NEW YORK Investment bank bailouts, home foreclosures and job losses have spread economic gloom through America but in New York, at least, there's one industry still weathering the storm -- high-end weddings.
Cake makers, florists, wedding planners and dress-makers at a wedding show this month said brides were still determined to enjoy their big day with almost no expense spared.
While some couples were cutting back on non-essentials, for example having only two bridesmaids instead of four, most vendors at the New York magazine Weddings Showcase in Manhattan said they were yet to see a serious dip in business.
"So far I would say compared to last year, this year people seem to be spending just as much," said Amy Salvini-Swanson, co-owner of Greenwich Letterpress, which offers invitations at anywhere from $600 to $1,200 for 100.
Her co-owner, Beth Salvini, added: "People still get married during recessions. It's a safe bet, people still need invitations."
It's debatable whether anybody really needs to spend $10,000 on a personal trainer who offers a 14-day pre-wedding package that also includes vitamins, appetite suppressants and a murky green drink that resembles a grass smoothie.
David Kirsch admits that "no sane bride wants to wait until the last two weeks," but he says his clients have lost as much as 15 pounds on the two-week program. One celebrity client had to have her dress recut two days before the wedding.
"It is essential. What's more essential than your health and wellbeing?" Kirsch said. "When those doors open up and you're about to walk down the aisle and there are 250 pairs of eyes on you, there's that moment," he said.
Frances Taveras, 27, who recently got engaged, said most of the services at the show were outside her budget, so she was just there to get some ideas. "I had a very small budget in mind so the financial situation isn't playing such a big role," she said. "It's quite conservative at $20,000."
Xochitl Gonzalez, a wedding planner at Always a Bridesmaid, said she was seeing longer engagements as couples take a little longer to save enough for the wedding, but she still has plenty of takers for her $15,000 full-service package.
Gonzalez said her company had just started offering a concierge service to take on such tasks as finding a venue or booking hotel rooms on a one-off basis with an hourly fee.
"We were just joking we're going to come up with a subprime wedding package," Gonzalez said. "A planner is a luxury. We're a necessary luxury in New York but it's still a luxury service, so the concierge is meant to bridge that gap."
Jerry Sibal, whose company Design Fusion does decor that can cost up to $500,000, said the weak dollar and rising oil prices had pushed up the cost of imported flowers by as much as 20 percent in a year, but New Yorkers were still buying.
"When I was in Europe, people don't spend because they're afraid to be criticized," he said.
"You'd think people from Amsterdam would spend a lot on flowers, but no, they'll spend on one simple bouquet. New York is different. People love to entertain and be entertained."
Cake maker Lauri Ditunno, owner of Cake Alchemy, said her costs had also gone up because of rising commodity prices that have made flour, butter and other ingredients more expensive.
OuLaivanh Jaigla, of Banchet Flowers, said clients were a little more careful with their budget, but still determined to celebrate in style. "I'm seeing there are not as many bridesmaids as there used to be, so there's less on bouquets."
Bride-to-be Ishviene Arora, 24, who works at a financial public relations firm, said she was planning a week-long Indian wedding in New York and the economy was not going to change her plans. "We look at it as 'It's one time we're going to do it,' so it's not really affected it," she said.
"Unless you lose your job," her fiance Sorubh Chandani, who works on Wall Street, added.
(Reporting by Claudia Parsons; Editing by Eddie Evans)