Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Love in the time of recession

As this year's wedding season approaches, you may be finding fewer invitations filling up your mailbox. But don't worry; it's probably not because you've been a bad friend.
The $60 billion-a-year wedding industry is hurting as much as the rest of the economy, according to a recent Bloomberg article. And with couples spending an average of 24% less on tying the knot than in '07, they are scaling back on everything from the number of guests to meal selections to flowers. A recent survey done by David's Bridal entitled "What’s on Brides' Minds" reports that 75% of weddings are being downsized in order to save money.
Sandra Chavez, who is getting married in September in Pleasanton, Calif. told Fox News:
"I would be embarrassed to spend thousands and thousands of dollars when people are losing their jobs, homes, cars, etc. We understand that this is just one night."
But what happens after that night? The recession is making its mark on marriages, too—in somewhat surprising ways.

It's not too shocking that a slumping economy puts a strain on most marriages; it's common knowledge that financial stress is one of the top causes of divorce. But according to a recent article in Yahoo! Finance, 37% of matrimonial lawyers report seeing a decrease in divorcing couples during economic downturns. The reason, the article posits, is because getting a divorce is the "worst thing you can do financially."
"Attorney fees and court costs compete with setting up a second household as the largest expense in a divorce. A simple divorce can cost $5,000 to $25,000 in attorney fees and court costs while the average complex divorce runs $20,000 to $100,000, says Bruce Hughes, an attorney and certified public accountant in Tustin, Calif."
So maybe the frugal thing to do these days is just stay single? Not so fast.The Economist and CNN are both reporting that matchmakers and online dating websites like eHarmony.com and OKCupid.com are prospering during the recession. Patti Novak, owner of Buffalo Niagara Introductions, a matchmaking company in Buffalo, New York, and star of A&E's former reality series "Confessions of a Matchmaker" said her business has seen a 30% increase in clients in the last eight months. Novak tells CNN:
"I think that as people go through more difficult times, being alone becomes more difficult…[Even] if they can only afford popcorn and a six-pack on a Saturday night, they'd rather do it with somebody than alone."

Similarly, Greg Waldorf, CEO of eHarmony, reports a 20% increase in monthly registrations from September 2008 to January 2009, compared with the same time period the prior year. He also points out that the number of visits to its site was higher than average on days when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 100 points. Waldorf told The Economist, simply:
"Going through difficult times with someone special is better than doing it alone."
But searching for love during a recession isn't just limited to finding that perfect soul mate. A recent New York Times article reports that sales of romance novels are up as well.Harlequin Enterprises, the world's leading publisher of romance fiction, reported that fourth-quarter earnings were up 32% over the same period the year before. And while sales of adult fiction were basically flat last year, according to Nielsen Bookscan, the romance category was up 7% after holding fairly steady for the previous four years. The New York Times reports:
"Like the Depression-era readers who fueled blockbuster sales of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind,” today’s readers are looking for an escape from the grim realities of layoffs, foreclosures and shrinking 401(k) balances."

So whether you're slashing your wedding budget, struggling through a financial crisis with your spouse, or searching for someone or something to help you through these dark times, it's clear the recession is affecting love all around.
Isn't it romantic?

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