Engaged couples today want personalized weddings that showcase their cultures, values and unique lifestyles, according to the 13th annual “Real Weddings Study,” released today by big wedding platform The Knot. And in a finding that might surprise professional planners, couples have added a full month to the run-up to their wedding, up to 15 months’ lead time from 14 in 2018.
Today’s engaged couples are focused more than ever before on inclusivity, sustainability, community and purpose-driven details. Whether incorporating eco-friendly decor (14 percent); supporting their community by sourcing local products (25 percent); hiring a female vendor team in support of women in business; or creating charity registries, couples are pushing personalization to new heights by incorporating their values and allowing their weddings to serve as their own force of activism.
From featuring cultural and religious wedding elements (38 percent) and writing their own vows (44 percent), to centering celebrations around a beloved theme (28 percent, up from 14 percent in 2018) or hiring additional guest entertainment (47 percent, up from 38 percent in 2018) that highlights their shared interests, to-be-weds are ensuring every wedding detail holds meaning and significance.
“Engaged couples today are highly focused on ensuring every element of their wedding is not only representative of who they are, but also their values and beliefs. Many are even taking their celebration a step further and using it as a form of activism,” said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief of The Knot. “In other words, they're looking for ways that their wedding can make a positive impact on the world, whether that's supporting a local industry, minimizing their carbon footprint or hiring a like-minded vendor team who upholds similar values as they do."
Marrying cultures, families, traditions: As the most diverse generation of couples yet (51 percent of to-be-weds marry someone of a different background), weddings are fusing a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. Couples are also making long-standing traditions their own. Unity ceremonies are being revamped with statements like tree planting or both partners breaking a glass, and processionals are becoming more personalized and unique, such as riding into the ceremony via go-kart. Some couples are even hosting multiple wedding ceremonies (4 percent) to either accommodate guests in various locations or for religious purposes.
Their incorporation of culture continues through to the catering, with 14 percent of couples serving dishes from their heritage. And nowadays, it’s not just their backgrounds that are blending. As couples are marrying at all ages—the average age being 32 years old—some to-be-weds are merging already established families, with one or both partners’ children coming together at their weddings to celebrate love at all ages and stages of life.
Sustainability at top of mind: Today’s to-be-weds are going green, and their weddings are no exception. One in four couples source local products, such as locally made favors for guests, while nearly a quarter of couples (22 percent) repurpose wedding-day details following their festivities in an effort to eliminate waste. Some couples even strive to host waste-free weddings by working with local companies that recycle or repurpose all wedding materials after the festivities end. Additionally, 14 percent of couples prioritize eco-friendly decor elements, such as seating charts displayed via chalkboard, foam-free floral arrangements, and bamboo place settings, along with relying on wedding websites and digital RSVPs.
Making a personal statement: Couples are pushing personalization to new levels, striving to make a statement surrounding who they are and what they stand for. Some examples include making intentional vendor choices (such as choosing a venue with meaning--an art gallery that supports female artists or town hall that has made strides for the LGBTQ+ community) or making a statement about marriage equality by walking down the aisle together.
Additionally, some couples use their weddings to give back to their communities or causes close to their hearts by creating a charity registry (3 percent); donating their decor (22 percent) to local hospitals post wedding; making charitable donations in lieu of favors for guests; or even encouraging guests to pay it forward with a call to action on their wedding website.
Tossing out the rules: No longer are to-be-weds feeling confined by traditional gender roles that don’t apply to them, whether with their wedding party or other elements of their celebrations. Now, nearly four in 10 couples (37 percent) embrace co-ed wedding parties to ensure all their loved ones, regardless of age, gender, race, religion or sexuality, are standing by their side as they see fit.
Fashion choices are fluid: Couples are using their wedding day look—or looks (22 percent of couples change into another outfit)—to highlight their unique style and personality, oftentimes incorporating special meanings into their wedding fashion. For some (9 percent), that can include items of cultural or religious significance, such as a Hawaiian lei or Chinese qipao, while others may wear a color that represents a loved one or choose to don custom attire (36 percent) that’s uniquely their own. Additionally, more than a third of couples incorporate fashion details that are passed down or borrowed from their family or friends (38 percent). Here again, fluidity reigns, with bridal pantsuits, dresses for male to-be-weds (3 percent), bold patterns and pops of color (for nearly one in five female and two out of three male to-be-weds).
All for fun: Seven in 10 couples say the guest experience was their top priority when planning their weddings. As couples opt for more intimate celebrations with an average of 131 guests, down from 141 in 2010, they’re creating meaningful experiences that give their guests a glimpse into their lives together. For some that means highlighting their interests, embracing familial traditions, or showcasing where they fell in love.
Plus, nearly half (up from 38 percent in 2018) of couples are hiring additional entertainment—such as musical performances (25 percent), bonfires and fireworks (17 percent), and wine or liquor tastings (6 percent)—and often incorporating interactive food stations (17 percent) such as oyster shucking or late-night food trucks to create experiences they’ll remember for years to come.