Weddings are big business. Over two million Americans tie the knot each year, and the average cost of throwing a wedding is estimated at around $12,000. And that’s only a piece of it—when you factor in the venue, wedding dress, and rings, getting hitched in the U.S. will cost couples as much as $27,000 or more.
But the price of a wedding isn’t static, and how much couples will spend on wedding services varies greatly depending on the city they’re in.
In a recent study of over 340,000 requests in ten popular wedding categories—wedding planning, catering, hair styling, decorating, coordinating, DJing, photography, florists, officiants and limousine rentals—we looked at where professionals were best able to make a living tying the knot, and where it was hardest.
The results of the study surprised us. According to our analysis, and despite what we might have expected, New York City is among the most underserved cities for wedding services in the country. With surprisingly low levels of competition, sky-high demand, and equally impressive pricing, New York City is hard to beat for wedding professionals seeking to grow their business.
But New York wasn’t the only city getting high marks for opportunity. Here are the top ten cities for wedding professionals in 2017, and the average income per job in those areas.
Top Cities for Wedding Planners
Planning a wedding is serious business and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. Nobody said that bringing another person’s dream day to life would be easy—if they did, they were wrong. For wedding planners new to the scene, Southern cities like Jackson, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee are the top two best places to capture new business.
Unlike the West Coast, which has more planners than weddings to be planned, Southern cities are desperately shorthanded when it comes to preparing for the big day. They’re also some of the most lucrative places to plan, paying roughly $100 and $350 above the national average of $1,148 in Jackson and Memphis, respectively.
Top Cities for Wedding Caterers
Couples aren’t skimping when it comes to dining on their big day, as more are opting for fancy sit-down dinners than in previous years. Caterers hoping to get in on the decadence will do no better than in the South, where the famously high demands of Southern hospitality keep catering pros in high demand.
Vastly underserved cities like Memphis and Little Rock leave space for new businesses to come in and set-up shop, though the cost of opportunity varies: catering jobs can pay as little as $338 (in Provo, Utah) and as much as $3,297 (in Louisville, Kentucky).
Top Cities for Wedding Hair Stylists
The state of New York was short on hair help this wedding season, leaving many soon-to-be spouses in the lurch. This comes as good news for hair styling professionals in Buffalo, Rochester, and New York City, where unmet need bodes well for pros looking to primp their way into the matrimonial market.
Prices vary considerably depending on what side of the state you’re styling on. The average price hair stylists can expect to make in New York ranges from as low as $100 in Buffalo and as high as $251 in New York City.
Top Cities for Wedding Decorators
Minneapolis, Minnesota is the number one underserved city for professional wedding decorators, begging the question — are professionals daunted by the possibility of sub-zero winter weddings? Regardless, we do know that — at $1,699 — wedding decorators in Minneapolis are paid roughly 40 percent more per job than decorating professionals in the rest of the country.
Equally high in both need and cost are Dallas and Houston, where opportunity for wedding decorators is great and average costs range from roughly $1,641 to $1,426, respectively.
Top Cities for Wedding Coordinators
Philadelphia is the holy grail of wedding coordination, with skyrocketing demand and an average job cost as high as $1,059—19 percent higher than the national average. Close behind in both need and opportunity is Texas, a frequent wedding frontrunner.
With supply eluding demand in cities including Houston, Dallas, and Austin, the pool of wedding coordinators throughout the state is remarkably shallow. But prices in Texas haven’t quite caught up to demand, with opportunities in the Lone Star state paying as much as $988 per job in Dallas and as little as $831 in Austin.
Top Cities for Wedding DJs
Despite their thriving music scenes, New York City and Chicago are two of the most underserved cities for couples looking to hire DJs for their wedding day. Unlike Las Vegas—where the market for DJs is about as full as the crowds they’re spinning to—opportunity for pros in both cities is huge thanks to the openness of their markets.
Proving the old adage ‘you have to sing for your supper’ wrong, average prices for DJs in New York and Chicago range from of $736 to $713 per wedding, putting jockeys in both metropolises well over the national average of $622. Interestingly, wedding DJs aren’t the most expensive by a long shot—Bar Mitzvah DJs get paid up to $300 more on average than wedding DJs.
Top Cities for Wedding Photographers
For a city full of glitz, glamor, and fashion, it’s also surprising to learn that New York is also the city most in need of wedding photographers. Professionals looking for a foothold in the market should pack their camera bags and head to the Big Apple, where opportunity is huge.
The Midwest is another good option for photographers looking to grow their business. Cities including Lincoln, Nebraska and Des Moines, Iowa offer both opportunity and prosperity. With the cost of wedding photography topping our list in both Lincoln (at around $1,257 per job) and Des Moines (at around $1,212 per job), the market for photographers in the Midwest is about as friendly as the soon-to-be newlyweds themselves.
Top Cities for Wedding Florists
Bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces are all integral to weddings, as are the florists who arrange them. Florists looking to grow their wedding business should move to New York City this year, where professionals with green thumbs are in low supply and can make as much as $1,693 per job (making it the highest paying city on our list).
The market for florists is strong in the South too, in cities including Augusta, Georgia and Memphis, Tennessee. This is also the case in the Central Pacific, where the market for florists in Honolulu grew by 200 percent in 2016. Despite this rapid growth, jobs costs on the island remain low, where the average cost per job is around $746, making it the second lowest paying city on our list behind Louisville, Kentucky (at $684 per job).
Top Cities for Wedding Officiants
Whether in a church, a thicket, or a city hall, weddings don’t happen without someone there to officiate them—making it all the more shocking that in many states wedding officiants are few and far between. Getting to “I do” is particularly tough in the South, with supply lagging behind demand in places like Memphis, Tennessee and Columbia , South Carolina.
The best city for officiants looking to break into the Southern wedding market is Little Rock, Arkansas, where opportunities for new business abound and, with a growth rate of 138 percent, there’s no shortage of weddings to work. Though, warning, open markets don’t always yield high incomes. Wedding officiants in Little Rock can expect to make around $138 per job, putting it significantly behind the national average of $178.
Top Cities for Wedding Limousine Rentals
When it comes to getting hitched, limousine rentals are clearly a big city habit. All ten of the top cities for limousine rental opportunity are also major metropolises, from Atlanta, Georgia to Los Angeles, California.
Within this group, Baltimore is the top city for limo drivers looking to expand their business, with above average job prices and a largely unencumbered market. Other riverfront cities also came in at the top of the list, including Chicago, Boston, and Washington D.C. But professionals should pick their big city wisely: limo drivers can make as much as $649 per job in Philadelphia, and as little as $301 in Miami depending on where they set-up shop.
Where the Wedding Jobs Are
So where are wedding professionals stomping the glass and where are they hearing wedding bell blues? Across all ten categories, it’s clear that opportunity for wedding pros—though not always the most lucrative—is certainly highest in the South. Cities like Memphis, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas; and Little Rock, Arkansas remain vastly underserved, making them prime areas for professionals looking to capitalize on excess demand.
We were also shocked to see the high level of opportunity in more lucrative states like Pennsylvania and New York, which are the No. 2 and No. 5 most expensive states for weddings, respectively. New York City, in particular—where average wedding costs round out to a little over $16,000—surprised us with an openness market and relatively low levels of competition. For pros of all stripes, a Central Park wedding has never sounded so good.
Thumbtack is the destination for getting things done—from house remodeling to event planning and more. Each year Thumbtack receives hundreds of thousands of wedding-related requests across 47 categories, and as the meeting place for couples and their nuptial pros, we have an unparalleled amount of insight on the supply and demand for wedding services nationwide. To forecast for 2017, we analyzed over 340,000 of these requests across ten popular wedding categories nationwide. This information allows us to pinpoint the cities that are most open for new business opportunities, and where in the country the markets are hardest.