Competition is tough in the $51 billion wedding industry. But because attention to the caliber of food and drink that will be served to guests has become a key part of the wedding planning process, restaurants now have a better shot at making catered receptions a profitable sideline business. Numbers provided by a wedding-savvy family-owned restaurant might convince other operators they can make money from weddings, too.

That restaurant, Piccolo Trattoria, serves authentic Italian cuisine at locations in Pennington, NJ, and Newtown, PA. Over the years, it’s built up a dandy catering business, focused on weddings. Now it has tracked down statistics that document how much wedding customers spend on these once-in-a-lifetime events, particularly on food and drink.

Here’s some of the data Piccolo Trattoria’s research turned up.

• There are 2.4 million weddings held in the U.S. each year, averaging 180 guests apiece. The average tab: $29,858.
• While their wedding dress is still the number one priority for brides-to-be, high-quality catering and a desirable reception location are the next most important factors. Fifty-six percent of brides give top priority to providing delicious food at their wedding.
• 28 percent of weddings offer a dessert bar in addition to having a wedding cake. Average price for a wedding cake: $386.
• For an open bar reception, 20-25 percent of the average catering bill will be for liquor.
• Roughly 20 percent of couples now specify cocktails that represent their personalities be served at their wedding reception.
• The average per-guest price for all aspects of a wedding was $220 per person in 2013, up from $194 in 2009. On food, the average bride spends $66 per guest, up from $60 in 2012.

Piccolo Trattoria has done so well with weddings it wound up forming an event management and catering services division to handle that part of its business. Other operators don’t necessarily have to take it to that level. But as the numbers above indicate, weddings are a market worth going after.