Many have visualized their wedding days to be lavish affairs taking place in northern California’s wine country at one of the hundreds of local wineries. But when the time comes and an investigation into the actual costs is made – thousands for a wedding dress, and another thousand to ensure that all guests will eat wedding cake, not to mention the real food bill and the flowers, even stripped down affairs at Sonoma County wineries won’t likely be had for fewer than $15,000.
The recession has led many to rethink their wine country weddings in 2008 and 2009 in places like Sonoma Valley. While Sonoma County averages about $75 million per year in wedding revenue, evidence that the recession is having an impact on wine country weddings. Caterers are witnessing a trend in the downward movement of the fare being offered and event planners are booking fewer venues, especially for out-of-state clients, and the weddings that are being planned entail far fewer guests. The national average wedding expenditure was down by almost a quarter, to $22,000 last year.
In Sonoma County there are conflicting indications that the wine country wedding business will be hit by the recession equally as hard as the rest of the nation. Though there seems to be evidence of a wedding downturn with one local winery holding only a single booking so far for 2009 when it would normally have a dozen, and a wedding planner confirming that her business was down by one-half, there are other local wineries in Sonoma Valley that are popular destinations reporting that they are booked for the year. Many industry professionals are reserving judgment for now, believing that the undiminished bridal show traffic indicates that the number of weddings might not be too far off, even though those may be scaled back in size and price. The one trend that seems apparent in Sonoma County and the rest of the nation, is that decision making is coming with a slower pace, with many hoping for the signs of an economic turnaround or a fiancé to find new work before solidify their plans around their wedding days.