Dripping Springs has called itself the “Wedding Capital of Texas.” But what does that really mean when there are more single adults in the United States than married ones? Moreover, what does it mean when the state is in the middle of a wedding bust?
On the day we met, Oscar Alcala, a hairstylist and make-up artist, was changing his hair color into a new shade of dark brown for winter.
Alcala rarely has any downtime. He’s booked solid every week, so I came to see him during his coloring time. Even though he’s busy as ever, he’s noticed a change in his clientele.
He hasn’t booked a single bride in months.
Alcala says he used to book at least one bride every weekend, but he started noticing a decline back in 2009. This year, he’s done fewer bridal hairdos than ever: only five. Alcala’s used to do the hair and makeup for about 50 brides every year.
Venues have noticed a shift too. Some venues blame the decline in weddings to the overabundance of festivals like South by Southwest and the Austin Film Festival. They attract thousands of people who snap up all the hotel rooms, leaving virtually no availability.
Suzanne McCord owns Old Glory Ranch, one of the largest riverfront venues in Wimberley. She says the wedding business has become unsustainable.
“2007 to 2008 was probably peak for me,” she says. “But there weren’t that many venues then.”
Since then venues have popped up all over Texas.
“It just became this rage. People would say ‘Oh, we have a barn in the back, we could be a wedding venue,” McCord says.
Now, there are so many that Dripping Springs has 36 wedding venues in a 17-mile radius.
Many of those were also hit by the Memorial Day and October floods. They virtually washed out McCord’s business – she’s had no weddings since the summer and the next one is not scheduled until Spring.
“This year we were without a phone for a month in June and that’s usually when that timing books,” she says.
It’s not just the weather or the competition that explains why Texas is having fewer weddings. Over the last five years, the state has added almost 2 million people, but it hasn’t added a single wedding. There are still fewer than 200,000 every year.
For Fatima Melgarejo-Wilson, it’s about priorities. The Panama native has been wanting a wedding ceremony “forever.”
Fifteen years ago, she and the love of her life rode their bikes to the nearest courthouse and said “I do” before a judge. She’s religious and for her that was not a wedding.
“I want to have a big party,” Melgarejo-Wilson says.
Three kids later, she’s had to align her dreams with her family’s reality.
“We want to purchase a house so my husband asked me, it has to be either one or the other one. It cannot be both at the same time,” she says. “So we decided to get the house.”
The decline in weddings can be blamed on many things: the stagnation of middle class wages over the last 35 years, the secularization of society or even natural disasters. Fatima Melgarejo-Wilson is where she wants to be.
“So, really, it doesn’t matter because we are together,” she says. “He is mine and I am his.”