This year is slated to be the busiest for weddings in the United States in nearly four decades. So while venture funding to wedding-related startups has been on the decline in recent years, that could change as many more couples tie the knot.
Funding to VC-backed startups in the wedding category over the past decade peaked in 2018, when companies in the space raised $543 million. A big factor then was that two of the most prominent players in the category—WeddingWire and Zola—raised very large rounds.
But since then, funding to the category has steadily declined, with wedding planning tools like The Knot, WeddingWire and Zola continuing to dominate the area of helping couples manage RSVPs, gift registries and communication with guests.
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Last year, VC-backed companies raised only around $30 million, Crunchbase data shows, with wedding planning app Joy’s $20 million Series A leading the pack.
But while funding’s been on the decline, Joy CEO Vishal Joshi pointed out that weddings, unlike other events, don’t get simply canceled—they get postponed. And the wedding category is an older one, and the older the category, the harder it is to disrupt. Once there’s a breakout success, the funding usually follows.
“(The high number of weddings) will be the new elevated normal for the next five to 10 years, which does mean more business, and if VCs can picture the future state of weddings, more funding too,” Joshi said.
Wedding industry ripe for disruption
The wedding industry was hit particularly hard during the pandemic, after stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines made it virtually impossible to hold large events. While “Zoom weddings” and micro-weddings still occurred, many couples opted to postpone their in-person nuptials until 2022 or 2023, or to host a larger celebration in the future after legally tying the knot.
Around 2.5 million weddings are expected to occur just this year in the U.S., according to The Wedding Report.
The industry is also playing catch-up to other areas of life in terms of digitization and communication, according to Joshi.
“The way we communicate with our friends and family is not how we communicate with wedding vendors. The way we buy clothes is not how we buy wedding apparel. The way we manage projects is not how we manage the biggest event of our lives,” Joshi said. “Wedding technology is decades behind the state of our modern lives, and I see a ton of innovation happening in bringing wedding planning to the 21st century.”
Although the wedding business has been around as long as people have tied the knot, it hasn’t seen that much tech innovation, which makes a certain sense—it’s an industry that’s based on tradition, after all. Vendors still rely heavily on word-of-mouth referrals, wedding attire is still very customized (at least for women), and much of the planning is still done over email or the phone. Many couples even still rely on snail-mail invitations and RSVPs.
“The industry itself is just so traditional and not a lot has changed over time,” said Laken Swan, co-founder and chief marketing officer at artificial flower rental startup Something Borrowed Blooms. “Sure, some of those Zola platforms have come and revolutionized the planning experience. But from a vendor perspective the planning process has remained pretty consistent over the years. So I think the more technology that can be brought to the industry to enhance the overall planning experience, that’s what’s needed and where we’ll see the industry take off in the future.”
Wedding startups: Where the money’s going
Within the wedding space, VC funding in the past two years has mostly gone to an array of event-planning platforms including Joy, Appy Couple and Weddingism. But companies in other areas of the industry, such as floral and event decor rental platforms and direct-to-consumer bridesmaid dresses (think Azazie and Birdy Grey), have also garnered interest from VCs.
Something Borrowed Blooms, which provides high-quality artificial bouquets and other floral decor for rent, has raised $2.6 million so far, per Crunchbase data. The company plans to pick up fundraising as it experiences record-breaking sales, according to CEO Lauren Bercier. She said her startup is currently shipping orders for 1,000 weddings per month, but expects it to be closer to 2,000 weddings per month by the end of the year.
The company’s main value proposition is cost savings and sustainability. The company says couples can save up to 70% compared to fresh flowers when renting its florals.
Bercier said the company has been conservative with its fundraising so far, but hasn’t had a problem attracting investment when it’s needed, at the terms it was seeking. And with so many weddings on the horizon and couples looking to save money where they can, there will likely be more wedding-related companies raising money.
“We do plan to get more aggressive and fundraise next year,” Bercier said. “But I would say the industries seeing this boom—more investments will be happening to support that.”
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Illustration: Dom Guzman
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