Luke and his fiancé are getting married at the Foundry in Long Island City this weekend. Like many of the New York couples tying the knot in this uncertain economic climate, they are still going all out for the big day.
“We just said, ‘Let’s hang the cost because it’s only going to happen once right,’” said the British native.
His American-born fiancée’s parents have thrown in $30,000 from their 401(k) to help foot the bill for the 125-person reception. The newlyweds will cap off the celebration with a two-week honeymoon in Bali, which Luke just bought new scuba gear for.
Based on reports from about a dozen of the city’s bridal retailers, the economic slump has done little to dilute the appetite for lavish weddings. Like Manhattan’s luxury real estate market, the wedding industry here not only appears to be impervious to a recession, but also has been buoyed by Europeans taking advantage of the almighty euro.
The co-owner of the couture bridal emporium Kleinfeld’s—where TLC’s reality show about the woes of wedding dress saleswomen "Say Yes to the Dress" was filmed—Mara Urshel said profits are up 15 to 20 percent in 2008.
“I have been hearing that bridal is flat in the rest of the country; that people are making fewer appointments, and fewer brides are getting married,” she said. “But for us, it’s not the same. We have brides coming from all over the world. With the value of the dollar, Europeans see us as a bargain now.”
Granted, Kleinfield’s is an “exclusively” high-end store. Dresses run an average of $4,000 to $5,000, and you won’t find anything for less than $2,000.
Ms. Urshel is cautious but optimistic about the future.
“I think that we’re quite insulated,” she said. “When things get difficult, people get more oriented towards family and family occasions.”
This is certainly true for wealthy people shopping for weddings at the high end of the spectrum. From florists to custom-stationers, no link in the ever-lengthening bridal supply chain has registered a dip.
“I haven’t noticed in any way that we’ve been impacted [by the recession],” said event caterer David Ziff. “The last thing people want to cut back on is the wedding of their child. We still have the same rules given to us by parents of the bride. They never say they don’t care about cost, but they get a base price and they keep adding.
“I keep waiting for that shoe to drop in the catering business, but it hasn’t happened.”
Most of caterer Marcey Brownstein’s clients signed on at least six months ago, well before the economy was in the dumps. But even new clients “are not cutting back.” Coquilles Saint Jacques, Foie Gras Morels, mini-beef Wellingtons and Lobster Thermidores are a few hors d’ouvres she served up at a recent lavish city reception.
“A wedding is the one place that people can splurge," Ms. Brownstein said. "If they can afford to spend $200,000 on a wedding, they are not going to spend $50,000.”
Some caterers, however, have had to tighten their belts to cover a spike in overhead. All operating costs from rent to food have gone up about 20 percent in the past six months since gas prices started to rise, said Ms. Brownstein. The company is already among the most expensive caterers in the wedding business, so she has been reluctant to pass on the cost to her customers. She won’t be able to absorb the cost forever, though.
Nicky Reinhard, the co-owner of David Reinhard Events, agreed that none of her customers are skimping, but she has noted some forgoing a few extravagances in “consideration of what’s going on.”
“Our clients are never over-the-top; they prefer a tasteful elegance, and that has been consistent,” Ms. Reinhard said. “Some people may think the caviar is a little much this year, but they still want to give their daughter a great wedding.”