A $40 billion annual industry nationwide, the business of saying “I do” drew thousands of people to the Dena’ina Center Sunday for the Anchorage Wedding Fair.
“It’s a huge economic engine,” said fair organizer Sandy Baker, calling weddings one of the biggest investments a person can make. “I mean, you've got to stop and think, a car is a huge expense, college is a huge expense, and a house and a wedding."
That’s good news for Alaskan vendors, who sold out the annual event for the eighth year in a row.
Baker said it’s the largest wedding convention in the state, and many businesses are able to book an entire year’s worth of clients over the course of the six-hour fair.
But as hundreds of brides-to-be flooded through the convention center doors, they said they know it comes with a price.
"Budget's about $5,000,” said Autumn Hamrick, who said she’s planning on spending the bulk of that money on her dress. “It's pretty important to me, it's something I've looked forward to my whole life."
But the price tag isn’t always set in stone. Just ask Hamrick’s sister, who said they planned their weddings just two weeks apart.
“I’ll probably go over it,” said Skye Hamrick. “I'm not looking for anything fancy, just special."
Here in the Last Frontier, there are plenty of special things.
"I think people have a misconception that nothing exists in Anchorage,” said Jim Anderson, owner of local bridal boutique Anderson’s Bride. “They say, ‘hey, let’s fly to Seattle because nothing’s here,’ but people come into our store all the time and say ‘wow, I didn't know this many options existed.’"
Anderson has been dressing wedding parties for the last twenty years, and said many clients fly to Alaska just for the occasion.
It’s a steady business.
"I think that's really the only thing that has changed: The wedding is a little bit more sophisticated now,” Anderson said “People are saving up a little bit more for it, and they're spending a little bit more time planning it and a little bit more money on it."
With nearly seven hundred brides buying his dresses every year, even a little bit adds up quickly.
It’s the reason why many stores, including Carrs-Safeway, are breaking into the wedding business for the first time.
“We’re just getting our name out to show we have a lot of variety for brides,” said Sherrie Whetnall, pausing briefly from showing cupcake displays and flower arrangements to dozens of women Sunday.
Including venue costs, flowers, food, decorations and more, industry leaders said the average Alaska wedding rings up to roughly $20,000.
For local companies, the big day means big money.