Assetou Gaudissard is a Parisian wedding and event planner living in New York. She currently heads up New York Paris Connection, an agency founded in 2011 specialized in French-style weddings in the United States. Her role implies managing all formalities for the festivities, including finding a space for the reception, hiring a caterer, an organizer and a florist, printing the wedding invitations, drawing up the gift list, finding a vintage limousine, and helping the bride track down that perfect dress.
The company works with some 50 providers, half of which are French. Assetou Gaudissard’s order book has jumped from 3 to 18 ceremonies per year over the last five years, and weddings now make up 70% of her activity. “People are looking for French taste,” says the young woman. But despite her success, competition is tough. More than two million couples tie the knot every year in the United States, and wedding planners take a sizeable slice of the budget.
The French businesswoman’s latest clients were a Californian couple who wanted a beautiful wedding à la française. Assetou Gaudissard’s trademark is offering her clients “an alternative to American bling-bling,” and so she organized their celebration at Harold Pratt House, a renowned mansion located at the corner of Park Avenue and 68th Street boasting Renaissance-style interior design. The bride wore a boho-chic dress, her hair in a French twist with a styled/natural effect, and carried a small bouquet of monochrome flowers.
According to the young woman, French weddings are less structured, while celebrations in the United States are timed and formatted: The ceremony begins at 5 p.m. on the dot, followed by pre-dinner drinks, dinner, and a party with dancing to finish. The festivities end at midnight. “The French are more open to improvisation, and can often dance until dawn,” she says.
Americans certainly don’t scrimp on the budget when it comes to saying “I do.” As Assetou Gaudissard puts it, “everything is possible in the United States. A client can ask for peonies in the middle of October if they want. And if they put their money where their mouth is, they’ll get them!” The average cost of a wedding in the U.S.A. in 2016 was 26,700 dollars for around 100 guests, according to The Wedding Report, a website specialized in market studies and statistics from the wedding industry. The same figure reached 82,000 dollars in New York State.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the average budget for a wedding in France is 8,800 euros. The higher costs on the American market help explain the difference. “There is no such thing as “mid-range” in New York,” says Assetou Gaudissard. And the prices speak for themselves. Couples can expect to pay 200 dollars for a beautiful bouquet of flowers in New York (compared with 60 euros in France), and a photographer in the United States is around double or triple the cost.
Drawing on the American penchant for French culture, Assetou Gaudissard is hoping to extend her services to planning weddings for U.S. couples in France. And the gamble could well pay off, given the current growing trend for destination weddings. The bride and groom should put aside between 150,000 and 200,000 euros to celebrate their wedding in the Provence region, which is the most popular destination for Americans in 2017.
=> French wedding professionals like planners, florists, caterers, dressmakers and jewelers have crossed the Atlantic to develop their businesses in the United States. Every week, discover in France-Amérque the profile of a French artisan who is involved in the U.S. wedding industry.