Married to the market: How weddings affect the economy

05 June 2015 Matt Owen

I’m getting married in the morning… well, actually I’m getting married in about a month, and boy does my bank account know it. Rings, dresses, venues, cakes, DJs…

The average wedding in the UK costs around £22,000. To put that in context, a year’s living wage (outside London) is just £15,000. Money may not be able to buy you love, but it seems we aren’t shy about throwing it around like confetti in preparation for our big day.

I had a look in DueDil’s advanced search to get an idea about how the market is looking.

First things first. Identifying wedding providers is not an exact science.

Every bakery worth its salt will whip you up a wedding cake if you want, so I’ve tried to narrow things down to the pureplays. If you’ve ever tried to organise a wedding, you’ll understand my desire to keep this list as short as possible.

I started by using keyword search and came up with the following list of filters:

  • Wedding Services
  • Wedding
  • Wedding Cakes
  • Wedding Entertainment
  • Weddings & Events
  • Wedding Venues
  • Wedding Invitations
  • Wedding Videography
  • Wedding Receptions
  • Wedding Photography
  • Wedding Planning
  • Wedding Catering
  • Wedding Flowers
  • Wedding Favours
  • Wedding Gifts
  • Wedding Rings
  • Wedding Venue

Sector overview

To be honest, I could also add in ‘marriage’ here, but this has given me a good solid list of 7,378 providers, of which 6,168 are currently active. More than enough to get started with.

These businesses aren’t small-fry either. Combined they managed turnover of £24.2 billion in the past year, and contributed around £353 million in tax.

Screen Shot of Wedding companies turnover

It’s interesting to note the number of sectors these businesses inhabit.

Their SIC codes vary hugely, from real estate to repair of motor vehicles, while 22% simply sit under the ‘other business activities’ banner. I‘m assuming the confetti canon industry isn’t quite ready for its own dedicated code.

Screen Shot of UK and Ireland market

Employment

As often happens when examining an entire sector, exact employee numbers are difficult to come by.

Of our group, more than 93% did not report their staff numbers, but of those few who did, the majority are smaller businesses. 366 businesses had less than 200 employees, although 4 posted staff numbers exceeding 10,000.

Screen Shot of employment in Wedding companies

It’s always worth looking at those outlier figures in more detail, and here, unsurprisingly we find several large corporates that run wedding services as sub groups: Bhs, John Lewis and the French-owned service and facilities company Sodexo.

While they make an important contribution, I think it’s safest to eliminate these from total employee numbers. Despite this, employment figures remain high – in the 150-200,000 range in the UK and Ireland.

Profit and growth

Profit in the sector is also robust, totalling £7.95 billion gross for the year. Just two companies filed a loss exceeding £900k, while 78 saw profit in excess of £10 million.

Screen Shot of turnover for the year

While John Lewis and Bhs did crop up again at the top end of the scale, they were also joined by Intercontinental Hotels with £754,423,882.2 GBP, and the Dorchester Group with £151,340,000. Bridal suites remain popular it seems.

Growth also remains promising. I picked a range of random companies with turnover between £10k and £150k as examples, and results were encouraging. A couple of examples, again picked purely at random from mid-range turnover businesses:

Overall, turnover was down slightly on the previous year for many businesses, although wedding numbers are obviously prone to extreme fluctuations. Charles David Photography an independent business, saw a small drop (1.83%) in annual turnover, but a rise in post-tax profit of 136%

Screen Shot of overall wedding market turnover

while Manchester Cathedral Ventures LTD balanced a 20% drop in turnover with a 56% rise in assets.

Bucking this trend, Swarling weddings, an accommodation company based in Kent saw a rise in turnover of almost 20% in the same period.

Screen Shot of Swarling Weddings turnover

Seasonal fluctuation plays a large part in the wedding industry, with the upcoming summer months accounting for a huge chunk of revenue, however it seems that despite continuing economic pressures, businesses in the sector can remain confident about their prospects.