Thursday, May 21, 2009

From Long Island Business News:The economy puts a hitch in the wedding market

Nancy Swiezy, a wedding planner who does a lot of work on Long Island, has become an expert on getting married. She’ll tell you that regardless of the economy, people are tying the knot. But right now they’re cutting back on how much to spend on the celebration. “They’re getting married, but the head count is down,” Swiezy said. “The guest list is sometimes smaller by half. Instead of 200 guests, we’re looking at 100.” She’s also seeing people wait longer before booking venues to get better deals. “The sales cycle is so close to the date of the wedding, it’s shocking,” said Swiezy, owner of Manhattan-based Nancy Swiezy Events and A Hampton Affaire. “They’re waiting to three to four months to put money on a venue. If the date is open, the venue will negotiate. The consumer knows this. This is business they [hotels and other venues] weren’t planning to get. Three months out, they’ll be more open to negotiating a better deal.” Swiezy said she’s seeing more people book weddings on off nights, such as Sunday and Friday. And more people are booking off season, in May or even October and November, rather than the proverbial June wedding. Some weddings planned a year or more in advance, well before the economy tanked, are going full steam ahead according to initial plans. But even those booked a year in advance are retrenching. And wedding venues are cooperating. Therese Coppola, director of sales and marketing for Danfords Hotel and Marina said they’re making an extra effort to “work within a couple’s budget. “ “We offer different menus at various price points,” Coppola said, noting the importance of different price points in a down economy. “Many brides and grooms are downscaling their wedding choices across the board along with the number of guests they are inviting.” And Nasser Samman, general manager at The Garden City Hotel, describes his property in these times as “affordable luxury,” noting the importance of being able to “customize menus to budgets” in a difficult times. The Roslyn Claremont Hotel has been using more lounge furniture such as ottomans and coaches rather than formal seating at some weddings. “It’s this free-flowing cocktail style event with stations around the room, informal seating and up-lighting,” said John D’Aguanno, the Claremont’s catering sales manager. “There are ways to work it out so it’s more cost effective.” And they’re offering cheesecake lollipops as a cheaper, informal alternative to dessert stations.
“These things have been out there, but they’re becoming more popular,” D’Aguanno said of alternatives. “It’s a way to give more bang for the buck.” Lloyd Van Horn, general manager of the Montauk Yacht Club, said his hotel hasn’t adjusted wedding packages. But he argues groups get a “destination wedding” without huge travel costs. While hotels in high season may be reluctant to discount rooms, Swiezy said they’re being accommodating in other ways with room blocks of 10 or more. “A lot of times they mandate you do some food and beverage like a brunch. They’re being more flexible with that,” Swiezy said. “They might not mandate you have to have an event at the hotel.” Couples and families are spending less on weddings. They’re shrinking guest lists, shifting from sit-down dinners to buffets, ditching open bar for beer and wine and doing rehearsal barbecues rather than dinners. Two out of five weddings Robbins is helping organize this summer eliminated sushi bars or raw bars, often costing $25 to $30 a person. Christopher Robbins of Robbins Wolfe Eventeurs summed it up, saying menus are not as likely to be as luxurious as a few years ago. He said, “In 2009 the focus is not on beluga caviar and foie gras” for parties in general and weddings in particular. “You’re scaling back on the things you’re requesting to eat,” Robbins said. “That makes sense financially. It’s also how you’re perceived.”

by Claude Solnik
Log Island Business News

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