As June approaches, it's not just wedding bells that are ringing — but cash registers, too.
Weddings are big business. According to Bride's magazine and the Condé Nast Bridal Group Wedding Survey, weddings (which also include the cost of a dress and the honeymoon) are a $120 billion industry in the United States — a figure comparable to the revenue of Coca-Cola , Microsoft, American Express, McDonald'sand Motorola combined — and the average cost of a wedding is $22,360.
Typically, after purchasing a home and paying for college, it is the biggest payout made by most American families. So when people get ready to splash out, they want it to be special. And in our celebrity-obsessed culture, many brides want their special day to emulate those of their favorite celebrities.
"I always keep an eye out for where the celebrities are going for when I talk to my clients," says Valerie Wilson, a travel consultant and author of Valerie Wilson's World: The Top Hotels and Resorts. "People think, 'Well, if it's good enough for Cindy Crawford or Madonna, it's good enough for me.' "
Taking Vows at Paradise Island
Travel consultants, like clothing designers, are keenly aware of the power of celebrity attachment. Like designers who scramble to dress stars for the Oscars because of the exposure it will garner, travel consultants often name-drop when selling a resort.
"People are still talking about Cindy Crawford's wedding," says Russell Miller, general manager of the Ocean Club Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas where Crawford and her husband, nightclub owner Rande Gerber, were married in 1998. "It definitely helped raise our visibility."
"Any time you have a highly public, high-profile wedding take place somewhere, it cements it as a place where travelers want to go," says Elizabeth Borsting, author of Celebrity Weddings & Honeymoon Getaways.
The place where the rich and famous decide to get hitched is guaranteed a flood of publicity and thousands of press mentions. That's the kind of publicity that advertising dollars — and brochures — can never buy.
Little Known Locations Become Hot
The power of celebrity also extends to churches and synagogues.
New York-based wedding consultant Marcy Blum says very few people had ever heard of the Angel Orensanz Foundation until actress Sarah Jessica Parker married Matthew Broderick in an historic former synagogue on the Lower East Side. "Now it's used for events and weddings all the time," she says.
Resorts such as Manele Bay Hotel in Lanai, Hawaii, where both Bill Gates and Michelle Pfeiffer were married, insist they do not seek a celebrity clientele. "We do a lot of celebrity weddings because we're known for being exclusive and private," says the resort's director of sales, Todd Winston.
He says guests constantly bring up the Gates wedding. "It really surprises me, but then again, he is the richest man in the world," says Winston. "People always want to know where he got married on the property and where he held his reception."
Tie to Destination Wedding Trend
Mille Martini Bratten, the editor-in-chief of Bride's magazine, says a celebrity wedding often brings visibility to a resort that people may otherwise have never heard of.
It also fits in with the trend of destination weddings. "A lot more resorts are hiring wedding coordinators and relaxing their residency requirements to make it more appealing as a wedding destination."