After the unprecedented wave of weddings in 2022, 2023 is uncharted territory. Zola surveyed over 300 wedding professionals on what they expect to happen and how they’re responding. Read on to better understand, benchmark, and prepare for the year to come!
Early on in 2023, the operational costs of running a wedding business are already going up. In the survey, 83% of wedding pros reported that they expect their operating costs to increase in 2023, with only 4% saying they don't expect any increase in costs. Of course, these cost increases vary depending on category—100% of florists expect an increase, compared to only 67% of videographers. About 14% of all respondents said they are still unsure.
Some impacts of inflation are perceived to be bigger than others. To better understand what’s driving up costs and creating new challenges for wedding pros, we asked survey respondents to tell us the top 3 ways their business has been impacted by inflation. While they gave a variety of answers, here’s what came out on top across the board:
The rising cost of goods is the biggest culprit, named by 26% of all respondents. But these rising costs are disproportionately impacting some specific categories: 100% of surveyed caterers, florists, cake and dessert providers, and bar services reported that the rising cost of goods is affecting their business.
When asked in the survey which specific “goods” are taking the largest hit, 51% of free responses mentioned gas and travel, and at least 31% cited food, particularly ingredients like butter and eggs. These expenses “have made it challenging for these businesses to price so far in advance of an event without leaving money on the table when it comes to the event date," says Michelle Loretta, founder of Be Sage Consulting for wedding professionals.
Changes to profit and loss are more likely to affect personal income if you’re an entrepreneur or small business, as is the case for many wedding professionals. Nearly a quarter (24%) of all respondents, especially photographers (76%), beauty professionals (74%), and wedding planners (69%), cited personal expenses and cost of living among their top three observed impacts of inflation. “Workers require more income to pay their bills,” says Michelle. “Social security has increased its benefit payouts in 2023 by 8.7% to adapt to this cost of living adjustment. This indicates that wages should at least be increasing at the same rate of 8.7%.”
With increases to cost of living also come increases to cost of labor. Across all respondents, about 18% said inflation is most affecting their cost of labor, especially venues (67%), videographers (67%), caterers (64%), and florists (60%). “Service-based businesses are getting hit hard,” says Michelle. Still, less than 1.5% of wedding pros said they’ve reduced their staff.
Wedding pros report being affected by inflation differently, depending on their line of work. Curious how they compare? This chart shows the top two perceived inflation impacts for each vendor category:
Wedding budgets are always a big question. In our 2023 First Look Report, 60% of couples reported they weren’t prepared for budgeting, finding the process “overwhelming” when faced with real numbers reflecting service and labor costs. Fittingly, in our most recent survey, 17% of wedding pros reported encountering couples with smaller budgets than they would have liked for the services requested.
Wedding planners, who often get a bird's-eye view of a couple’s budget, reported seeing two main ways couples are saving. One is going digital to cut paper costs, using features like digital invitations or programs. The other is reducing guest counts, with couples opting for more intimate gatherings.
Despite tighter budgets, couples still consider many things splurge-worthy when it comes to their wedding, depending on what matters most to them. And, most often, these splurges include their vendors! Only 2% said they weren’t splurging at all.
Looking to 2023 engagement and wedding seasons, wedding pros are taking diverse approaches to ensure they’re able to retain positive momentum and mitigate any adverse macroeconomic impacts.
While some vendors are raising their 2023 rates, only 18% said they were raising rates more than they typically do each year. For those who raised them more than usual, the average increase was about 26%. Cake and dessert providers, photographers, and caterers were most likely to make these extra bumps, likely to accommodate reported cost increases to ingredients and transportation.
The majority (61%) are only raising rates by their typical amount, with an overall median increase of 12%. This aligns with industry averages Zola has seen in the past.
How else are pros mitigating impact on their bottom lines? In addition to revisiting high-cost, high-commitment advertising platforms, the top 3 reported strategies were:
Another Zola survey asked vendors how busy 2023 was shaping up to be… and results were split. About 46% said their season was looking slower, while 43% said their season was gearing up to be even busier than 2022. Several answers point to taking on fewer, but more lucrative weddings, a strategy to get the most out of the wedding season.
Take action: consider capturing weddings that have a higher return for less effort. Take the time to update your Zola listing with fresh information about you, your business, and the great work you did across 2022. Galleries and reviews go a long way to securing not only more inquiries, but better and stronger ones, too.
Across all respondents, 21% of wedding pros are exploring updating their services and offerings altogether. As pros face increasing costs of labor and goods, in combination with access to more information than ever before about couples’ budgets and preferences, reconsidering existing offerings is a smart way to optimize. Refreshed offerings, in line with demand and worth charging more for, can go a long way toward providing excellent service, while keeping the bottom line and peace of mind in check.
Take action: update your Zola listing to showcase your new packages and offerings—and make sure that couples are aware of what you don’t offer, too. Revisiting the lead preferences in your profile is also a great way to make sure the right couples (with the right budgets) are finding you and inquiring. Michelle also recommends being upfront with clients. “It's important to have an open conversation during that contract process about your pricing and cost fluctuations in the span of that couple's engagement,” she says. In some cases, she’s even seen contract clauses that allow pricing adjustments based on economic fluctuations.
Time is money—and time spent on administrative work could better be spent on booked or inquiring couples. To combat this, more and more vendors are turning to automation and smart tech that drives efficiency in time and spend. Over 18% of respondents said they were looking to use technology to automate their business. In a separate vendor survey, they also said their top tools were:
Beyond new tools, several wedding pros called out that they were looking for more efficient advertising spend, such as ending expensive platform subscriptions and focusing instead on platforms with more flexibility and control.
Take action: look at what you spend the most time doing, or what you dislike doing most! Several tools, while they may require a paid subscription, can dramatically increase your efficiency and thus be a great return on investment. A fellow wedding pro shared some top advice: “Don't dive into a system you've heard works for others, check it out for what best fits your company's needs.” But, if you need help thinking about where to start, your peers are a great resource!
All in all, while the wedding industry is feeling the impact of the current economy and inflation, wedding professionals are finding ways to adapt and continue providing high-quality services to their clients. By being proactive and exploring new strategies for reducing costs and increasing efficiency, wedding professionals can weather the effects of inflation and continue to thrive in the years to come.
Want to discuss your listing or connect with a fellow vendor for ideas? Let the Zola team know—we’re here to help!
Not yet listed on Zola as a vendor? Visit www.zola.com/forvendors to create your free listing! Questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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