Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. That’s a complaint you won’t be hearing from San Diego wedding professionals cashing in on the county’s booming nuptials market.
“There’s a lot of new people coming out every day, but I think pretty much there’s enough for everybody,” said Thomas Bui of San Diego-based Thomas Bui Lifestyle. “I just heard from the county registrar’s office not too long ago that there were something like 50,000 weddings a year in San Diego County, so I think that’s plenty for us all.”
Bui, who’s been coordinating weddings for the past 15 years, is one of several hundred small-business owners targeting the local wedding market.
Anthony Bollotta of North Park-based Bollotta Entertainment provides music for not only weddings, but all sorts of corporate and other personal events.
“There may be a lot (of weddings) for everybody, but brides and grooms have budgets and they comparative shop and look for the best deal at the best price,” Bollotta said. “It can be difficult to make a profit for myself and still deliver the type of service you have to for these things.”
Because of the competitiveness of the marketplace when it comes to specific event needs, Bollotta’s business relies on non-wedding events. He handles only about a dozen weddings a year.
“When we do a wedding, we typically get the call for something out of the ordinary,” Bollotta said, noting that his business, which is about 13 years old, can arrange everything from big bands to bagpipers.
Four times a year, wedding professionals such as Bui and Bollotta are encouraged to showcase their businesses at Bridal Bazaar, a roving bridal show and expo with roots in Encinitas. Depending on the time of year, the event is traditionally held at both the San Diego Convention Center and the San Diego County Fairgrounds.
Co-owner Patty Westbrook bought the rights to Bridal Bazaar five years ago, but the event has actually been in existence in San Diego County for the past 31 years.
Westbrook said it’s difficult to estimate just how large the San Diego wedding market is, but 30,000 or so weddings a year may be the most conservative guess.
The number of weddings held annually was not available from the county registrar’s office.
“It’s hard to get statistics on how many weddings there are, but the rule of thumb is 1 percent of the population gets married each year, so you take 1 percent of however many people live in San Diego and there’s your number,” Westbrook said.
By The Numbers
The average wedding in San Diego costs $25,800 compared to a national average of $30,000, according to a recent Weddingreport.com study cited by Westbrook. And half of all San Diego couples spend less than $20,000. Westbrook said the large number of high-end weddings held each year skews the average.
Bui is one of those professionals handling high-end affairs. He said his average client has a budget of $70,000 and the money is usually spent on more intimate ceremonies and receptions with fewer guests but nicer details.
“It’s all about personalization these days,” Bui said. “People want to know everyone at their wedding and to be able to walk around easily and mingle and just know that everyone is enjoying themselves.”
Westbrook agrees that personalization is key. “I think probably the marriage trend in the market is the couple want to personalize their wedding,” Westbrook said. “There’s a lot of anything goes these days.”
Attendance at all four Bridal Bazaar shows was up 15 percent last year over 2004, Westbrook said. Attendance can vary from 3,000 to 6,000, depending on the time of year, with January’s show being the most popular.
“January is the biggest because so many people get engaged over the holidays and are excited to get started,” said Westbrook, who is gearing up to hold an event next month at the San Diego Convention Center.
The July 16 event will include 250 booths and three fashion shows. In January the event includes 350 booths and a similar number of shows.
A pivotal player in San Diego’s healthy wedding market is the weather.
“It is active because San Diego is a destination-type wedding spot because we pretty much have the same great weather year-round so we stay busy in the wintertime as opposed to the traditional summer months,” coordinator Bui said.
But the weather isn’t enough to sustain the market. Sometimes, things out of the couple’s and wedding planners’ control adversely affect the industry.
“Certainly, it’s a very vibrant population in San Diego,” Westbrook said. “There’s a very young population, however statistically we know people are getting married later.
“We did see a decline in attendance as soon as the Iraq war started, but I think we’ve passed that now,” she said.