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Weddings are 'through the roof' this year, Zola CEO says

Zola Co-Founder and co-CEO Shan-Lyn Ma details 2022 wedding trends that planners are seeing, rising gas prices and travel costs hindering guests' willingness to travel, and how people are customizing their wedding experiences.

Video Transcript

- And speaking of gainers, whether you're getting married this year or you're an invited guest, I hope you've saved your coins ahead of one of the busiest wedding seasons on record. Well, joining us now for a look at the industry with their latest survey is Shan-Lyn Ma, Zola co-founder and co-CEO. So help us brace for this. What should guests be expecting this wedding season?

SHAN-LYN MA: Well, we're really seeing a handful of things that are factoring into guests' budgets as they think about attending weddings this season. On the one hand, we see travel and the costs of travel is impacting guests. Now, with the wedding boom this year, we find that actually the majority of weddings still are happening locally and that the majority of guests are driving to a wedding.

But of course, here with gas prices, that is a factor that is factoring into guest decisions into how to budget for attending weddings. The other factor is, of course, we all are speaking about inflation. And so there are things naturally from the cost of travel, food, accommodation that might factor into guests' budgeting.

And then lastly, the sheer number of weddings is through the roof this year. We have one of the busiest wedding years since the 1980s, and so guests are excited to go to weddings again. They want to go to weddings again, and they're invited to more than ever before. And so that's just factoring into how they're thinking about their budgets for the entire year.

- You're excited unless you're the bridesmaid that has to get that dress you just can't stand. That's what I hear a lot. But curious, what's the biggest shift? What's the biggest change from weddings or the planning process from pre-pandemic?

SHAN-LYN MA: The trend from offline to online was really accelerated during the pandemic. Of course, we saw that across many industries. And in weddings in particular, it became that much easier for couples to think about, how do I plan everything to do with both the big day, my wedding day, as well as all the days leading up to that wedding day? I want to plan them online on my mobile device.

The other big trend here is that we're really seeing couples think about, what budget do I think is appropriate for my wedding and then how do I customize each part of my wedding in order to still fulfill my dream but to stick within my budget? Even though we might see some prices change this year, couples are wanting to work very closely with their wedding vendors to stick to their budget.

- Shan-Lyn, one of the things that we saw during the pandemic where people were obviously having smaller weddings, those that were going through with their ceremonies because of the fact that we were in COVID, but there was thought, though, that that would actually carry over to post-COVID. Maybe there would be more of an emphasis on some of these smaller wedding ceremonies. Is that the case? Is that what you're seeing?

SHAN-LYN MA: We're actually seeing quite the opposite, in that couples and their families are excited to celebrate in real life again, celebrate love together. And so the average number of guests invited to a wedding this year has gone back up. Now, on average, couples invite over 100 guests. Some weddings, many more than that. And actually, many more people are turning up. In many cases, the wedding this year is the first time that a family has been together in real life in two years. And so this trend that we thought might be persisting after the pandemic, in terms of the movement towards more weddings, actually has gone in the opposite direction.

- And the money people are spending is eye-popping $593 on average, those driving, and $1,300 on average, those who are flying. Where exactly does Zola come in, and how do they help the planning process?

SHAN-LYN MA: Zola really aims to serve couples and their guests throughout this entire wedding planning process, from that first day that they get engaged through each part of their journey, all the days leading up to that big wedding date and beyond. We do so with modern tools and technology, many of which are free to use. And we do so to make it easier for couples and guests to really focus on what's important to them, which is celebrating their love with their friends and family.

- How long are people booking out? I know, when my sister got engaged, she had to wait almost two years to get the venue that she wanted. Is that still the case for couples getting engaged now, or have we seen things normalize?

SHAN-LYN MA: In fact, that is actually another change that we're seeing that is different to previous years, is that couples' engagements are lasting for longer. And we believe it's because there's so many people who are getting married this year that many venues and vendors are booking out, and so the average amount of time of an engagement is longer than ever before. So we've seen many couples signing up for Zola's to start planning their wedding with wedding dates in 2023 and 2024.

- And your research shows that, on average, people have four invites this year. I got nothing. So if anyone needs a guest, I'll just come hang out or crash it. Zola co-founder and co-CEO, Shan-Lyn Ma. I really appreciate you joining us today. Thank you.