Article written by Kathy Kahn of HVBiz
The wedding business is never out of season, but for some couples, they are definitely keeping an eye on the bridal budget.
Jeanne Stark, owner of Hudson Valley Ceremony in Rhinebeck, loved her own wedding so much she decided she wanted to make a career out of helping others plan for that special day.
“I had also been to some weddings where I saw couples getting ripped off. I wanted to do something to help others avoid the pitfalls and remember it as a wonderful day.”
After 20 years of planning other people’s “I Do’s,” Stark says even the economy has not deterred wedding fever, but it has contributed to the way couples are spending.
“Many are waiting until their late 20s or early 30s to get married – it’s no longer something they expect parents to pay for – and since they are spending their own money, they are setting a definite budget. For those who don’t have financial constraints, anything goes. But most couples are looking for something in the $10,000 range. That is still quite a bit of money. Because of that and because of the economy, they are asking us to either come in or under their budget … and we make sure we do, but also make sure it is an event they will come away happy from.”
Stark plans weddings for older couples or those making a second trip down the aisle. “They are usually looking for a more intimate experience, and they keep the guest list to a minimum, as a rule. A quiet bed and breakfast with a fireplace is what many are in the market for. Simple, elegant and small.”
Stark, whose addition to her own Rhinebeck home is her base of operations , employs 12 people who help her plan for more than 300 celebrations a year – most of them with a bride and groom as the centerpiece.
“We can create a package the couple feels comfortable with and make it a great event – they can either cut back by choosing to reduce flowers – many are choosing to create do-it-yourself centerpieces. Some are opting for buffet-style dinners or brunches s rather than full-course meals and reducing the number of members of the bridal party. Others are trimming guest lists,” she said.
Watching dollars doesn’t mean you end up with a so-so affair.
“On the contrary, making some realistic changes that bring the price to within your budget doesn’t mean it’s not just as lovely or elegant, but it may not be in the same venue Chelsea Clinton had her wedding in,” she joked.
Stark said a wedding is one event where couples – even those on a budget – are willing to go as high as they can to make their day one to remember. “When the economy is bad, people want to do something that makes them feel good. A wedding is a positive, happy occasion. Even couples on a budget will come up with every penny they can muster to make it special.”
Midweek weddings have been more popular since the recession hit, she said. “When the economy goes south, more people do weddings in the winter because brides can negotiate a better price. And most catering facilities or small boutique wedding venues will make a great deal for a Tuesday or Thursday wedding. I tell my clients, ‘If your guests love you, they’ll be there.’”
Another added plus for the local economy are New York City brides who come up to the Hudson Valley to have an event on the water and to enjoy the view.
“A bride in the city would normally end up spending $100,000 for an event they can have up here for half the price, and have much more of a selection –hotels on the water, tented, outdoor events that can’t be had easily in the city…it’s also a great getaway for guests, too. They don’t have to travel far. I have noticed when the economy goes south, couples come north.”
Stark has some favorites: “I love the Rhinecliff, Locust Grove, Mills Mansion, our local wineries – they offer weddings that are not a cookie-cutter theme. Depending on the size and scope of the event, there are several mansions up here that will offer the home for a wedding or a special event. There’s a lot to choose from all over the region.” Some that did not currently offer space for weddings are now finding their historic sites are attractive venues. “For couples and wedding planners, this is always a positive to be able to offer the bride and groom something out of the ordinary, and it helps our local historical sites stay in the plus column.”