Although the peak wedding season is now over, an upcoming trade fair in Florence will keep brides-to-be, whether foreign or native, shopping around for wedding-related products and services the whole year long. At the Fortezza da Basso from October 29 to November 6, 2011, the Tutto Sposi trade fair is the largest of its kind in Tuscany. Suzi Jenkins looks at this million-euro industry, which is surprisingly not only unaffected by the economic downturn, but even in growth.
Marriages among Tuscans have been steadily declining since 1973, when they peaked at about 420,000, dropping to a mere 217,076 in 2010. Yet the wedding industry here is a continually expanding and apparently recession-proof industry. So, despite the fact that Tuscans (and Italians) are getting married less and less, the industry turnover continues to gain strength. How is that possible?
You don't need me to tell you that Florence is the most romantic backdrop for tying the knot, that the food is out of this world, or that the dolce vita is an integral part of what makes Tuscany so very special. The Tuscan wedding industry is one of the best established and oldest of the ?new' industries in Tuscany (see, for example, TF 46 and 126). Although there are rival destinations, apparently everyone else has discovered this, too. Getting married in Tuscany is thus immensely desirable and infinitely achievable on virtually every budget. Where the Tuscans have cut back, couples from many other nations in the world have filled the gap and are taking advantage of not only a superb location, but also a consolidated wedding infrastructure that performs like well-oiled machinery.
Wedding planning itself is a business opportunity. Wedding planning is apparently an industry with low barriers to entry. Many new planners appear each year, and just as many disappear the year after. It's a tough industry, with long hours and stressful days and nights, but with just those first few notes of Schubert's Ave Maria the wedding planner's heart melts: another great job well done!
Jacqueline Bradshaw (www.marrymetuscany.co.uk) has been a wedding planner in the Tuscan market for eight years. Based in Siena but operating across the region, she manages between 15 and 20 weddings per season, mainly for British, American, Canadian and Australian clients. Her clients, in the mid to high end of the market, spend on average 15,000-20,000 euro for their weddings, excluding accommodation, transfers and other extras. The couples themselves usually foot the bill, sometimes with help from parents or very close family members.
Based in Florence, Louise Holm Ferragamo (www.madebymade.it) has until recently been a casual yet passionate part-time planner for more than 10 years, assisting friends and relatives plan big weddings. She recently decided that going professional would be a great career move. She serves the luxury/VIP end of the market, where the tab for the wedding ranges from 60,000 euro to over 200,000. The events are often three-day affairs, with most clients being English, American, Chinese, German, Scandinavian and Italian.
Both wedding planners confirm that the recession caused them little pain. Bradshaw remarks, ?some brides try to pull off a Tuscan do-it-yourself wedding and then seek help, so it can become a 'rescue plan' of sorts, while others are simply reducing the number of guests that they bring, from an average of 50 in 2008 to just 35 in 2011.' Holm Ferragamo, who works just five or six events per year, notes that her clients seem not to have felt any financial pinch.