before.”
Chan thinks David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo’s financial difficulties were no different than challenges other big retailers, such as Sears and Toys R Us, experienced.
“If you aren’t high-value and inexpensive, like an H&M, or high-end and luxe, like Chanel, it is hard to survive. There will always be a market for cheap goods and expensive goods, and the middle is a hard place to be. Also, there is a lot more choice now when it comes to bridal wear — more brands, more boutiques, more custom options — and if a company isn’t constantly innovating, it can certainly be challenging to stay relevant,” she added.
Wedding and event planners rely on a variety of experts, from venue and travel providers, food and beverage suppliers and caterers, florists, photographers, videographers and other services. A year-round demand for plants, flowers and arrangements for any occasion, from births to deaths and all the celebrating people do in between, keeps the floral industry flourishing.
“We haven’t been affected or noticed any change in our business, but there are changing trends that we have to keep up with,” said Tegan Patmore, operations manager at the Blush and Bloom Flower Studio, a Toronto floral design company that specializes in wedding and event planned arrangements.
“Tastes are changing, and people these days want more specific things, not the old standards, with a lot of brides interested in dealing with local companies and seeking artisantype products. Quite often brides-to-be will come to us with their wedding planners because they want to be involved in the planning process,” Patmore added.