PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island businesses are anticipating a wedding boom this season after multiple years of the pandemic put a damper on celebrations, which in turn is pushing up the costs for couples, families and friends.
Bride-to-be Andrea Barboza, who had to postpone her wedding because of Covid-19 in 2021, is now expecting to celebrate the day she’s always dreamed about later this summer.
“Having that special moment with my father down the aisle — I’m getting that chill down my spine,” Barboza said. “I’m just so close to my dad.”
While not ideal, Barboza said the one silver lining to postponing the wedding she’s planning with her fiancé, Cody Burnett, is that it gave them more time to save for the big day — a helpful cushion considering the high average cost of getting married.
“We wanted to stay within a budget and we have been pretty good at it,” Barboza said. “Venues were obviously very expensive, so we wanted to get the most bang for our buck.”
And weddings are only getting more expensive this year. With a mix of high demand, inflation and supply-chain issues, wedding costs are climbing quickly across the country, and even more so in Rhode Island.
According to WeddingWire senior editor Kim Forrest, the average cost of weddings nationwide totals about $34,000, an estimate that includes the ceremony, the reception and the engagement ring. In Rhode Island, the estimate soars about 44% to upward of $49,000, according to Forrest.
Part of the cost gap, Forrest explained, stems from the fact that Rhode Island is a desirable wedding destination in part because of its mix of beautiful beaches and classic barns, which are both popular places for couples to trade vows.
Another part of the equation, she added, is Rhode Island’s geographic location.
“Typically, we see coastal states and cities tend to cost more in all aspects of life, and weddings are no exception,” Forrest told Target 12. “Boston, Rhode Island, New York — those types of cities and areas — tend to cost more than the middle of the country.”
Despite the relatively high costs, expenses aren’t getting in the way of many looking to celebrate big this year, as demand for venue and services has soared — representing a potential boom for the the state’s wedding, tourism and hospitality industries.
Winery and wedding venue Shepard’s Run in South Kingstown is already fully booked for this wedding season, according to general manager Susan Denice, who said the venue is already booking into 2023.
The venue opened last year and has already had to increase its prices to help offset expenses tied to updating the facility at the same time as managing inflation and supply-chain issues. The main reception alone costs about $16,500, and then other amenities come with add-on costs.
“[It’s] $2,000 to have a ceremony here and then we always require people to have a security guard.” Denice said.
According to Denice, Shepard’s Run exclusively uses Black Stone Catering for all of its events, and the catering company has likewise had to increase its prices.
According to the most recent Consumer Price Index report, the cost of food items has risen about 10% over the past year, which doesn’t take into account any of the surrounding labor and services costs that come with running a business.
“Their food costs have doubled from what they saw last year and some of the things are really hard to get, so their menus have changes.” Denice said.
Aside from food, a flower shortage is also affecting the wedding industry. According to WeddingWire, most couples spend around $1,500 on floral arrangements. For Barboza, she had to choose new flowers after the cost of her first pick soared.
“The flowers I originally wanted for my bridal shower went up like $2 [per flower] in price, so I had to switch,” Barboza said.
Other costs tied to getting hitched
The cost of getting married isn’t the only expense on the rise.
Bachelorette and bachelor parties remain a tradition in many people’s journey to getting hitched, and those costs are taking a toll on both couples getting married along with their friends.
According to a 2021 study by WeddingWire, 75% of bachelorette parties lasted two or more days, and about 50% of attendees expected to spend around $1,000 on the celebration.
Another reason pre-wedding bashes are getting more expensive? Social media is playing a role.
As Barboza explained, she looked to Instagram for inspiration on color schemes for her parties.
“Color scheme of the greenery, the eucalyptus stuff, we defiantly got pulled into that.” said Barboza, adding social media also encouraged her and her bridesmaids, who took a trip to Boston, to wear all black to dinner while she wore white.
While local restaurants, bars and clubs were once the most popular places for friends and family to celebrate before getting married, wedding professionals these days are seeing people look to social media for inspiration. And oftentimes, that means seeing other pre-wedding parties taking lavish trips, encouraging them to make similar excursions.
Those trips in turn come with additional costs tied to travel, lodging and celebrating. Parties are also spending extra money for perks including personal chefs, dinners, and matching outfits.
“Now wedding parties are creating these full-on trips with swag and staying for several days so they are definitely more involved experiences,” Forrest said.
The power of social media is translating into a financial benefit to some wedding-related businesses. In South Kingstown, Shepard’s Run has become a popular spot for “social-media influencers” to take pictures for various online platforms, which in turn reduces the need for the venue to spend money on advertising.
“We’ve spent very little money on it,” Denice said. “It’s really amazing.”
The money they’re saving on advertising is now being spent on other amenities, she added, which is helping them improve the experience of getting married there.
“It works well for us for acquiring things on the property for brides that we may not have been able to do if we had to pay for advertising,” she said.