For Richer or Poorer: Wedding Spending Now

Average Reception Costs Down, but Bridal Websites, TV Shows Seeing Success

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Wedded bliss: It's something consumers are looking for, even in a down economy, right? Well, maybe. 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.

Average wedding cost, 1990-2008
"I don't think there's any industry that is immune to this particular recession," said Alison Adler Matz, publisher of Conde Nast's Brides, which recently conducted a survey of brides that found spending had risen 1% between 2006 and 2008. "What we're seeing overall [is] people are still spending on their weddings. ... Like any consumption, they're making smart, informed choices."

Martha Stewart Weddings

MAGAZINES

Bridal magazines, though still posting declines in ad pages, have been holding up better than some categories, such as cooking and shelter titles, as well as some business and entertainment publications. Still, newsstand sales have been soft.

"The recession has definitely had an impact," said Amy Wilkins, senior VP-publisher of Martha Stewart Weddings. "We also have the lowest population of 27-year-olds that we've had in a very long time" -- 27 being the average age a woman gets married. "We haven't seen the benefit of the millennials yet."

MAGAZINE NEWSSTAND SALES, SECOND HALF OF 2008
SALES % CHANGE
Modern Bride 104,000 -27%
Martha Stewart Weddings 182,557 -19%
Brides 177,800 -7%
Elegant Bride 47,500 4%
Bridal Guide 125,289 -1.9%
MAGAZINE AD PAGES, 2008
Bridal Guide -17%
Elegant Bride -11%
Modern Bride -7%
Martha Stewart Weddings -4%
Brides -3%

Martha Stewart Weddings

DIGITAL

While the average bride might be shying away from steep magazine cover prices, she is visiting bridal websites in droves. Bridal sites across the board saw major year-over-year gains in unique visitors last month. Advertisers appear to be taking notice. The Knot saw its online-advertising revenue grow 15% last year. "We think this revenue stream could benefit from print dollars coming online and marketers becoming more inclined to pursue targeted audiences rather than paying for reach," said CEO David Liu, during a recent call with analysts.

UNIQUE MONTHLY VISITORS, JANUARY 2009
VISITORS % CHANGE
TheKnot.com 1.6M 43%
WeddingChannel.com 1.2M 43%
Brides.com 0.8M 21%

WeTV

TV

WeTV has the market on bridal programming, with a schedule of original series and specials. March 9 kicks off the network's second "We Go Bridal Week," which Scott Collins, exec VP-national advertising sales, said has been popular with advertisers. "Our numbers are up in a big way; 2008 was a banner year, and bridal was a big part of that," he said. "We have the bridal marketers and then we have the piece that is just [marketers] interested in that life stage. ... Advertisers want to follow those eyeballs."

PRIME-TIME VIEWERSHIP FOR SELECT PROGRAMS, SECOND HALF OF 2008
"Bridezillas" 299,000 18%
"Platinum Brides" 232,000 24%
"Rich Bride, Poor Bride" 70,000 20%
AD SPENDING AGAINST SELECT PROGRAMS, 2008
"Bridezillas" 7%
"Platinum Brides" 2%
"Rich Bride, Poor Bride" 92%

Sources: The Wedding Report, Magazine Publishers of America, Audit Bureau of Circulations, Compete, TNS Media Intelligence, Nielsen Co.

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