Budget-Conscious Brides Apparently Even More Obsessive Than Regular Brides

Wedding fun for everyone: "Dad carries, Mom finds the right size and my brother does what he's told," says one bargain-hunting bride. She wears this cunning hat so her handlers can find her in the crowd.

Of course, it's really nothing new: Weddings have always divided unequally into the spendthrift and the bargain-seeker varietals, and for the latter sort of person, the confluence of expenses, haggling and finagling provides an unprecedented perfect opportunity to use a lifetime's know-how. Such people were in bargain-hunting clover before the recession, and will be afterwards. It's the rest who are causing wedding purveyors to sweat: The recession is catching up with the wedding industry, as brides start cutting costs and looking for budget solutions. Says AdAge,

Industry experts say they are beginning to see longer engagements and more cohabitation, as couples look to save up for the big day. And, when the big day does come, brides and wedding vendors report spending is down. For a category that has been enjoying boom times, the news is far from welcome.

As a result, events like Filene's notorious "Running of the Brides" discount gown sale are becoming increasingly common. This past week, a Boston Goodwill had a two-day bridal gown blowout, described by the Times as, "about 1,200 designer dresses donated by a local retailer and valued at as much as $7,000 for a single dress would be sold for $80 to $250." Although the store expected major crowds, the turnout was disappointing.

The upshot of this, however, doesn't seem like people are reassessing their priorities, so much as reorganizing them: and apparently making arguably important decisions on things like "longer engagements and more cohabitation" around the elaborateness of their weddings. Lately, we've heard there's a new vogue for elopement, but I'd be curious to see whether those couples wouldn't have opted for something low-key in any event. While for some of us delinquent brides the economy might provide a handy excuse for keeping things modest, anyone who's been raised on the white wedding ideal — or, more to the point, comes from a family where such a thing is a necessity — isn't going to settle for City Hall.

As we know, weddings are pricey for guests, too — gifts, transport, hotels and togs add up, and that's not even talking wedding party members — so you'd think most attendees would welcome a return to modesty, too. Speaking as an incompetent bride, I can only say that in the past nine months people's attitudes — at least their vocal ones — have changed considerably. Whereas a year ago people acted aghast when I mentioned elopement, apparently unconcerned by the fact that it was a financial strain on me and my family and totally unembarrassed to declare that we "owed" the expenditure to various relatives, now one has only to evoke the "E" word and people fall respectfully silent. A silver lining? Of a sort — and when you think about it, maybe some of these longer engagements aren't such a terrible idea, either. But when an industry that's supposed to be "recession-proof" is feeling the pinch - and overbearing second-cousins are falling quiet on your failure to produce a hen weekend — well, we know it's serious.

For Richer or Poorer: Wedding Spending Now [AdAge]
A Sale to Benefit Charity and Thrifty Brides-to-Be [NY Times]