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The Short Version: Modern weddings have changed dramatically in the past couple years. While adapting to a pandemic and high inflation rates, many couples and wedding professionals have had to get creative with wedding services. We spoke to multiple wedding industry experts about the changes they’ve seen in how modern couples are making their weddings work.
The past few years have proven a strange time for engaged couples and wedding industry professionals alike. The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be behind us, and many couples, including those who had postponed weddings and couples who entered into new engagements in the past year, are ready to move forward.
At the same time, massive inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain issues have have caused the cost of weddings to increase immensely since 2020, raising the average amount couples spend on their weddings from $20,000 in 2020 to a staggering $27,000 in 2021. Worse yet, the pandemic and related stressors have contributed to dramatically driving up the US divorce rate since 2020.
As couples begin the process of planning a wedding amidst a pandemic, plenty of factors come into play. Those outside of the wedding industry might expect the costs and challenges would result in more people delaying their weddings – or shirking off marriage altogether. But in reality, it’s the opposite.
The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study predicted over 2.6 million weddings would take place in 2022, which is an increase of 20% from the 2.2 million weddings in 2019. “Over the last year, we’ve seen a huge shift in weddings as everyone excitedly returns to celebrations,” said the team behind the study.
“We are in the middle of the biggest year for weddings in the US since 1984, with so many people who postponed due to COVID finally being able to gather and celebrate,” wedding celebrant Alisa Tongg told our team.
In the face of major obstacles, couples are ready to make a commitment and celebrate their love. Modern couples have embraced creative ways to make their wedding days fit their lifestyles, income, and comfort. We spoke to several wedding professionals to learn how the wedding industry is changing, and how they’re keeping up.
Once a couple gets engaged, they sometimes stress over planning the perfect wedding. It can be easy to get caught up in the trappings, trends, and traditions. But that isn’t the heart of the wedding experience. Many couples over the last few years have decided to make their wedding more personalized to their relationship and less about traditions that don’t work for them.
Every couple deserves to have a wonderful celebration on their wedding day. But unfortunately, not everyone can afford to have a wildly luxurious celebration. As the cost of weddings increases, more couples have to cut back on their dream wedding.
Finances are a huge part of any serious relationship, even though it may be uncomfortable to discuss money openly. Starting a marriage with debt from the wedding is a quick way to start the newest chapter on the wrong foot. “This is the start of something,” AJ Rohrer, owner of Joe’s DJ Service, told our team. “One of the reasons marriage stats are the way they are is people are going into debt for their wedding.”
While some couples may need to cut certain pricier elements – or even shorten their guest lists – working with more affordable vendors is a great way to save money without sacrificing what’s important to you. “I look at industry prices, and I keep ours below what they are in the area,” AJ said. “I don’t feel right charging people even what I could charge them.”
Companies that care about saving their clients money, like Joe’s DJ, are great options for couples planning a budget-friendly wedding.
The economic climate has caused couples to set clear priorities and budget strategically. That has opened the door to a less-is-more approach to weddings.
The fashion experts at WONA Bridal in New York City told us they’ve seen many modern brides embracing simple and classic looks. While some women do like to experiment with colors or statement sleeves, many others have chosen to stick to tasteful ballgowns, corsets, and florals that never go out of style. “Classic, simple designs are eternal,” the WONA team said. “Fashion is fleeting, but wedding photos will stay with you for years.”
Smart wedding spending has been a trend led by couples who are budget-conscious but still want that impressive look and wow moment. As a result, couples may decide to DIY certain elements of their weddings (baking their own cupcakes or making their own decorations) so that they can afford to spend money on the things they don’t want to skimp on: Like the perfect wedding dress.
“At the end of the day, it is your wedding and looking and feeling like your most natural comfortable self is the best thing to do,” the WONA team said.
The DIY approach to weddings can save money, but it comes with some drawbacks. Rachel Cho Floral Design doesn’t recommend that couples do their own floral arrangements. “The timing for flowers is so important since the work needs to be done on the days leading right up to the wedding,” she said. “It’s hard for any couple to find the time to do that and get their hands and nails dirty!”
If couples must do their own floral arrangements, Rachel suggested they enlist an eager family member or friend to help. “Make sure a lot of planning ahead is done for timing, space to make the arrangements, and who will do the set up,” Rachel said. “There’s quite a bit of logistics involved in the full execution, not just the making of the flowers!”
Thanks to social media and the growing transparency of the industry, couples can find plenty of helpful advice online if they want to take their arrangements into their own hands.
Nothing has inspired creativity in wedding planning quite like COVID-19. Social distancing rules set in place since the start of the pandemic have led many couples to come up with inventive ways to ensure that they and their guests feel comfortable and safe. Some couples have required vaccination and proof of a negative COVID test, some required masks, and some dramatically limited their guest lists or decided to elope.
“Where we are, people are very polarized,” AJ said. His DJ company is based in Bozeman, Montana. “Either they’re freaking out and scared, or they never quit doing what they were doing before. So we had that mixture of clients, plenty didn’t care and said, ‘We’re having a wedding, and if you’re afraid, don’t come.'”
Even as COVID restrictions disappear, many couples and guests remain cautious, especially when entertaining older guests. Wedding industry pros have noticed an increase in outdoor and open-air weddings. We’ve talked to many wedding venues that used the last year to remodel or build out open-air spaces to ensure couples have enough options to keep everyone safe, even if COVID cases are spiking.
Holding events outside makes it more difficult for the virus to spread, without sacrificing the guest list. And of course, outdoor venues can be extremely beautiful and are an attractive option for couples.
Couples and vendors alike have learned to roll with the punches during the pandemic. “Weddings are still moving forward as planned, so vendors are receiving more bookings than ever,” WeddingWire Wedding Style Expert and Editor, Samantha Lacia, told us. “Due to the unpredictability of COVID over the past few years, vendors and wedding pros are now more knowledgeable and better equipped than ever to face challenges and handle modifications. We encourage couples to remain open-minded and flexible while setting wedding expectations.”
Small weddings and elopements are also on the rise, and have been even before the start of the pandemic. The high costs and stress of weddings make embracing alternative options that much more appealing for many modern couples.
With so many changes and challenges going on, one might think that the wedding industry is in danger. That could not be farther from the truth. Couples remain thrilled to share their lifelong commitments in front of their friends and family. “The mood of all the weddings I’ve been a part of is definitely one of immense joy and gratitude for being able to bring their families and friends together for a happy occasion,” Alisa said.
After several years of fairly universal stress and loss, an occasion filled with love can feel exhilarating.
While weddings have been on the rise, what they look like has changed dramatically. Many modern couples are centering their celebrations in commitment and connection instead of excess.
“So often, wedding planning is viewed as a stressful time, but it’s an opportunity to celebrate and share your love,” Samantha of WeddingWire wanted to remind couples. “Your wedding professionals are also here to help you, so don’t be afraid to lean on them for their expertise and guidance.”
Alisa pointed out that one sign of this shift in tone is in the rise of “unplugged” ceremonies. “Having the officiant ask witnesses to refrain from taking photos during the ceremony is occurring the majority of the time now,” Alisa said. “A twist to that is a few couples have had me ask all the guests to take a selfie and text it to the couple before I start the ceremony (and then put their phones away.)”
Couples are finding new ways to stay in the moment, while still making sure to capture the memory of their big day.
Plenty of wedding professionals welcome the increase in more personalized weddings. “Your relationship is what is left after the big day, and catering to that is priority number one,” Photographer Brittany Marshall of Blue Rose Photography told us. . “It can create a lot of pressure for couples to outdo friends, and keep up with the hottest trends, and have the best weddings that people want to see online. But none of that is really important.”