I have seen countless threads on Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram with the same question: Why are my inquiries down, and why are the ones I’m getting so last minute? After spending weeks going through countless forums and looking at some data, I wanted to share a few of the reasons why!
For context: At Ava And The Bee, we work with 22+ wedding professionals all over the country (and three countries!) So the data we are collecting are both from our clients, from online platforms, and just from creeping on couples online.
One big reason inquiries are down in 2023 is that there is more competition than ever before. Starting a photography business costs much lower than others, so it is more saturated in most markets. I love seeing new vendors of course! But also means you have to stand out more and connect with your audience to get noticed.
Some vendors are more booked up, like venues, DJ, florists, hair, and makeup, but it also is a normally less saturated market. There is less competition because the barrier and cost of entry to become a photographer or planner is 10x less than opening a venue or any business with increased overhead.
I’m a former planner, so I know it’s not cheap to own a business. But when you don’t need to take out a $500,000 loan to open a venue, you can enter the market easier! We are seeing our venues, florists, HMA, stationery, and others being booked for 2023, while our planners and photographers are not.
Couples are also planning differently. They are shifting to shorter timelines, mostly because venues are booked up in 2023 (so very limited dates = they don’t plan as far out). And we are seeing Gen Z not book 1+ year in advance in general.
The second is that they are taking longer to save before booking vendors. Consistently across the board, we see couples complain about costs – and not just for weddings. Regardless of whether or not the U.S. goes into a recession, people are tightening their budgets right now, especially for large expenses like weddings.
Another thing to consider is how many vendors they are booking. The Knot’s annual Real Weddings Study found that couples hired an average of 14 wedding vendors. Those are a LOT of moving pieces. If you are a wedding planner you need to really start emphasizing why a planner is so vital to managing this large of a wedding team.
Gen Z are also trending to longer engagements – while millennials tended to keep their engagement to around one year before planning, Gen Z is 1.5+ years. I think this is due to the higher cost of living – couples are having other milestones come before a wedding (moving in together, buying a house, building a savings THAN getting married – all while engaged).
One study found that nearly 30% of adult Gen Zers are still living at home with their parents – the cost is living is so high, so a wedding isn’t something on their minds right now. It all makes sense, though. Would you rather be investing in a home, or a party? For most people, the answer is a home!
They are allocating their budget differently. No more standard percentages we have seen in the past, like 10% on photo, 8% on flowers, etc. It’s about what matters to THEM. So for some, that means they are spending way more on the details that matter to them.
For example, we are seeing couples spending more on guest experiences. This includes things like live wedding painters, Food Trucks (yes, these are as popular as ever!), and next-day brunches.
Another thing to consider is how couples now spend their money. According to The Knot’s annual Real Weddings Study, 90% of Gen Z couples speak about finances before getting engaged. Why does it matter? This is the most financially educated generation. They are also the ones which might have graduated during a pandemic, so they need some time to get financially secure before getting married.
And for Millenials, 73% live together prior to getting engaged. This might help us understand why couples are waiting longer to get married. Couples have larger financial priorities before they start to pay for a wedding (like a house!)
Here are big four things you shouldn’t do: Don’t panic. Don’t lower your pricing. Don’t get desperate. Don’t break your boundaries.
Here is what you should do: Focus on connection marketing. Take time to find what your “special sauce” is that will set you apart. With more competition, especially if you are a planner or photographer, you need to stand out. Offering “Fine art photography” isn’t enough anymore – there are most likely dozens of photographers within two hours who do this as well.
Make sure your website is working, is well laid out, has SEO, and is converting traffic into leads. My favorite way to do this is through blogs. This way, when couples are ready to find you, they see you are updating your website consistently and are still in business.
Do not go silent on social media. This will make couples think you have closed down shop. While you might be a little burned out, which is a completely valid feeling, if you pull a full step on marking online, your couples will notice. Keep in mind: couples are creeping for months before ever reaching out. They may look at you online for weeks, or months, before ever reaching out. Take a look at your online profiles: do you look closed? Or do you look open?
And don’t forget about platforms like Facebook! Your Facebook page will show up high on search results, often higher than your actual website. What if a couple can’t find your website, and look at your Facebook and there haven’t been updates in weeks? Trust me: They might think you are closed.
And do not stop marketing. More competition = you need to market even more now than ever before.
You regret these clients and start resenting them. We have all been there before. You say yes to a non-ideal client just for the cash flow. Now, you have 1+ years working with them, and you start to get annoyed. The clients are creating pain now, and you don’t look forward to working with them anymore. The moral of the story? Keep on pushing!
What you need is a strategic marketing studio that knows the wedding industry just as intimately as you do — Someone you trust to strategize and create powerful content marketing that does the work of attracting your couples. From our Marketing Roadmap VIP Week to our Shop, we have services and education fitted to suit your unique needs! See how we can serve you!