Brides Still Engaged to Clients Despite Recession

Analysts expect consumers to spend less in 2009, which bodes ill for industries from restaurants to casinos to luxury goods.

But Brides magazine is betting, understandably, that weddings will be relatively recession-proof. The Condé Nast title conducts an annual weddings survey; its latest one, fielded in October, showed that while couples will trim expenses moderately, wedding costs will be little unchanged from 2007, when they averaged $27,852.

Still, titles for brides-to-be have taken a hit right along with the rest of the magazine industry. Brides performed the best so far this year, and its Feb/March pages were down 9.5 percent; all others were down in pages by at least 12 percent for their winter issues. The biggest decliner was Brides sibling Elegant Bride (down 28.8 percent for its winter issue), whose performance has led to speculation that Condé Nast will fold the title. (The company has denied any plans to do so.)

Brides fared better thanks in part to its Feb/March issue, which netted additional pages as part of three, multi-platform advertising programs connected to the magazine’s 75th anniversary. There was a 33-page advertising section that plays on the milestone with a vintage ad theme. In a second program, De Beers Diamond Jewellers U.S. used pages in Brides along with a sweepstakes, in-store events, online ads and window displays to promote a new diamond ring.

Lastly, Brides built a temporary honeymoon suite at Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock, where seven advertisers including Estée Lauder and Lenox China are promoting their products and services. Brides is running a contest whose winning couple will receive a one-night stay in the suite and exotic trip.

Alison Adler Matz, publisher of Brides, says that while no businesses are immune to the economic downturn, the wedding category is well positioned to grow ad share because its readers are still buying. In 2009, she’ll be chasing marketers like beauty companies and financial institutions that aren’t big buyers of bridal books. “It’s certainly more challenging because there are less dollars to go around,” she said. “But they’re looking for customers that are still spending.”

Hamida Belkadi, chief operating officer of De Beers Diamond Jewellers U.S., acknowledged that in today’s troubled times, “People are more cautious. They’re not going to go overboard.” Still, she said that maintaining a print presence still matters for De Beers, even in the digital age. “A lot of the pre-engaged are still looking in bridal magazines,” she said. “[Advertising there] is important for the image of the brand.”