National retailer David’s Bridal says it once supplied 1 of every 4 dresses for nuptial ceremonies across the U.S.

But while the wedding industry staged a recovery following COVID-19 restrictions that decimated in-person gatherings amid the worst of pandemic conditions, a declining national marriage rate has led to fewer weddings overall. And worse, for businesses that depend on supplying marriage events with outfits and traditional accoutrements, tastes have changed when it comes to what brides are looking for in wedding attire and where they’re shopping for those outfits.

On Monday, David’s Bridal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections citing slower business and less demand for the gowns and dresses the 70-year-old retailer specializes in at its 300 stores across the U.S.

“An increasing number of brides are opting for less traditional wedding attire, including thrift wedding dresses,” David’s Bridal said in a bankruptcy filing, per CNN. “These shifting consumer preferences have significantly exacerbated” the company’s financial pressures.

David’s Bridal said its stores will remain open, and the company intends to continue operating “in the ordinary course, including by fulfilling all customer orders without disruption or delay.” Additionally, the company reports its online platforms, including its Pearl platform and vendor marketplace, remain available and accessible to brides for their wedding planning needs.

Becky Withers leaves David’s Bridal in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. The national wedding dress retailer has filed for bankruptcy, though stores remain open, according to reports. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

In a Monday press release, David’s Bridal CEO James Marcum said the company was seeking a buyer who would keep the business open and viable.

“Over the last several years, we have taken meaningful strides in our transformation to fulfill the needs of the brides of today and tomorrow,” Marcum said. “We have successfully modernized our marketing and customer interaction processes and driven our retail service levels to best in class. Nonetheless, our business continues to be challenged by the post-COVID environment and uncertain economic conditions, leading us to take this step to identify a buyer who can continue to operate our business going forward.

“We are determined to stay focused on our future, because we believe we have an important role in ensuring that every bride, no matter her budget, can have her perfect dress.”

Marriage rates in the U.S. have been on a more or less steady decline for decades and are down by nearly 60% over the past 50 years. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly limited in-person gatherings amid widespread restrictions but the number of marriages increased from 1,676,911 in 2020 to 1,985,072 in 2021, and the rate increased from 5.1 marriages per 1,000 to 6.0, according to CDC data. But despite these increases, the 2021 number and rate were both still 2% lower than in 2019, another year in which marriage rates continued the decline they began in 2016.

David’s Bridal is pictured in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. The national wedding dress retailer has filed for bankruptcy, though stores remain open, according to reports. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News