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Couples cut wedding expenses as inflation and demand make walking down the aisle pricier

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Nicole Brandfon and her fiance Adam Alonso are planning a wedding in Colombia, rather than Miami, because it was more affordable.

Source: Nicole Brandfon

Nicole Brandfon and her fiance, Adam Alonso, will hop on a plane from Florida to South America early next year for a destination wedding. The international trip wasn’t their original plan, but it’s saving them money.

The couple, engaged since last June, had been dreaming of holding their wedding in Miami, where they both work and reside. But as they started to plan, the duo quickly realized prices were out of reach and venue availability was slim to none for their intended time frame, either in late 2022 or early 2023.

“We spent three or four months looking at a lot of different venues and realized that we weren’t going to be able to afford Miami,” said Brandfon, a 29-year-old account director at a public relations agency.

Brandfon and Alonso’s decision to marry abroad is just one example of how couples are getting creative to contend with the rising costs of putting on a wedding. Vendors are overbooked with pent-up demand created by the Covid pandemic. They’re also facing supply chain headwinds leading to shortages. At the same time, inflation is driving up the cost of everything from food to labor.

Read more: Surging prices force consumers to ask: Can I live without it?

As a result, many couples are making trade-offs and rethinking priorities — opting for the dream wedding gown or the open bar over the extravagant floral arrangements.

Brandfon and Alonso will say “I do” in February in the Caribbean coastal town of Cartagena, Colombia, at a fraction of the cost they were quoted closer to home. Now they’re able to have a wedding planner, and they intend to serve a variety of foods at a fully seated dinner, according to Brandfon. 

“Florida, or anywhere in the U.S., really,” she said, “if we wanted anything extra it seemed like it was going to be another couple thousand dollars.”

Cutting line items

Nearly 7 million couples in the U.S. are expected to tie the knot in the next three years, according to industry research firm The Wedding Report. The pandemic delayed weddings for many of them and accelerated relationship timelines for others, spurring engagements between partners who spent more time together — and enjoyed the extra company — when lockdowns persisted.

This year, couples are expected to host roughly 2.5 million weddings, a 30% increase from the prior year and a number not seen in four decades, according to The Wedding Report. In the next two years, the number is expected to taper off slightly, the national trade group says, but not by much. Americans are projected to plan 2.24 million weddings next year, and 2.17 million the year after.

The amount that couples are spending to tie the knot keeps creeping up, too. In 2021, the average couple spent $27,063 on their wedding, according to The Wedding Report, up from about $24,700 per couple in 2019. In 2020, around the onset of the pandemic, many couples opted for smaller ceremonies with fewer frills and spent an average of $20,286.

As celebrations roar back, couples are finding line items they can cut.

More couples are choosing to host weekday weddings, said Kim Forrest, a senior editor at WeddingWire. That helps with limited venue availability, but it comes with a cost advantage, too: Some venues offer discounts for events to be held on less-frequented days in the middle of the week.

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, for example, charges a $10,000 facility fee for the property’s Deerpark venue for a Saturday wedding this fall. For a Friday or Sunday, the fee will run you $8,000.

Guest counts are also up, and that’s going to cost more money.

Shane McMurray

founder of The Wedding Report

Forrest also noted that weddings held in the South tend to be less expensive than those in the Northeast, with cities like Boston and New York driving up the national average.

Prices on key wedding expenses are projected to be “much higher” this year than in recent years, in large part due to heightened food, labor and transportation costs, said Shane McMurray, founder of The Wedding Report. Plus, vendors that are seeing demand for bookings spike now have the ability to name their price, he said.

“These are the things that people care about the most — the food and the bar, the photography services, and of course the venue,” he said. “Guest counts are also up, and that’s going to cost more money.”

That means couples could make sacrifices elsewhere along the planning process, he said, which would be a loss for some vendors. Couples might deprioritize paying for a wedding planner, for example, so long as they don’t mind doing the extra work themselves.

Couples spend less money, on average, on beauty and spa services, a ceremony officiant and party favors for their wedding guests, according to data from The Wedding Report. There’s more flexibility with these items to find less-costly options that will still get the job done, McMurray said. Add-ons like a photo booth or a videographer are commonly nixed altogether to stay within budget.

‘We’re going to have to take our prices up’

Vendors feeling the squeeze are trying to be more accommodating, knowing that many couples feel crunched for time and cash.

The 2022 wedding season is in “full bloom” on the heels of a pandemic-driven downturn, said Samira Araghi, founder and owner of San Francisco bridal boutique WildBride.

That means bigger business for WildBride, which offers a selection of bohemian-inspired wedding gowns, from brands such as Pronovias and Willowby, through its website and at its one brick-and-mortar shop on Fillmore Street.

There were moments during the pandemic where it felt as if society was opening back up again and couples were free to hold larger gatherings, she said. But it’s been a bumpy recovery thanks to new virus variants causing periodic spikes.

“When the delta [variant] came, things got canceled again. And then when omicron came, things got canceled again,” she said. “Right now we’re definitely seeing a shift back to normal-sized weddings.”

The most pressing issue that WildBride faces today is getting finished products through the mail, Araghi said, noting that many suppliers have shut down and that several fabrics, dresses and styles have been discontinued. “Supply chain issues are a big deal right now,” she said.

WildBride, a bridal boutique located in San Francisco, is seeing an uptick in demand for its dresses coupled with heightened supply chain complications.

Source: Buena Lane Photography

In search of solutions, WildBride started to offer an “off-the-rack” selection during the pandemic. The dresses in the collection are either older styles or ones that could easily be bought in large batches from designers. Some of the dresses are discounted, depending on the condition.

It’s become an appealing option for women planning a last-minute walk down the aisle or encountering logistical challenges while trying to secure another dress before the big day, Araghi said. It’s also an option for the more price-sensitive customer, so they don’t leave to shop elsewhere.

Araghi said she hasn’t yet been forced to raise prices on items amid widespread inflation, although she’s aware that it’s happening at other vendors such as florists and jewelry shops.

As shipping costs keep rising, though, she said it’s inevitable that the business will have to make adjustments — potentially before the end of the year.

“I do think it’s going to happen that, yes, we’re going to have to take our prices up,” she said.

Post-boom downswing?

David’s Bridal Chief Executive Officer James Marcum doesn’t see the wedding boom nor consumers’ sensitivity to higher prices dissipating anytime soon. That’s why the company has been investing in its digital loyalty program and a vertically integrated supply chain, to be able to offer more perks and manufacture more dresses, he explained in a recent sit-down interview.

Marcum said he has started to notice some brides showing a hesitancy to splurge thousands of dollars for a dress. The retailer has a fairly expansive selection, with prices ranging from $70 to $2,000.

“You’re starting to hear rumblings about the budget sensitivity,” he said.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the bride will forgo a dress altogether. She just might opt for a less-expensive option, Marcum said. “You’re still going to see a robust, brighter [wedding dress] business, but it’s really spreading over 2022 and 2023,” he said.

Brides spent, on average, $1,499 on a wedding dress in 2021, according to The Wedding Report. That figure is expected to reach $1,527 this year, the report said.

By 2024, The Wedding Report projects the number of nuptials held in the U.S. will fall closer to 2018 levels, at 2.14 million. Couples can rest assured that some venues might be easier to come by, by then. But it’s unclear where prices will stand.

Victoria Cela and her fiance Ricardo Goudie are planning to wed in 2024.

Source: Victoria Cela

Victoria Cela, a 27-year-old account executive at a public affairs firm in Florida, is betting on a downswing.

Cela and her fiance, Ricardo Goudie, became engaged in March. Instead of rushing to the altar, the couple is planning a wedding for early 2024 in order to give themselves enough time to save up money to cover the expenses, Cela said.

“Our parents will be helping us, but we obviously want to pitch in as much as we can,” she said. “It’s a luxury because we have more time.”

They plan to host their ceremony at a family member’s home in Coral Gables, just outside Miami, a choice that will allow them to put their money toward other things aside from the venue.

Cela hopes vendors’ prices won’t be so lofty by then.

“Every time I go on a website and gauge their prices, I’m like, ‘OK maybe we need to up the budget a little bit more,'” she said.

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‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ tops $108 million as parents flock back to cinemas, kids in tow

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“Minions: The Rise of Gru” is the sequel to the 2015 film, “Minions,” and spin-off/prequel to the main “Despicable Me” film series.

Universal

Families have gone bananas for “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

Over the weekend, the Universal and Illumination animated feature tallied more than $108 million in ticket sales.

The fifth film in the Despicable Me franchise generated an additional $93.7 million from international markets, bringing its estimated opening weekend haul to $202 million globally.

“With the incredible success of ‘Minions,’ the notion that family audiences were avoiding movie theaters due to Covid concerns can be shelved,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

Box office analysts had wondered if this segment of moviegoers was still avoiding cinemas after Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear” took in just $51 million during its domestic debut last month, below expectations of $70 million and $85 million.

It was unclear if tough box office competition led to “Lightyear’s” less than stellar debut or if consumers were confused about the film’s release. After all, there has not been a theatrical release of a Pixar film since 2020′s “Onward.” The last three from the animation studio, “Soul,” “Luca” and “Turning Red,” were all released on streaming service Disney+.

“Minions: The Rise of Gru” represented 54% of all domestic moviegoers over the weekend, with 68% of ticket holders being part of family groups, according to data from EntTelligence.

“What this weekend has showcased is a triumphant return to cinemas by families, laying to rest any lingering and outdated pandemic narrative that parents and kids only want to watch movies at home,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “When the right content is out there, people will show up.”

The film is expected to add another $20 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada on Monday, bringing its holiday weekend total to $128 million.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is the distributor of “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

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American Airlines scheduling glitch allows pilots to drop thousands of July flights

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An American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner approaches for a landing at the Miami International Airport on December 10, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

A glitch in a scheduling platform allowed American Airlines pilots to drop thousands of July assignments overnight Saturday, their union said, a headache for the airline as it tries to minimize flight disruptions during a booming travel season.

American said it didn’t expect the problem to affect its operation, including during the busy July Fourth holiday weekend. The union and airline are now discussing additional pay for pilots whose dropped trips the airline reinstated, the Allied Pilots Association said.

“As a result of this technical glitch, certain trip trading transactions were able to be processed when it shouldn’t have been permitted,” the airline said in a statement. “We already have restored the vast majority of the affected trips and do not anticipate any operational impact because of this issue.”

More than 12,000 July flights lacked either a captain, first officer, or both, after pilots dropped assignments, the Allied Pilots Association said Saturday. APA said the airline reinstated about 80% of the trips.

Pilots can routinely drop or pick up trips, but time off in the summer or holidays is hard to come by for airline employees as schedules peak to cater to strong demand.

On Saturday alone, American had more than 3,000 mainline flights scheduled and they were 93% full, according to an internal tally. Flights left unstaffed, however, are an additional strain on any airline.

The glitch occurred during a rocky start to the Fourth of July weekend when thunderstorms and staffing issues caused thousands of U.S. flight delays and hundreds of cancellations.

A similar issue occurred in 2017, when a technology problem let American’s pilots take vacation during the busy December holiday period. The carrier offered pilots 150% pay for pilots that picked up assignments.

American and its pilots’ union, whose relationship has been fraught, are in the middle of contract negotiations and the airline most recently offered nearly 17% raises through 2024.

Union president Capt. Ed Sicher, who started his term Friday, told American’s roughly 15,000 pilots Saturday night that American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said he is committed to paying an “inconvenience premium” to aviators whose trips American put back on their schedules after the glitch.

“To Mr. Isom’s credit, he called me four times today to commit to mitigating the damage from this debacle,” Sicher wrote late Saturday. “We started at a 200% override, although the details of this pay are still the subject of negotiations and there is no guarantee of the details or the amounts.”

American Airlines declined to comment on Sicher’s message to pilots.

American’s pilots have picketed recently against grueling schedules, something they want to be addressed in a new contract. Pilots at Delta and Southwest have picketed in recent weeks for similar reasons.

Sicher also struck an upbeat tone about contract talks with American, particularly about quality-of-life issues.

“Please understand that no firm commitments have yet been made, but I feel that we have, at least for the first time since negotiations began, received positive indications that management is motivated to achieve collaborative solutions to longstanding problems with our current contract that will greatly enhance our ability to trade our trips and consequently enhance our quality of life,” he wrote.

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Trump media company subpoenaed in federal criminal probe of SPAC deal

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump gives the keynote address at the Faith & Freedom Coalition during their annual “Road To Majority Policy Conference” at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center June 17, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Seth Herald | Getty Images

Donald Trump’s media company was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in connection with a criminal probe, according to the company with which the former president’s firm plans to merge.

Digital World Acquisition Corp. said in a filing Friday that Trump Media and Technology Group received a subpoena from the grand jury in Manhattan on Thursday. The Trump company also received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding a civil probe on Monday, DWAC said.

DWAC also said some current and former TMTG employees have also recently received grand jury subpoenas.

The filing came days after DWAC said the government investigations could delay or even prevent its merger with Trump’s newly formed company, which includes Truth Social, a social media app intended to be an alternative to Twitter.

Neither TMTG nor a spokeswoman for Trump immediately responded to CNBC’s requests for comment.

The Justice Department and the SEC, which regulates the stock market, are investigating the deal between DWAC and Trump Media. By merging with DWAC, which is a kind of shell company called a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, Trump’s firm would gain access to potentially billions of dollars on public equities markets.

Trump established Truth Social months after Twitter banned him for his tweets on Jan. 6, 2021, when hundreds of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a bid to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. Trump Media’s CEO is former Rep. Devin Nunes, one of the former president’s most ardent loyalists in the Republican Party. Trump is also considering whether to run for president in the 2024 election.

Trump has continued to spread the lie that the election was stolen from him. His alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection is being probed by a House select committee that has accused the former president of being at the center of a multipronged conspiracy to block the peaceful transfer of power to Biden.

Early criticism of the Trump-DWAC deal came from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. In calling for an investigation, she wrote to SEC Chair Gary Gensler in November, telling him that DWAC “may have committed securities violations by holding private and undisclosed discussions about the merger as early as May 2021, while omitting this information in [SEC] filing and other public statements.”

DWAC shares are far off their highs, closing Friday at $24.20. The stock had surged above $90 in October, after the deal with Trump’s group was announced.

DWAC on Monday revealed in a securities filing that it learned June 16 that each member of its board of directors received subpoenas from the same federal grand jury.

The grand jury sought documents similar to those the SEC already requested as part of its civil probe, DWAC said. The company itself was served with a subpoena a week ago with similar requests, along with other requests relating to communications, individuals and information involving Rocket One Capital.

DWAC also revealed Monday that a board member, Bruce J. Garelick, had told management that he would quit the board during the previous week. Garelick said his resignation “was not the result of any disagreement with Digital World’s operations, policies or practices,” according to the company filing.

— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger and Thomas Franck contributed to this story.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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