The Future of Weddings, According to Wedding Vendors

Zola surveyed 468 wedding vendors on what the future of weddings may look like and the pandemic’s impact on their businesses.

By The Zola Team

The Future of Weddings According to Wedding Vendors
Photo by Freas Photography

The First Look ✨

The future of weddings is looking bright after a year of delayed ‘I dos.’ The majority of 2021 weddings are going on as scheduled, and the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has made 81% of couples feel even more confident moving forward with their plans. But, the past year has forever changed how we celebrate -- and how the wedding industry operates.

We surveyed 468 trusted wedding vendors, who are all part of Zola’s Wedding Vendor Platform, about the future of weddings. We asked about the financial impact of the pandemic, how businesses are recovering, how they are feeling heading into wedding season, and what they predict weddings will look like moving forward. These vendors provide outstanding service for events across the country and include venues, photographers, videographers, florists, bakers, makeup artists, caterers, bands, DJs, and more.

Considering the vast majority of vendors are small businesses or sole proprietors, it’s not surprising that the financial hit caused by delayed weddings was tremendous. Vendors have faced other unprecedented challenges as halted supply chains disrupted industries nationwide, such as limited availability of wholesale florals. But, wedding vendors are resilient, finding ways to adapt by adding new services to their portfolios, adding even more transparency into their contracts, and supporting couples always.

Looking ahead, vendors are feeling optimistic, hopeful, and more excited than ever to get back to weddings. One in three say that they are fully booked or even overbooked for 2021 with more events scheduled than in prior years -- but the majority do still want more bookings for this year. A third of vendors also report they already feel secure in their number of bookings for 2022! Six in ten vendors believe that the wedding industry will bounce back this year. And all agree that ultimately, love will prevail.

Read on for the full report, and check out Zola’s Wedding Vendor Platform to fast-track the vendor search process and book the best vendors for your big day.

Weddings are returning in a big way this summer with more meaning, intention, and optimism than ever before.

  • 30% of vendors said they haven’t had any couples with 2021 wedding dates rebook or cancel
  • 52% said several 2021 couples, but not many, have rescheduled
    • Rebookings are almost exclusively by couples with original dates between January - June 2021
    • 40% of couples rebooked for later in 2021 and 50% rebooked for 2022

Wedding vendors feel hopeful about the celebration boom on the horizon, and believe the industry bounce back is imminent.

  • 61% of vendors said they’re eager to get back to weddings and return to a form of “normalcy”
  • 52% believe the love and meaning surrounding wedding celebrations has been heightened
  • 61% are optimistic the industry will bounce back in 2021; 39% believe the bounce back will happen in 2022 or later
  • 55% are confident the vaccine roll-out will have a positive impact on the industry
  • 4% are worried their business may never fully recover

In response to the pent-up demand for weddings, many vendors are scheduling more events than ever before, a strong indicator of an industry rebound.

  • 12% are overbooked, with more events scheduled for 2021 than in years prior
  • 21% are completely booked to normal capacity
  • 19% have enough bookings to feel secure about the rest of the year, but still have availability
  • 39% have some bookings, but want more
  • 7% are concerned about staying afloat
  • 2% are not booking out of precaution due to the pandemic

In the immediate future of June & July, vendors report that most weddings will have guest lists under 75 people.

  • 18% of vendors are mainly servicing “micro-weddings” with under 25 guests
  • 54% report most weddings will have a guest list of between 25 - 75
  • 22% report most weddings will have a guest list of 100 or more
  • 50% said most weddings will be outdoors, but only 11% said most weddings will be indoors

Intimate affairs, online wedding planning & event streaming, and an increased focus on guest safety will continue, but a return to destination weddings may be farther in the future. Here are the trends vendors believe will live on through 2022 and beyond:

  • 75% - smaller guests lists
  • 67% - shift to outdoors events
  • 62% - even more couples planning their weddings online
  • 50% - elopements
  • 49% - events that include a virtual or streaming component
  • 42% - focus on guest safety (pod seating, plated meals, individual wedding favors)
  • 34% - uptick in weekday weddings
  • 16% - return to destination weddings

While the weddings boom is coming, much of vendors’ 2021 revenue is delayed revenue rather than new income.

  • 58% of vendors were only able to service less than 25% of their working dates in 2020
  • 42% report that ¼ - ½ of currently booked 2021 dates are delayed 2020 events
  • 24% report the same is true for over ½ of 2021 dates
  • 12% report reschedulings of 2020 events led to an estimated financial loss of under $10,000
  • 42% report an estimated financial loss of $10,000 - $50,000
  • 17% report an estimated financial loss of $50,000 - $100,000
  • 15% report an estimated financial loss of over $100,000

Wedding vendors are resilient and are adapting to changes by adding new and unique services that couples need and want.

  • 53% are connecting with couples online more than ever before through platforms like Zola
  • 76% updated contracts to include pandemic clauses, safety protocol, and rescheduling policies
  • 56% updated payment structures so couples have even more transparency into all paid services
  • 43% added new services such as:
    • Streaming & virtual event services
    • Lower minimum cost packages for smaller ceremonies & elopements
    • Floral preservation & floral alternatives for multi-celebration weddings
    • Rolling bar stations for “pod” guest seating
    • General business diversification around other large events such as family photography, day-to-day flower delivery, and holiday catering

As couples become more eager to move forward with the planning process, the vendor community continues to help couples reimagine their weddings. Here’s more on how vendors are feeling, from vendors themselves:

Every wedding we shoot or engagement session, you can feel optimism returning. There is a sense of unity and hope at these events again. Nothing is taken for granted.”

We've noticed a lot of couples wanting to book much further in advance than we are used to or even willing to book. We just had an inquiry for May 2023.”

“I am concerned about another surge in COVID halting our industry again. I hope that venues and counties continue to follow the CDC guidelines. As much as I want normalcy again, we can't get there without precautions and safety. I think the most important step is stopping the pandemic first, and the only way to do that is to follow guidelines that save lives.”

“I think the return of weddings is great. Couples have put their dreams and lives on hold, and it's important that they celebrate.

“I feel optimistic. I think couples are shifting towards smaller, more intentional weddings. My state has been pretty good about managing restrictions appropriately. Once I am fully vaccinated (in a few weeks), I will feel much safer.”

“I'm excited, but nervous about being able to give clients what they are hoping for since flower supply will be quite low until fall or later. The increase in flower demand has also caused the flower prices to increase and that's a hard message to pass along to couples who have already postponed 1-2+ times.”

Excited and overwhelmed at my schedule. There are so many back-to-back weddings that I normally would not have scheduled. Also, I’m not making as much money this year because some clients paid in full a year ago.”

“I feel very positive about the return of weddings! I am mainly an intimate wedding and elopement photographer. I feel that couples are leaning into smaller weddings so I will be able to sustain an increased influx of couples over the next few years. I am almost fully booked for 2022, but definitely have some openings in 2021 still because of cancellations. But again, I feel very positive because I am showing up for my couples and that's what I'm really here for. To serve in any way they need, even if it's just a pick-me-up phone call!”

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