The saying goes “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…” the credit card bills? Apparently so as splurging on weddings has returned in a big way following the recent recession. Except, instead of lavish weddings couples are opting for smaller affairs with customizations that add up and that could be signal of economic strength.
Forget “bling bling,” nontraditional and personal is in vogue as today’s couples – well brides – want smaller weddings with higher spending per attendee. Instead of formal nuptials in cathedrals with hundreds of guests, couples are jumping the broom in historic buildings and homes with just dozens of attendees. This leaves more money for personalized details and lots of booze and food during the reception and cocktail hours.
According to The Knot’s annual study of weddings, the average cost of a wedding (not including the honeymoon) reached $31,213 in 2014, an increase of 4.5 percent from 2013 and also an all-time high. Average wedding costs have been on the rise for four consecutive years, not surprisingly matching the market’s comeback.
Spending on weddings increased across all income levels and regions which suggest that it’s not just wealthy couples who are driving the rising costs.
Like other life milestones, weddings follow the economic cycle, scaling down in lean times and scaling up in prosperous times. That couples feel confident in their job security to loosen their wallets may be another indicator of confidence in the labor market and the economy overall. That means good things for many industries from hotels and restaurants to party buses.
The findings showed that 70 percent of weddings rang in somewhere between $10,000 and $65,000, suggesting the more affluent bride drove the average higher. But the uptick in spending was represented across all income levels and regions, said Dhanusha Sivajee, executive vice president of marketing for The Knot's parent XO Group.
"I think it goes beyond inflation," Sivajee said. "We've seen the amount of guests go down but the amount of spend per guest go up."
Sivajee said couples have thrown tradition out the window, and are instead focused on holding a wedding that highlights their personalities. One way they're doing so is by hosting the event in nontraditional locations, something 40 percent of respondents said they were looking to do. These venues include historic buildings and homes as well as farms.
One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the challenge of reining in costs. Last year, 45 percent of couples said they busted their budget, while 23 percent said they didn't even have a budget to begin with.
If the rising costs of weddings is an indicator that that economy is regaining its footing, that’s a welcome lift. But we still have work to do.
Millennials, straddled with student loan debt and facing a 14 percent unemployment rate, are delaying marriage. Almost half of 24 to 29 year olds have never married, up from about a quarter in the mid-1980s, according to Census Bureau research. And we’re getting married much older than in the past. The median age of first marriage rose to a record high of 29 years for men and 26.6 years for women in 2013.
Our generation has yet to really recover along with other generations following the recession. And that is contributing to a lower birth rate, lower marriage rates, and less homeownership, limiting consumer spending.
Policies in Washington like entitlement programs pit young workers against retirees or ObamaCare which forces young, healthy people to pay higher costs to subsidize healthcare coverage for older sicker Americans. And innovative new businesses that young people start or work in quickly become the target of crony-driven regulations which discourages entrepreneurship. We need a break from Washington, from our state houses and local municipal governments. Then perhaps we can get on in our careers and with marriage.