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Unveiling The Proposal Gap Theory

What The Proposal Gap Means for Wedding Photographers 

Did your wedding photography business experience a lull in wedding bookings last year and you are now facing the same decline for 2024? It may seem that no matter how much marketing you update and how many trends you are following, the wedding photography inquiries just aren’t coming in as you projected. 

Some photographers attribute the slow wedding season to the state of the economy, while others believe it’s due to the upcoming 2024 election. However, let me introduce a new and different perspective. Investigating and unveiling the Proposal Gap theory can help us understand why there are fewer weddings this year, and give us hope for the 2024-2025 wedding season.

 

Let us Propose the Proposal Gap

Recently, when chatting about wedding trends with photographer, Sarah Koermer of High Contrast Photography, she brought up the theory of “the proposal gap”. The theory goes like this: The traditional timeline is that couples usually get engaged 2-3 years after their first date, and the wedding takes place 1-2 years after the engagement. Therefore, weddings in 2023-2024 typically involve couples meeting in 2020. The problem is that no one was meeting in 2020! As a result, 2025 will be the first wave of couples getting married who met post-pandemic. 

This may result in a surge of wedding photography inquiries next year for many photographers currently experiencing declining business. Engagements are expected to continue to increase for the following three years, reaching pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, the backlog of postponed proposals will contribute to the rise.

proposal gap, Unveiling The Proposal Gap Theory, Zookbinders
Engagement image by Silvernale Photography. Engagement photography sessions are an important part of the engagement timeline. This is when the couple gets to know their wedding photographer and the photographer gets to know the couple and their style.

However, for the beginning of 2024, photographers should possibly brace for a slower start to their wedding season than normal. Many wedding photographers I recently spoke to agreed that they are down from their typical wedding books at this time of the year. They have also heard similar experiences from other photographers in their area.   

Do Photographers Accept the Proposal Gap?

Michelle Peyronet, the owner of Peyronet Photography in Texas, has felt the wedding industry “pinch” and agrees it could be something to do with a “proposal gap”.  

“I buy that to a certain extent. I think we all thought last year was ‘back to normal’ for weddings but then this year is weird again. I think a little bit is the Covid leftovers/gap, a little bit is because election years are always weird wedding years, and everything is just so expensive that I think it’s catching up to weddings,” stated Peyronet. 

Steve Neilson, owner of Valen Studios Photography and Video in suburban Chicago, felt the pain of a decrease in weddings this past December but saw an increase in the last few months and hopes that continues. 

Neilson explains, “I have heard about this (the proposal gap) and felt it for sure. In December, I had 15 fewer weddings on the books than my average for entering a new year. Since New Year’s, I have had over 20+ inquiries from couples either getting married this year or next year. I have luckily booked a few more weddings for this year and hope to book a handful more. It seems like some couples are planning an entire wedding in less than 6 months now, so there is still some hope for 2024!” 

Matt Ramos, owner of Matt Ramos Photography in Albany, New York, agreed that the Proposal Gap could be a reality, along with another term: wedding confidence. 

“It’s an interesting theory for sure, and it certainly seems to make sense. I still think we are not 100% back from Covid in terms of what people are spending and their overall “wedding confidence” as I call it. I think another year will be very telling for sure,” states Ramos. 

Brides magazine did an article last October about 2024 being the year of the proposal and what we can expect. Statistically, engagements were down in 2022 and 2023, but there is a lot of hope that 2024 and 2025 could gain a lot of momentum and couples might be rushing down the aisles at a rapid pace. 

 

Save the Date for more bookings in 2024 and 2025

What does this all mean for professional photographers this year? Here are 4 things for photographers to keep in mind this year when experiencing frustration now and preparing for a possible influx in the future. 

 

1. Stay positive 

This new data should bring hope to frustrated photographers who are doing everything right and still seeing a lack of wedding bookings. We understand it can be discouraging to see declining numbers but try to keep positive so you don’t attract negative attention or seem like a “Debby Downer” to potential clients. 

 

2. Prepare for the boom

This news should also give studios incentive to gear up for some major competition in the coming year with all the possible incoming weddings. Now is the time to update your website, engage more on social media, and partner with other wedding vendors in your area. If you were already looking into a marketing and social media overhaul – now is the time! 

We also encourage all professional photographers to start their sample albums for their studios now so they are ready to present to clients throughout the year. Not only are they great for clients to see in person, but showing albums on your social media and website makes a huge difference in album and product sales.  

proposal gap, Unveiling The Proposal Gap Theory, Zookbinders
Make sure you have a great Engagement session photo book sample for your studio, along with wedding album samples. Our Lustre Book with a canvas cover is perfect for a guest book for the wedding reception! Albums can make your studio stand out after a Proposal Gap period is over, and the inquiries start coming in. Engagement image by Silvernale Photography.

 

3. Offer Proposal photography packages

Think of other areas where you can attract engaged couples to your business. Do you currently offer proposal photography? Couples constantly come across beautiful and emotional proposal videos, reels, and images online, which will likely inspire them to want that for their proposals. 

Think up creative packages that include proposal photography, an engagement session, and wedding photography all in one! Portrait photographers are famous for offering “First Year”/ “Grow With Me” packages where they capture a child during multiple milestones in their first year, so why can’t wedding photographers do the same? 

proposal gap, Unveiling The Proposal Gap Theory, Zookbinders
Images by Peyronet Photography of a surprise proposal, engagement session, and wedding for the same beautiful couple.

 

4. Create Fun engagement collections 

Since photography studios can expect a boom of engagement and wedding inquiries, make your studio stand out among the pack! Come up with fun ideas for engagement collections and wedding packages during this slower season of the year. Why not add an engagement collection with multiple locations and a professional photo album to showcase the images at the wedding reception? Use the extra time to scout for locations that have cool brick buildings or graffiti walls for great backgrounds. Make friends with owners of local farms or locations where you can have a unique session with animals or nature. Don’t forget about greenhouses, amusement parks, parks, waterfalls, small airports, and more!

proposal gap, Unveiling The Proposal Gap Theory, Zookbinders
Two different sessions and the same couple! Photographer Nick Frontiero did an amazing job on this fun engagement session package with multiple locations.

Whether your photography business is experiencing a “Gap Year” or riding the high of consistent success, we have all learned in the last 4 years to expect the unexpected and remain adaptable and innovative. The Proposal Gap may be initially frustrating, but it also brings hope. Therefore, all of us in the wedding industry are hoping for the “happily ever after” for our couples and 2024 and 2025 bookings! 

Melissa Genson

Melissa Genson

Specialist in the Photographer Experience Dept at Zookbinders. Photographer since 110-format film cameras. Salesperson since lemonade & painted rocks. I now combine these passions, along with my compulsive need for customers to achieve success, every day.

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