The bride and groom say I do, seal it with a kiss, and as theyre pronounced husband and wife, every guest at the wedding releases a live butterfly from a monogrammed box they were given when they arrived.
Theres no denying that the cloud of colorful butterflies makes a spectacular effect for an outdoor ceremony, but at $10 a box, its also a pricey one, says Tammy Schneider, a Coeur dAlene-based wedding coordinator. Still, Schneider says shes provided butterflies for two weddings shes coordinated in this area.
Welcome to the wedding market, where the rallying cry could be, Damn the economy, full speed ahead, wedding-industry professionals here say. Not surprisingly, such rich pickings have attracted more suppliers, with the number of wedding-related vendors here and nationally growing substantially in recent years, they say.
Fueling the growth has been a trend toward more elaborateand costlyweddings, says Schneider, who for 15 years coordinated weddings for the Coeur dAlene Resort before becoming manager of the hotels spa and who still produces three area-wide bridal shows each year. Brides are trying to outdo the next and are trying to do little things to personalize their day and not make it like their friend who maybe got married a month ago, she says.
Pat Crossman, owner of an event facility in Post Falls and president of Inland Northwest Party Resources, a professional organization with 65 members in the region, says, Theyre trying to make this production out of it because theyve been sold for years that this is their special day.
Nationally, the wedding industry generates $38 billion a year in sales, says the Association of Bridal Consultants. Locally, Schneider estimates the price for an average weddingIm not talking high-end, but average, she saysto be $17,000 to $19,000.
The Coeur dAlene Resort isnt known for doing things by halves, so that average may be higher than many brides and grooms pay. Also, budget-minded couples and those with little money obviously put their weddings on for far less.
Still, even at the Crossroads Dance Club & Event Facility, Crossmans more modest event venue, A $10,000 wedding is a cheap wedding, she says.
Talking to the different brides that come in to check out our facility, they want to spend a lot of money, most of them. A lot of them feel like this is going to be their dream wedding so theyre willing to put the money out for that, or their parents are willing to do so.
Its no surprise, then, that entrepreneurs are eager to be part of that market.
Brides can buy heart-shaped rice for their guests to shower on them, disposable cameras that are decorated in lace and flowers, and customized, digital clocks that count down to the wedding day. There are engraved cake servers, bubble dispensers in the shape of champagne glasses, hand-made unity candles, and even pats of butter molded into the shape of doves.
Brides can also register for gifts from hundreds of companies, from furniture retailers to home-improvement stores, to Amazon.com, and can record all of their wedding preparations and how we met stories on Web sites for all to see.
The Association of Bridal Consultants asserts that the bridal marketwhich includes purchases made in the six months before a wedding, for the event itself, and the six months afteraccounts for 29 percent of all living-room furniture sold each year, 31 percent of all bedroom furniture, 45 percent of glassware, and 33 percent of electronics sales.
Mary Ann Slade, owner of Art of Weddings Library, a retailer in the Spokane Valley that also produces three wedding shows each year, says, Its going crazy, but the wedding industry is a big market. Its a big industry even in this area.
As the industry has grown, its attracted more suppliers in the market here, a number of sources say.
Slade estimates that the number of bridal retailers in the Spokane area has doubled or even tripled since she opened Art of Weddings nine years ago. Judy Trygg, who has owned Bridal Collections downtown for 22 years, says, Now, instead of one new one coming out in a year, theres two new ones coming out in a year.
One such business that opened recently here is Davids Bridal Inc., the Goliath of the wedding-apparel industry. The Conshohocken, Pa.-based company operates more than 150 bridal shops across the U.S., and opened its first Spokane store last November, near the Spokane Valley Mall.
Davids has more than 12,000 gowns in stock at its new outlet here, says store manager Jolene Pollock. Our dresses are ready for our customers now. They dont have to be special ordered. You could come in and buy a wedding dress and get married in 10 minutes if you wanted to, she says.
Other bridal shops in town say that the arrival of Davids has lured some of their business away. Any time theres another business it takes a piece of the pie, Trygg says. They also have a nationwide advertising program, so just because theyre open theyre going to take a piece of the pie.
Trygg and another longtime wedding-gown retailer here, Mary Taylor, of Mossutos Bridal & Formals, say they expect to remain competitive by offering more service and custom-fit gowns.
In addition, they say, not all the bridal businesses in the market now will survive.
Theres always someone who thinks they want to own a bridal shop, so they open up and theyre around a couple years and then they close, Trygg says.
Don Clifton and his wife, Erlene, opened Celestial Selections in the Spokane Valley a year and a half ago, and say the business is thriving by targeting niche markets.
Celestial Selections specializes in more conservative or modest dresses, he saysnamely, dresses with sleeves. Over the past five years, wedding-dress fashions have veered toward strapless or spaghetti-strap looksTrygg says half of her current inventory is straplessso Clifton and his wife, Erlene, have gone the opposite direction, he says. Consequently, the store appeals to two seemingly disparate groupsconservative Christians and girls who want to cover tattoos, he says.
Like other retailers, Celestial Selections offers accessories such as jewelry, shoes, and undergarments, as well as tuxedo rentals. Such one-stop shopping helps busy brides fit wedding planning into their schedules, Clifton says.
Similarly, there now are six major wedding shows produced each year in Spokane and Coeur dAlene that feature vendors of services such as limousine drivers, disc jockeys, caterers, dress retailers, and event facilities.
Gene Slatter, owner of Tuxedo Gallery Inc. here, which operates three tuxedo-rental shops in Spokane and Coeur dAlene, says he participated in one such show early this year and thought that attendance was down somewhat compared with previous years. That led him to believe the regions economic slump would affect his business this year, but that hasnt been the case, he says.
Bookings have been real good this winter, he says. I havent seen that weve been hurt a lot. Slatter recently moved his downtown shop into a building that also houses a bridal shop, Ever After Bridal.
Some wedding-industry businesses report that their business is down, but most believe its a temporary state.
Slade, of Art of Weddings Library, says people keep getting married even in a down economy, and many, many of them want all the extras.
We got married 35 years ago and you had the wedding and you had the reception in the church basement and you had cake, mints, nuts, punch, and coffee, and everybody went home, she says. Its gotten to be a much bigger deal.
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