The promise of> warm weather, blossoming flowers and robust attendance make summer the peak season for weddings. But there are other perks for couples who marry in the winter namely huge savings.
Peak wedding season falls between May and October in most of the U.S., says Richard Markel, the president of the Association for Wedding Professionals International, a trade group of wedding professionals. During that time, most wedding vendors including caterers, photographers and limousine companies charge the most because their services are in such high demand. But in the winter, business comes to a standstill especially in the northern regions hit with particularly harsh weather and engaged couples have more room to negotiate for lower prices.
During the winter, the number of weddings throughout the country declines by 40% to 50% below that of peak season, Markel says. And of the roughly 2.2 million weddings that take place in the U.S. each year, only 5% occur in January, he says. That winter dip in demand means that couples marrying during the cooler months will be competing against fewer weddings for vendors.
Now, couples who are considering a January, February or March wedding still have time to book vendors, Markel says. Couples have a major opportunity because the number of weddings that occurred in 2009 has been down by about 5%, and bookings for early 2010 are down as well, he says.
Here are the four wedding vendors with whom you ll see some of the biggest winter savings.
The largest wedding-related expense is the banquet reception, which can cost upwards of $10,000, depending on the number of guests, location and menu, Markel says.
Typically, banquet facilities charge a fixed price per person. But between January and March, the total cost often drops between 20% and 50%, Markel says. (The savings will be lower in states that have warm weather throughout the year, like parts of Florida and California.) Couples who get married in the Meeting House Grand Ballroom, a banquet facility in Plymouth, Mich., will see big price differences between the seasons. For weddings between January and March, couples will pay Friday prices for a Saturday wedding, says Randy Lorenz, the owner and general manager. For a party of 200 adults, that s a discount of $2,000; the banquet facility also waives its $300 ceremony fee.
However, not all wedding venues are cheaper during the winter than during the spring, summer or fall. Weddings at ski resorts are priciest in the winter, the venues peak season, says Elise Enloe, a master bridal consultant and the director of education for the Association of Bridal Consultants, a trade group of wedding professionals. Also, facilities that are popular with corporate holiday parties or conventions tend to be at their busiest during the winter, says LeLani Mandac, a senior catering manager at the Hilton Anaheim.
To save with a winter wedding at the Hilton Anaheim, couples will have to reserve the space no more than six months in advance, she says. Couples who choose an available weekend between conventions could receive an upgraded package at no extra cost, like a $70 per person plated dinner (the facility s priciest package) at a cost of $65 per person, or an additional hour to their wedding celebration, which usually costs $250, for free.
In New York, winter is typically slow for caterers and other wedding vendors, says Andrea Correale, the president of Elegant Affairs, an off-premise catering and event design company. As a result, couples marrying there have more leverage to negotiate meal prices during the cooler months. A caterers price difference between a winter and summer wedding in New York is $50 on average per person, Correale says.
Couples who are set on a color or type of flower should keep an open mind or prepare to drop a lot of cash.
The average cost of wedding flowers ranges between $2,000 and $3,000 in the U.S., says Baxter Phillip, the executive vice president at Phillip s Flowers & Gifts in Chicago. To save with a winter wedding, choose flowers that are in season, like irises, orchids, lilies and most roses, he says. Hydrangeas and peonies are the most expensive in January, and red and white roses are the priciest in the two weeks leading up to Valentine s Day and during the holiday season.
Also, find out where the flowers are coming from. Their starting point and shipping costs factor into the price you ll pay. Seventy-five percent of wedding flowers (primarily roses) come from South America, whose summer season is our winter, Phillip says. Those flowers are often more affordable for winter weddings in the U.S. than, say, flowers imported from Holland, which shares our winter season. Distance is also a factor. Flowers that ship from South America to Florida will be cheaper than those that are shipped to California, says Angie Zimmerman, the owner of Heavenly Flowers & Events in El Dorado Hills, Calif.
Or stick to locally-grown flowers that are in season. For example, tulips are less expensive in California during the winter than they are in most of the U.S. because the state has many local tulip growers, Zimmerman says.
Photography & Video
Fewer weddings mean fewer requests for photographers and videographers.
For weddings between December and March, Bill Louis, the owner of Stella View Studios, a photography company in Union, N.J., says he discounts his custom photography packages, which start at $1,099, by 10% to 20%.
Jeff Sharpe, a co-owner of Sharpe Photographers in Roseville, Calif., where the starting price for photos is $2,200, says the company offers a 10% to 25% discount for weddings between January and March. During the same months, Eli Allen, the owner of Majestic Images in Philadelphia, who charges a starting price of $7,000 for photography and video combined, offers a 20% discount.
Limos are at their most expensive during prom season and peak wedding season periods that winter wedding couples would avoid. So expect to pay 10% to 20% less during the winter than you would in May or June, Markel says.
Santos Limousines, in Avenel, N.J., lowers the price on its fleet of limos and luxury cars for most weekend weddings between the first Saturday after Thanksgiving through the end of March. For three-and-a-half hours of use, a 2009 Rolls Royce Phantom rented during the winter will cost a couple $1,000, down from its peak price of $1,200; a Chrysler 300 stretch limo will go for $400, down from a high of $475; and a Cadillac Escalade ESV Series will cost $825, down from as much as $925.
From Sundays through Thursdays during the winter, Reston Limousine, which is based in Washington, D.C., offers a fourth hour free on any vehicle rental at least three hours long.