30 September, 2011

Cash bells ring for the marriage market

Melbourne Herald Sun, Friday September 30, 2011

If your business has been running a bit slow in its profits or growth, maybe you ought to look at marriage.

No, I cast no aspersions on your current relationship - rather, the money to be made out of splicing the knot.

Marriage seems to be one of the armour-plated, recession-proof products in this world and believe it or not, Australians are marrying more than ever - with ever-increasing cost.

This year 119,000 Australian couples will tread the aisle, a percentage point up from last year. Historically the marriage rate has been steadily falling, so any increase is a surprise.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics records the current annual marriage rate at 5.5 per thousand population. In the seventies it was close to eight. The record was set in 1942 when it hit 12. Mind you they had good reason to be in a hurry.

Today’s couples are much older than in the past. The median age is now 32 for men and 29 for women, whereas in the seventies they married five or six years earlier.

Is this the sign of new wisdom and maturity? Certainly they have had time to develop careers, their incomes and savings. So when it comes to the wedding, they splurge.

Researchers have placed the average cost of a wedding at $36,000. And much of the money seems to come from the savings of the couple. Manager of the research group IBISWorld, Karen Dobie, pointed to couples regarding the wedding as “A high priority expense”.

Couples save for a long time, tightening their belts to raise the bank balance, and no doubt doing their waistlines no harm either.

Each Saturday as you pass your local church, think about the cost of those gowns and flashy cars. This is a $4.3 billion industry.

The biggest winners are the hotels and reception palaces that rake in $1.4 billion of the takings. And that does not include the food which brings in another $670 million. Flowers also generate a hefty $760 million. All these categories are expected to grow by more than 10 per cent in the coming five years.

Photography and film production is the only category not doing so well. No doubt it’s because of so many friends and uncles offering to film the event with their newly-acquired expensive equipment. Mind you, seeing some of the results of these efforts makes me think that the prudent couples will double-up by hiring a professional too.

Of course, who could forget the wedding dress. Now you don’t have to buy the world’s most expensive - that record is currently held by Renee Strauss who created a dress with 150 carats of diamonds, valued at $12 million.

But possibly if you are the father of the bride, you may feel that hers is not so far behind. Especially when you throw in the bridesmaids’ custom-designed frocks and the groomsmen’s Armani dinner suits. At the end of the year you are looking at close to a billion dollars spent on clothes.

Progress is effecting printers too, as more invitations are done by email, with DVDs replacing the mountains of photo sets sent to the guests.

However there is another ray of light in this story, for the wedding industry. Around the world a whole new gold rush is evolving. From Argentina to Sweden, from Canada to South Africa, the phenomenon of same sex marriage is spreading.

And when gay couples pledge their troths, you’ll usually find a high-income couple, older and wealthier, surrounded by friends who insist that this must be the best bash since Princess Di.

Ah, there’s a whole industry here waiting with bated breath for our legislators to get in on the act and give gay marriage a go.

Blog: themarketeer-raybeatty.blogspot.com

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