Something new, blue and expensive. How inflation has impacted local wedding industry

What is unofficially known as “wedding season” has come to an end — the peak months for weddings between April and November. Our region’s wedding industry took a major hit with restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. But by now, it seems to have fully bounced back even with inflation. 

While the cost of everything is up, it is not stopping couples from spending on their big day. 

Julie Freddino is a producer and host with WSHU. She and her husband Chris said “I do” in August in Hamden, Connecticut.

“I woke up, had a leisurely breakfast, took a shower, and at noon we went down to town hall, the mayor married us…”

The total cost?

“Best $70 I ever spent! It was $50 to get and fill out the paperwork and get the license, and then $20 to get a copy of the license so I could get him on my insurance.” 

Couples may have to spend a bit more if they are looking to go the more traditional route. According to the wedding planning website The Knot, Connecticut couples spent $39,000 on average on their weddings in 2022, including a ceremony and reception.

“There are so many other things you could do with $39,000,” Freddino said. “Like, you could buy a house and a kick-ass honeymoon for that. I mean, wow!” 

In New York, the average was $46,000. The Knot said the national average last year was $30,000.

Aaron Burrell was surprised by those numbers.

“I feel like when speaking to friends, that’s lower than what they spent by some distance.”

When WSHU spoke to Burrell, he was about a week away from his November wedding in Clearwater Beach, Florida. The original plan was to get married on Long Island, where his fiancé is from. But they discovered venues in Florida, where he is from, offered them more bang for their buck. Plus, cold weather would not be a concern.

“For the size of our wedding and price-wise, we felt our money went a little bit further in Florida. Not that much further,” he said. “Post-COVID, the prices of things in Florida have gone up since so many people moved there during the pandemic. So the price of a venue for 150 to 175 people was comparable to the price of a wedding for 100 guests on Long Island at the time.”  

Burrell said he was most surprised by the cost of the smaller details.

“I’ve been to a lot of weddings, and when you’re in the driver’s seat you realize, it is a significant commitment financially,” he said. “For example, we went from 12 tables to 16 tables, and the jump in price for that alone with the linens and the center pieces for all of the tables, it’s just been really surprising. Even going into knowing that it wouldn’t be the cheapest investment.” 

Great River Golf Club in Milford, Conn.

Great River Golf Club in Milford, Conn.

Emily Gentile said throwing a more traditional wedding in Connecticut is possible without breaking the bank.

“Even still, family will come up to me and be like ‘oh my gosh, your wedding was so pretty, it was one of the best weddings,’” Gentile said.

She and her husband Anthony were married in Danbury in September.

“We actually, low-key, just wanted to elope. But then the fear of missing out really kicked in. So, we ended up just doing a really small wedding. It was kind of a combination of eloping and having a real wedding,” she added.  

That is a trend Gentile said she’s noticed in recent years.

“It just feels like everything is getting smaller and smaller, and more intimate,” she said. “It’s not even about masks, and am I gonna get sick? You just kind of have a different mind set now. If I had gotten married before the pandemic, I wonder if I would have wanted a bigger thing or not. But, who knows?” 

Keith Zdrojowy is a Connecticut-based wedding photographer and videographer, so he has seen it all. He is also a Sacred Heart University employee, and at one time worked at WSHU.

“It’s no surprise that Connecticut’s very expensive, especially when it comes to weddings, because of location, cost of things, proximity to New York, the way venues have been designed to bring out the essence…” Zdrojowy said.

He said the most noticeable difference between this year and last is the choice of venues. Every wedding he has worked in 2023 has been held outside.

“The stuff from halfway through 2021 and 2022, a lot of them were weddings that were just postponed,” he continued. “So they already had deposits on the venues, deposits on the vendors. It’s possible that what I saw in 2022 was ‘well, we already had it booked so we’re locked into those prices.’ So you still had a lot of the big venues in 2022.”

Zdrojowy said more people are also shifting dates to save money.

“A lot of times you could save money on a Sunday reception versus a Saturday. Or even doing a Friday versus a weekend, or a Thursday I’ve done,” he said. “If the time of year doesn’t matter to you as much as the venue, changing when you get married will save you a significant amount. You pay a premium to get married at a venue in June or July, opposed to September, October or November.” 

His advice for couples on a budget is to decide which details are most important right from the start.

“You have to think about, what do you value and what do you need, and where can you come to compromise for your budget. You don’t want to go broke, but you want to get something you value and you enjoy.” 

Burrell— who is now newly married after having his wedding in Florida — wants couples to remember, while the process can be stressful, just have fun.

“It’s supposed to be a once in a lifetime thing you get to enjoy. And a lot of it, you know, it can be stressful,” Burrell said. “But my advice to couples is, every problem is the two of you versus the problem, not the two of you versus each other. And I think if you can remember that, this very stressful process will hopefully be very worth it for you in the end.” 

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