Although the Knot predicts a staggering 2.6 million weddings are expected to take place in the United States this year after two years of pent-up pandemic demand, Idaho may be seeing less of a rebound than other states. But the outlook for 2023 weddings is bright here in The Gem State.
More than 6,000 couples married in Idaho from January to June this year, beating the same period in 2019 by just over 300 marriages, according to data from the Department of Health and Welfare. ‘Idaho.
Venues owned by government entities saw an increase in weddings, but some private venues and event organizers said things weren’t much busier now as Idaho’s looser COVID-19 restrictions meant that fewer marriages had been annulled during the pandemic.
“With weddings here in Idaho, we definitely had a little more freedom than most places,” said Erin Olson, owner, planner and chief designer of Dreamer Events. “Things have definitely slowed down, but they haven’t stopped.”
So while some people in places with tighter, longer-lasting restrictions may have had to postpone weddings in order to have the ceremony and reception they wanted, Idaho was different.
“I wouldn’t say there was a big hold. I think the folks in Idaho kind of said “yeah, whatever,” said Brad Rowen, host, MC, DJ and owner of The Wedding Doctor Events & Entertainment. “They’re like, ‘we still have our marriage, we don’t really care.’ And even when it was supposed to be smaller numbers.
But other venues, like Boise city parks, have seen an increase in weddings this year, according to data from the City of Boise.
Approximately 137 wedding reservations have been made at venues across the city of Boise, including Kathryn Albertson Park, Boise Depot and Julia Davis Park Rose Garden. This is compared to the pre-pandemic figures of 111 in 2019, although the Kathryn Albertson Park Rookery was under construction during the 2019-2021 booking seasons.
At Ada County’s Barber Park Education and Event Center, 68 weddings are expected to take place this year, more than in 2020 and 2021 combined (45). The number of weddings expected this year exceeds Barber Park’s pre-pandemic number of 53 in 2019, according to Ada County data.
It’s possible these wedding bookings have been affected because governments own them – which could mean stricter adherence to COVID-19 restrictions. For other Idahoans in 2020, a backyard or nature wedding ceremony would have allowed them to circumvent the regulations.
Amelia Berg, executive director of The Bishops’ House, said there have been more weddings this year, including more weddings booked for midweek days.
As a state-owned building, the Bishops’ House had to strictly adhere to city ordinances.
“As the terms got smaller and smaller, more and more people were deferring,” Berg said. “So this year has been pretty crazy, because we’ve had to adjust to all the weddings that have been postponed or are joining us because their wedding venue has just been cancelled.”
Several weekends, the House of Bishops held weddings on three days in a row — Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Berg said.
The Bishop’s House does not reimburse postponed or canceled events, but some people who got married elsewhere after the postponement have used their payment at Bishop’s House to hold a baby shower or some sort of other event on site.
“We had a lot of receptions. We normally have more weddings and receptions,” Berg said. “They postponed it and they got married at City Hall last year and now they’re doing the receptions this year.”
The pandemic year
As of early 2020, the weddings were taking place in Idaho. In the first three months, 2,365 couples got married, compared to 2,052 in the same period the previous year. But then cases of COVID-19 appeared in the United States and started to increase.
In April 2020, the number of marriages fell to 601, an unusual swing for this time of year. Since 2014, the Idaho Department of Health and Wellness has never recorded a decline in marriages in April.
Only seven weddings took place in Barber Park in 2020. City of Boise wedding bookings dropped to 60 in 2020 and in 2021 rebounded to 102.
“I would say we had, maybe a 20% to 40% reduction. … When COVID-19 first hit, we certainly had a quick downturn, but a lot of them just postponed or ended up changing their dates,” Rowen said. “I think we’ve only had one real cancellation.”
Many people who had not yet booked took a “wait and see” approach, he said. Some people had a “gut” reaction and changed their dates.
But for others, there was a “show must go on” attitude.
“There have been some changes in some venues…and so there have definitely been occasions where we’ve definitely done more like backyard-style weddings,” Rowen said. “I think they adjusted to what the new normal was going to be for the time.”
At Cottage At Riverbend, some couples have postponed their wedding to 2020, manager Savanna Adriano said.
However, the Cottage is an outdoor venue, so many people didn’t reschedule, and those who did had their appointments filled.
“We were always full,” Adriano said.
The Cottage has booked up for 2023 faster than normal, though Adriano attributes that to engaged couples knowing they have to scout places well in advance.
“We book every year, but not as quickly, usually in October, mid-year, before we book,” she said. “But for 2023 we booked probably two months ago. … A lot of people who came in just said “rooms are booked up so fast”.
As of the end of May 2020, Olson, the owner of Dreamer Events, organized weddings with 40 to 50 people.
By July 2020, wedding sizes had returned to normal.
Still, the pandemic has added an extra stressor to wedding planning, but Olson said it helps that she’s been dealing with it for two years.
Now people moving forward want to get together and party.
“We honestly thought 2021 was going to be this and it was going to be crazy. And then we thought 2022 was going to be that and it was going to be crazy,” Olson said. “But 2023 has certainly met and exceeded expectations for the number of weddings, the size and scale, and the money spent on weddings.”
According to Berg and Rowen, couples planning to get married may also face rising venue costs.
Rooms used to cost between $2,000 and $3,000, Rowen said, but now it appears rooms are priced between $3,000 and $7,000. However, Idaho has a low average wedding budget compared to other states.
“I think the bar for actual budgets has been raised significantly,” Rowen said. “Boise over the last few years, with the rapid growth it’s had with so many people moving here, I think they might be used to different budgets.”
Essentially, it’s still a bargain if you’re from California where it can cost $10,000 to get a room.
“They still feel like they’re making a deal,” Rowen said.
With COVID-19 and inflation, flower prices have increased, as well as the cost of food. Some people minimize the number of guests to compensate for this, Olson said.
But ultimately, weddings in Idaho are a day to celebrate love. Even though the pandemic has slowed weddings down a bit, Olson said she’s noticed the pandemic is helping more couples make that decision.
“I think it’s got people thinking a little bit more about what they want and who they want to be with,” Olson said. “I think it definitely revived the wedding game.”