NEW YORK — Last week, Kate Zhang snapped up a wedding dress at a bridal store in Manhattan. It was only her second appointment.
Her decision to get married was slightly less hurried. Zhang and her fiancé, Harrison Li, agreed to tie the knot the weekend before. Granted, they had waited more than a year because of the pandemic, but this summer seemed like a window of opportunity to finally take the plunge. Now that they’ve chosen to move ahead, they’re going to wait just a month before taking their vows.
Zhang and Li are by no means an exception. They are two among throngs of Americans eager to get hitched quick. Vaccinations, relatively low infection rates in some parts of the U.S. and diminished precautions emboldened couples to hold their celebration. Whether the rush is out of frustration with the 18-month delay or fear that variants will trigger new lockdowns, many are choosing to get married in a matter of months — or even days.
That stampede has sparked a scramble for everything associated with nuptials, including formalwear such as tuxedos and especially gowns. Prices — as you would expect — have acted accordingly. In fact, the intense demand has created a new problem for couples: Getting married now in exactly the way you want can mean spending a lot more than before the pandemic.
Don’t have $1,300 (or more) to guarantee your gown for an August date? Settle for less or enjoy a winter wedding.
Standing in the brightly lit dressing room at David’s Bridal Manhattan store, Zhang was handed a bell to ring to celebrate her find: an off-the-rack sample gown that came close to fitting her like a glove and required only minimum alterations. Her thought process was simple, she said: “Whatever fits on my body, I’m going for it.”
While it’s possible to get your hands on wedding wear on short notice, you’ll have to fork over a lot more for expedited delivery — maybe as much as half of the price of the gown. No matter how much money you have to throw around, you’ll have to be flexible with preferences given how many others are chasing the same clothes. And if you’re looking for a try-on appointment, stylists advise booking this very minute, since shops are already teeming with customers.
“I’m working seven days,” said Liz Sellassie, owner of bridal store Designer Loft in New York City. In January, “we were painting walls, fixing chairs, keeping the place pretty. Now, we don’t get lunch.”
This year, marriages in the U.S. are expected to jump by more than 50% following their pandemic-year slump, according to industry research firm The Wedding Report. Moreover, fear that guests will get infected with the coronavirus declined 20% from January to June, according to a David’s Bridal survey of brides.
But couples don’t know what’s around the corner, given the spread of the delta variant and vaccine refusal by millions of Americans. So they don’t want to delay. Around 70% of the 750 brides polled between April and June were planning weddings six month out or less, and roughly 33% said they were concerned about finding a venue and their dream dress.