Did You Know?
According to WeddingWire’s 2019 report, the average couple spends:
• $5,000 on the engagement ring
• $29,200 on the ceremony and reception
• $4,500 on the honeymoon
The median age at first marriage for men is 29.8 and for women is 27.8, according to 2018 U.S. Census figures, the most recent available.
Jeff and Tamara Landsberg recently moved their store, Beyond the Veil Bridal, from a small shop in Five Corners to 6,200 square feet in Vancouver Mall. The number of employees jumped from three to 10.
The Landsbergs ran calculations before taking the leap. Last year, Clark County issued about 3,000 marriage licenses. That’s a fraction of the 22,000 issued last year in greater Portland by Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.
The Landsbergs and other local wedding businesses aren’t just looking for a bigger slice. They have their eyes on a bigger cake. They hope to attract cost-conscious couples from throughout the Portland-metro area.
“We’re definitely in a place to grow,” Jeff Landsberg said. He estimates that since the store moved last fall, gross revenues are up 30 percent to 40 percent. Half of their customers are from outside Clark County.
According to the 2019 Newlywed Report by WeddingWire, couples hire an average of 14 vendors for their wedding day and spend $29,200 on the ceremony and reception. If that held true for the roughly 3,000 couples getting married in Clark County, that would add up to $87.6 million. Local businesses want it spent here.
Wedding trends are aligning in their favor. Industry experts say more couples are taking a DIY approach to their weddings. They’re seeking a “rustic glam” aesthetic. And they’re looking to save money.
“Clark County has to compete with Portland. It’s hard to compete with Portland because there’s more options, a more urban feel, more caterers. But that comes at a premium. For couples who are looking to save money, Clark County is a good option,” said Don Keisala of Elemental Events, a Portland-based event planning company.
Keisala produces the Clark County Wedding Expo with Pauline Mulcahy, manager at Your Party and Event Center in Vancouver.
“There’s a much greater trend of brides and grooms paying for the wedding themselves, which is why they’re being more budget-conscious,” Mulcahy said. “Your average wedding is $15,000 to $25,000 on this side of bridge. In Portland, it’s $30,000 to $55,000.”
Warm-weather months may be the high season for ceremonies, but the business of weddings is transacted year-round. Given that Christmas Day is the most popular day to get engaged, the Clark County Wedding Expo occurs in January. The next one is Jan. 11 at ilani near La Center.
Mulcahy tells couples to book the venue first, often a year in advance to guarantee the space. Wedding dress shopping should be done eight months to a year in advance to allow for special orders and alterations, said Jeff Landsberg.
While hotel ballrooms and other indoor venues used to be de rigueur, in recent years, outdoor weddings gained popularity among couples, Mulcahy said. “Now they’ll do it in a cow pasture.”
“Millennials are looking for more experiences than flash,” Keisala said. “People like outdoor venues, historic venues, barns — someplace that has a story to it because it adds to their story.”
Weddings are “way more DIY than they’ve ever been,” Mulcahy said. “When we do a consult, we have yet to have a bride who did not have a Pinterest page.”
Jeff Landsberg of Beyond the Veil Bridal said most of his customers don’t work with wedding planners, in part because his store targets the middle and lower end of the price range for dresses. (Most of the dresses are $800 to $1,500, with some priced as low as $99 on the clearance rack.) So Beyond the Veil has been working to expand its referral network for couples orchestrating their own events.
But the DIY ethic goes well beyond not hiring a wedding planner or coordinator.
“They’re making their own centerpieces,” Mulcahy said. “The family will try to get together and cook the food and do it buffet style.”
That’s where Clark County’s venues have an edge. “They are more attentive and flexible,” Mulcahy said. “If you want grandma’s apple pie, grandma can bring apple pie.”
The DIY approach “is very much happening,” agreed Debbi Garbe, an event facilities manager at The Historic Trust, which manages Officers Row properties, the Red Cross Building, the Artillery Barracks and the Providence Academy all in or around the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The academy’s chapel and ballroom are under renovation but will reopen this spring. The trust’s event spaces host about 200 wedding celebrations a year, some for couples who come across the river to save money, Garbe said.
“We weren’t even considering any place in Portland,” said Hillsboro, Ore., resident Victoria Dailey, 28. She and her husband set a budget of $8,000 for their October wedding with 63 guests. The ceremony was at a church in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, with the reception at E.B. Hamilton Hall, the old Red Cross Building at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
“Most decisions came down to budget,” she said. “We were even considering doing the food ourselves at one point. We decided to spend a little bit more money and do catering. It was easier and less stressful, so it was worth going that route.”
They hired a Kalama caterer and purchased a small wedding cake from a grocery store. They made desserts and centerpieces with help from family and friends.
“I’m a natural planner and an organized person,” Dailey said. “I helped a friend plan her wedding, so there weren’t any surprises.”
Dailey knew what she was doing. But brides often become overwhelmed by all the ideas on social media resulting in a “cluster of confusion,” said Mulcahy, the Clark County Wedding Expo producer. “DIY brides don’t factor in the worth of their time.”
She encourages couples to make an in-person connection with their vendors, when possible. According to WeddingWire, 80 percent of planning is done online. Mulcahy said even though Your Party and Event Center has a brick-and-mortar location on Northeast 112th Avenue in Vancouver, most couples don’t actually visit the store. Several times a year, she has couples who come to her in a panic after renting chairs or tables on Craigslist that are a no-show on the big day.
Couples should check out vendors through the Better Business Bureau, Mulcahy said. They can tap into networks of vendors cultivated by businesses like hers.
“Do your due diligence,” she said.