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October 14, 2008

Feeling the squeeze?

Has the recent state of our economy put a damper on your wedding planning?

Wedding businesses feeling impact of soft economy


Special to Newsday

October 14, 2008

A fairy-tale wedding never took a recession into consideration.

"We started planning our wedding a year ago," said Lori Sabatello, 27, of Mount Sinai. "If we were doing it now, and this is how the economy was, we would have invited less people or had it at a less expensive place."

Businesses catering to Long Island weddings - events frequently considered to be models of extravagance - are feeling the pinch as more and more couples worried about the souring economy scale back their festivities.

"I would say it's the slowest it's been in 15 years," said Victoria Buckwald, co-owner of Angel Bridals, a bridal shop in East Islip.

"More girls have a specific budget in mind, and it's down from the budget that they would have had a year ago," said Buckwald, who said she began noticing changes in brides' spending habits about a year and a half ago.

Buckwald said she's noticed women borrowing headpieces and other accessories from their friends, or buying wedding dresses off the rack and having alterations made instead of custom-ordering a gown.

"You look to save money in any way that you can," said Sabatello, whose wedding to her high school sweetheart is Nov. 7 at Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Port Jefferson. "It's a lot of money when you start adding everything up."

Gary Cress, fourth-generation owner of James Cress Florists in Smithtown and Port Jefferson, feels the impact of price-conscious brides on his cash register.

For one recent wedding, Cress' shop crafted the table arrangements - but that was all.

"The bride went to Stop & Shop for her bouquets," he said. "I was absolutely floored."

In years past, Cress said, it wasn't unusual for brides to come to him and say they had consulted with two other florists. Now, it's more like seven or 10. "The competition is much more prevalent," he said.

To stay afloat, Cress finds himself changing his sales tactics. He hasn't lowered prices generally but he is negotiating more with brides on the cost.

"I don't let any brides walk," he said. "If they come in with a certain amount of money to spend, I give them their flowers. You can't let some supermarket do your wedding. It needs to be done correctly."

Guest lists also are taking a hit. Michael Burbage, banquet coordinator for Beckwith Pointe Catering in New Rochelle, said Friday that many guests are not attending his clients' weddings because they can't afford the travel and hotel costs, or even an adequate gift.

"I have a couple getting married this weekend and almost 35 percent of guests said no," said Burbage, whose clientele is about 10 percent Long Islanders. Couples have resorted to "going to their C and D lists" to maintain the minimum number of guests needed to keep their room, he said.

Sabatello said that out of 180 guests she and her fiance invited, 120 responded with one week left to go until the RSVP date. So far, 21 guests - mostly from out of state - declined the invitation.

Debbie Golden, 26, of Coram, has a guest list of 125 and is counting on 100 showing up at her wedding in May. "We didn't invite a lot of out-of-towners," she said, so there's no need to worry about long-distance cancellations.

But one of the out-of-towners is her sister - who's in the wedding.

"She'll show up. Well, hopefully," she said with a laugh.

Many Long Island catering halls haven't noticed a big change since the economic slump. Bruce Cocchi, banquet director of Watermill Caterers in Smithtown, said he's noticed a slight decrease, "but nothing dramatic," in guest attendance.

"Maybe some people are concerned about their jobs and giving gifts," Cocchi said, "but I think most people, when it comes to a wedding, realize that the importance of the date has to supersede something as superficial as money."
I'm starting to feel it a little - In planning, I've tried to brainstorm and think of everything in the most economic friendly way for myself and our guests, but with the recent economic turmoil, I'm realizing even economic friendly might not be enough when thinking of my guests and their finances as well as our own finances... anybody else feeling the squeeze at all? a little stressed?

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