A wedding venue in Scranton (Photo by Diana Bravo)

Budget Wedding Seekers Hone in on Scranton

Weddings are notoriously expensive throughout the country, but lately some couples have found a way to cut costs— by getting married in Scranton. 

From alternate ceremony dates to new forms of entertainment like selfie alpacas and caricature artists; more couples are changing up their Scranton weddings. 

Research company The Wedding Report reported that in 2021, 2,667 couples got married in the greater Scranton area. Beyond that, the average cost of a wedding went from $23,900 in 2019 to $26,800 in 2021.  Comparatively, average wedding costs in the New York-Newark-Jersey City area went from $39,100 in 2019 to $42,600 in 2021. 

Electric City Event Company Owner Amanda Di Pierro said that most of her clients, and most clients who use wedding planners, pay around $60,000. Couples who use more hands on wedding planners pay between $85,000 and $100,000. 

Jessica Bredbenner, owner of the mobile bar service the Wandering Borough mentioned that despite inflation adding to the business’ overhead, she’s kept the businesses’ bar packages at their usual cost. Bredbenner said this combination of lower prices and a destination wedding closer to home contributes to the recent influx of out-of-towners getting married in Scranton. 

“I feel like a lot of people outside of our area, whether it’s New York (or) New Jersey, gravitate towards our area. One, it’s because… we’re in a rural area.” Bredbenner said. “There’s barns for barn weddings, plenty of outdoor (spaces), pavilions, stuff like that. I think that people that are close to the city want kind of like a destination wedding. And I also think the main factor is (that) in our area, things are a lot cheaper.”

Di Pierro also mentioned that the city’s location makes it an ideal meeting place for weddings with attendees spread throughout New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. 

“Scranton is kind of a center point, you know, between all of that.” Di Pierro said. “So if you have family coming in from New York, New Jersey, Central Pennsylvania, anywhere like that, they’re all pretty much traveling the same distance.”

In the last few years, weddings have shifted from being more formal, cookie-cutter events to better reflecting the couple getting married Di Pierro said. 

Di Pierro mentioned that the majority of the couples she works with are renouncing religious celebrations in churches with priests in favor of ceremonies in other venues with celebrants. This doesn’t mean that couples refuse to acknowledge religion at all in their ceremonies, Di Pierro said, just that they find other ways to do it.  

“Instead of the wedding focusing on (couples’) faith, it focuses a lot more on their relationship, who they are, as a couple.” Di Pierro said. “A lot of times readings are like, poems or things like that, as opposed to like Bible verses, or you know, whatever their faith may be.”

Additionally, to coincide with this increase in celebrants hosting wedding ceremonies, Di Pierro noted that a lot of couples are opting for blended ceremonies to honor both partners’ religions and backgrounds. 

Once all the ceremonies are over, weddings can further demonstrate the couples’ personalities. Di Pierro mentioned that instead of a traditional multi tiered wedding cake, some couples are opting for a ceremonial cutting cake and a dessert bar to feed their guests instead. 

Another way that couples can let their personalities shine through on their big days is their choice in entertainment. To fill that void, some couples hire Carina Havenstrite from Windy Haven Farm and her family’s alpacas to come take pictures with the guests. 

“It’s so much fun, the pictures are always amazing.” Havenstrite said. “I love the bride and groom pictures with the alpacas.”

Havenstrite mentioned that despite inflation, she hasn’t raised the price of bringing the alpacas to keep them accessible to Scrantonites who want them at their weddings like the influx of out-of-towners getting married there. This ethos extends to other areas of the alpaca business like Painting with Alpacas events.

“We have people ask all the time, well, why don’t you,  you could put more, you know, tables in this field, why don’t you do more?” Havenstrite said “I’d rather have less people and make less money and have people have a really, you know, amazing, memorable experience. So for me, I think it’s more about accessibility than it is about capitalization.“

Other guests might prefer to send their guests home with a piece of art. That’s where Alexander Clare comes in as a caricature artist. Clare started out as an amusement park caricaturist before becoming a Crayola graphic designer in 2015. Eventually, he realized that caricature, including for weddings, paid more and returned to freelance drawing. 

Clare said that since people who tend to hire caricaturists for their weddings are often more relaxed and able to laugh at themselves, he hasn’t booked any nightmare clients.

I feel very lucky, because what I do (is) more unique and maybe even more goofy in general.” Clare said. “I feel like the types of clients that are the ones who (hire) a caricature artist are more laid back or more creative in general, more open minded. In that vein, I have really never had a bridezilla.”

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