As if heartbreak weren't enough, couples that call off their weddings have to deal with the awkwardness of informing would-be guests that plans have changed, not to mention being saddled with the thousands of dollars lost in catering and flower bills. But one new company is looking to help ease some of that financial pain.
Bridal Brokerage sells canceled weddings to couples looking to throw their parties for less money. The company connects buyers and sellers, helping couples looking to buy the trappings of a wedding — photographer, venue, DJ — already put together by another couple.
"I got a lot of pushback in the beginning about, 'Who would want to buy someone else's wedding?'" says CEO Lauren Byrne, who is also an MBA student at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. As it turns out, there are plenty of people hoping to buy a pre-planned wedding. Byrne says the company currently has over 500 couples seeking to purchase a wedding, which far outweighs the number of weddings the Charlottesville, Va.-based company has to sell.
"We've got eight or nine in the wheelhouse right now, which is pretty exciting for us, having been launched in late May," says Byrne.
The concept is simple: a couple that wants to sell a wedding tells the company the basics — the wedding's date, cost, guest capacity, and components — and the company matches it to a couple eager to buy. For example, the company may be able to find a desirable wedding for a couple that is willing to get married on a specified weekend, within 250 miles of their home, and with 150 guests. That new couple then takes over any outstanding bills for the wedding they've purchased.
The firm sells the wedding at a discount, taking a cut for itself. The selling couple pays nothing to Bridal Brokerage — often, they've already paid enough, says Byrne. The goal is not to fully recoup their sunk costs. Rather, it's to soften the financial blow.
"The goal is they either get something back or they're off the hook for what they still owe," says Byrne.
It's not just appealing to couples because it's cheap, says Byrne. It's also appealing to couples who aren't interested in planning every last wedding detail.
There are trade-offs, of course. For starters, the purchasing couple often must be willing to get married relatively quickly. According to Byrne, wedding cancellations often happen two to six months ahead of the wedding date.
The buyers also do not get to personalize every aspect of their wedding; they may have to be willing to use a venue or a caterer that would not have been their first choice.
"Our target market isn't the 24-year-old girl who it's her dream to plan the perfect wedding," says Byrne.
Indeed, the site describes its customers as people who may be constrained by either money or circumstances: "Our wide range of customers includes non-planners, budgeters, and those on accelerated timelines, including active deployment, elopers, and those who are pregnant."
While the weddings are often largely preplanned, Byrne points out that many wedding aspects, from the dress to the guest favors, are still up to the buying couple. Bridal Brokerage even has an in-house graphic designer who helps to get invitations quickly turned around for these potentially short-notice weddings.
The young company has yet to sell any weddings, so Byrne says she can't give specific pricing details on her company's transactions. However, she does say that a couple could hypothetically purchase a $25,000 wedding from her company for under $20,000. However, she adds that the prices can vary greatly, depending on how desirable the date and venue are. A Valentine's Day wedding in Puerto Rico, for example, might sell for more than a non-destination wedding on a less desirable date.
Bridal Brokerage says that 250,000 weddings are canceled per year, which points to plenty of potential profit in the market. And according to a recent survey from TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is around $27,000.
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Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter @titonka or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.