Wedding boom to continue into 2023, Sonoma County wedding industry already feeling impact

Planners and others who work in the industry predict the post-pandemic surge of people tying the knot will last through 2023.|

Wedding season may be months away, but business owners involved in Sonoma County’s lucrative wedding industry are already bracing for the 2023 boom that started post-pandemic this year.

Alex Quintana, owner of Quintana Events and Design in Sonoma, said the year has been busy with weddings and wedding planning, with May and June of 2023 already fully booked.

“We’re seeing more yes’s than no’s in the RSVP world for sure,” he said. “People just haven’t been together in two-and-a-half years, so people are really using a wedding experience to get everybody back together.”

Lindsey Hintereder’s wedding planning business Ooh La La Weddings has been bringing weddings to Wine Country since 2011. In this post-pandemic era, she said she started scaling back to only taking 12 weddings a year and accepting clients with bigger budgets for an upscale wedding.

Like Quintana, Hintereder has also seen a surge of business and has had to turn away more business than she can take.

“We haven’t had any major fires in the last few years in the Sonoma/Napa area and people feel a little bit more comfortable traveling here,” she said, adding that clients are wanting larger celebrations with an average of 150 guests.

“I’m almost already booked for 2023, and we’re already seeing a lot of inquiry for 2024.”

Jacque Ramirez is the owner of Jacque Oh! Beauty and has been doing bridal hair and makeup since 2006.

She said this year was intense for her business as she essentially played catch-up with brides who postponed their weddings and new brides who are booking at the last minute.

“The season is no longer May through August,” Ramirez said. “It’s literally year-round.”

Because the demand for her services has gone up, Ramirez said she’s focusing on quality of her work with brides over quantity.

She also said that because many of her clients have had the past two years to get inspiration for their wedding, expectations have skyrocketed.

“I feel like this next year is going to be a really big growth year for a lot of people in this industry,” she said, adding she is also already getting booking requests for 2023.

“I think it’s going to be a year of growth and setting boundaries,” she said. “I want brides that want me instead of taking brides that don’t have an artist, and I think this next year, there’s going to be more than enough work for every artist out there.”

California was recently ranked the seventh-best state for the wedding industry, according to a study from online diamond ring marketplace Rare Carat.

After the COVID-19 pandemic caused a slump in the industry, the study found that around 2.5 million weddings were set to take place in 2022, with October being the most popular month for weddings.

The study also found that Americans will spend $68.7 billion on weddings, from venues and dinners to flowers, photography and attire.

Apeksha Kothari is the chief operating officer of Rare Carat, and said the country hasn’t seen such a surge in weddings since 1984.

“We attribute this to COVID-19. ... there were a lot of people who had to postpone weddings,” she said. “After COVID, a lot of people have a sense of revenge, so to speak, where they want to go out there and enjoy what they can.”

According to data from The Wedding Report, a wedding statistics company that has been conducting surveys about the wedding industry since 2005, there were 175,003 weddings in California in 2021, with the average wedding cost being $35,274.

Hilary Opel, a boutique manager at Bliss Bridal and Black Tie in Petaluma, said 2022 has been unpredictably busier than past years.

She said many brides that come into the store have increased their budgets significantly and want to amplify the experience of trying on dresses that many have had to put off for the past two years.

“(Brides) are not forgoing the whole experience of trying on gowns or purchasing a dress,” Opel said, adding that many brides have increased their budgets by 40% to 50%.

“We’ve seen a rise in clientele with more people walking through our doors and willing to spend on the fabulous gown.”

Opel predicts the wedding boom from 2022 to carry over into next year, despite the current economic climate of high prices and inflation. Her optimism is based on 2024 brides coming into the boutique to pick out a dress.

“Brides are prioritizing what’s important to them,” she said. “I think it’s not so much that people are blown away by how much things cost, but they’ve gotten very smart and very savvy (with their money).”

Quintana said inflation has impacted how quickly his clients book their wedding. He said clients are starting to book things quickly to lock in prices out of fear that waiting too long could cause prices to rise.

“(Clients) just want to book everything faster because they’re nervous or scared that there won’t be a florist available or there won’t be a caterer available to take their date,” Quintana said. “Weddings are coming back, and with this being a busy year of weddings, clients know that.”

Hintereder said inflation has played into client concerns, making budgets tighter.

She added that inflation has definitely impacted the prices of flowers, rentals and catering, something she anticipates will continue into the 2023 wedding season.

But because most of her 2023 season has been booked and she knows the budgets her clients have, she’s not too worried about how that will impact client spending habits.

“I’m not as concerned about (inflation) moving into 2023 but I could foresee a little bit of a shift into 2024 where people maybe are a little bit more budget conscious.”

She said one couple who got married in 2021 after postponing their 2020 wedding had doubled their original budget from $50,000 to $100,000.

“The budgets have been higher and people don’t seem quite as concerned about the financial aspects,” she said. “They feel like they’ve been holding off for two years and they kind of want to let loose.”

Sara Edwards is the small business and consumer reporter for The Press Democrat. You can reach her at 707-521-5487 or Follow her on Twitter @sedwards380.

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