Wedding planners make killing despite recession, population drop

September 15th, 2010 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

Now where did I put that prenuptial agreement?

Now where did I put that prenuptial agreement?

According to the Teikoku Databank Service, the number of total marriages has been dropping steadily year-by-year for a while now, the result of the population decline and the trend for getting married later. Nevertheless, wedding planning companies are doing better business than ever. Teikoku found that the top 69 companies in the so-called bridal industry made altogether ¥361 billion in 2009, a 3.6 percent average increase over 2008, which saw a 4.7 percent average increase over sales for 2007. Thirty-eight of the companies in this group told Teikoku that they have enjoyed two straight years of profit increases.

Why such good business, especially since there were fewer marriages (710,000) in 2009 than there were in 2008 (730,000)? The reason is that, while couples are waiting longer to get hitched, when they finally do they tend to be more financially comfortable. Most of these companies’ revenues are coming from couples in their 30s getting married for the first time. These people have likely already been employed for a while and have two incomes. They want “the real thing” (honmono) when it comes to a wedding, and are happy to splurge for it. The big bridal industry trends now are big house weddings and restaurant receptions, rather than hotel weddings or special “bridal hall” package deals. The average starting cost of a wedding (before the many add-ons) has stayed mostly stable for a decade, at about ¥3 million, but big house weddings, where couples rent large luxury homes for their receptions and maybe even the ceremonies, start at about ¥4.5 million. For comparison, hotel weddings start at about ¥4 million.

Autumn is wedding season in Japan, and a lot of bridal companies are now taking advantage of the high yen and offering discount wedding packages overseas. NHK recently visited the wedding planning company Watabe Wedding, who said that their business for weddings in Guam and Saipan has already increased 14 percent over last year. They can even offer a basic ceremony in Hawaii for only ¥100,000, about half what it would normally be. A young couple who were studying wedding and reception plans at Watabe told NHK they would like to have their wedding overseas, but that they won’t get married until fall of 2011. “I hope the yen is still high,” the bride-to-be said, “so I can go shopping afterward.”

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