You might think the Sonoran Desert is one of the last places people would plan their dream wedding … but think again. The Knot gives us insight into Arizona’s growing wedding industry and it’s pushing to the top of the list for destination weddings.
According to The Knot’s 2017 real wedding study of 13,000 US couples, the average cost for a wedding in Arizona is $25,140. That’s $8,251 less expensive than the 2017 national average of $33,391. But the cost isn’t the only thing attracting brides to Arizona for their special day.
“Arizona is a blank canvas,” said Sarrah Gaboury owner of Imoni events a sought-after wedding planning company based in Phoenix Arizona.
“You can really design and create whatever kind of wedding you want. I love that couples can incorporate the desert and mountain views or there are venues that offer more greenery and a Tuscan feel if they prefer.”
Imoni events has been in business for 15 years, seeing brides steering away from corporate ballroom feel.
“Most brides want a space where they can have ceremony, cocktail, and dinner outside,” said Gaboury, and Arizona has a lot to offer in that aspect.
The average cost for a wedding has increased almost 10 percent over the last three years nationally, according to XO Groups reports. Arizona falls between the Top 10 most expensive and Top 10 least expensive places to hold a wedding in the report. Couples looking to tie the knot value how much they can afford with a wedding in Arizona.
Laura and Rodrigo Bentley came from San Francisco to say their “I dos” last November in Sedona, “Often when people hear of a ‘destination’ wedding, they think of a beach or tropical places. For us, a destination wedding meant a unique place for us to explore and share with our friends and family.”
Originally being from Detroit and Chicago, the couple chose Arizona because “A majority of our guests had never been to Arizona and we wanted them to see it with us. We were really excited when so many of them extended their trips to be able to venture off into the surrounding areas to discover…”
The couple said they considered their wedding weekend a destination wedding because Sedona offered guests a place to disconnect and be present in the weekend.
“We also loved the variety of activities that people did over their long weekend like hiking, helicopter rides, wineries, shopping, breweries and we all did the off road jeeps! We wanted to share with them the beauty and peacefulness and also exploration and adventures of Sedona,” said Laura.
In Tucson alone, Betsy and John Allen, owners of Betsy and John wedding photography booked over 60 percent of their clients from out of state within the last year.
“We’ve heard from many of our clients that getting married in Tucson is much more affordable than in their home state… it gives them and their guests a little vacation in the most gorgeous spots the Southwest has to offer” said Betsy.
“It is easy to get to for their guests who are traveling. There is a lot to do (spring training, restaurants, top golf, shopping) and we have great weather. Weather is a big one since so many couples want to get married outside nowadays” said Gaboury working as the principal planner and designer at Imoni events.
The year-round wedding weather may alter the traditional wedding season of April to June for Arizona, but the cost is worth the time change for many.
Krista and Spencer Berry exchanged vows last September, and although warm, a majority of their wedding guests came from out of town and loved the southwestern environment.
“Many people traveled to our wedding (over 80 percent of guests) and they loved Tucson,” said Krista.
Their decision to have their special day at La Mariposa Resort in came from Krista’s love of succulents, and the accessibility for those traveling to the occasion.
“We love the desert and felt that it would be a great middle ground for our Washington family and California friends. Tucson also provided many options for beautiful venues that were reasonably priced,” said Berry.
As prices continue to rise, so do the expenses of working in a demanding industry.
According to the National Wedding Report, couples spend a majority of their budget on the venue.
For couples, cost per guests has increased from $194 in 2009 to $268, a new high, in 2017, according to The Knot’s survey. Large sections of a wedding budget are spent on venue, photography, and florist. The report excludes cost for the engagement ring and honeymoon.
“The wedding industry is growing with clients too. We’ve done quite a few “destination weddings” [people] that actually don’t live in Tucson but love the area and want to have their wedding here.” said Maria Gawnes, co-owner of The Gawnes (wedding photography).
Megan Lange is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.