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Bridal couples are opting for less-formal wedding receptions, inviting fewer people, but spending more per guest, according to The Knot’s 11th annual "Real Weddings Study." They're also seeking out non-traditional wedding venues and pushing back on time-honored traditions, such as tossing the bouquet.
We also learned that the engagement ring — at $5,764 — remains the second-highest-priced item on the list of wedding expenses, with the reception venue claiming the top spot at $15,163. Interestingly, The Knot also defined a sub-group of "high spenders," whose wedding expenses exceeded $60,000 in 2017. Of that group, the average price on the engagement ring was $13,933.
The Knot, which surveyed nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms married in 2017, reported that the average total cost of a wedding (excluding the honeymoon) is $33,391, which is down about $2,000 compared to the all-time high tallied in 2016.
“Weddings in 2017 showed us that couples are focused on guests, as we see them pulling out all the stops to create a truly memorable experience for their wedding attendees,” said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief of The Knot. “Couples are also shifting away from formal affairs to create an experience that’s truly reflective of their personalities, and infusing more unique and unconventional ideas—from their venue and invitations to food, entertainment and more.”
Other key findings from the survey include the following:
• Most Expensive Place to Get Married: Manhattan, $76,944
• Least Expensive Place to Get Married: New Mexico, $17,584
• Average Spent on a Wedding Dress: $1,509
• Average Marrying Age: Bride, 29.2; Groom, 30.9
• Average Number of Guests: 136
• Average Number of Bridesmaids: 5
• Average Number of Groomsmen: 5
• Most Popular Month to Get Engaged: December (16%)
• Average Length of Engagement: 14 months
• Most Popular Months to Get Married: September (16%), June (15%) and October (14%)
• Popular Wedding Colors: Ivory/Champagne (37%), Dark Blue (32%) and Gold (30%)
• Percentage of Destination Weddings: 25% (compared to 20% in 2016 and 15% in 2015)
The average number of wedding guests in 2017 is down to 136, compared to 149 in 2009, while the cost per wedding guest reached an all-time high at $268 (up from $194 in 2009), according to the survey. Couples are looking to create the ultimate guest experience with photo booths, sparklers, selfie stations, games, musical performances, wine and liquor tastings, magicians and more.
Since 2009, formal/black-tie weddings have decreased from 20% to 16%, and ceremonies hosted in a religious institution have dropped significantly, from 41% in 2009 to 22% in 2017. Meanwhile, outdoor ceremonies accounted for 52% of all weddings in 2017, an increase from 39% in 2009.
As couples look for more unique, unconventional places to host their weddings, farm, barn and ranch reception venues increased from 2% in 2009 to 15% in 2017, and the number of weddings taking place in historic homes rose from 12% in 2009 to 14% in 2017. Banquet halls dropped (from 27% in 2009 to 17% in 2017), as did hotels and resorts (from 18% in 2009 to 12% in 2017) and country clubs (from 13% in 2009 to 10% in 2017). Other nontraditional reception sites on the rise include beach houses, wineries, rooftops, museums and parks.
The Knot also noted that some time-honored wedding reception traditions are seeing a decline, with fewer than half (49%) of brides opting to toss a bouquet (down from 53% in 2016) and only 37% of grooms choosing to toss a garter (down from 41% in 2016). Even the ubiquitous cake-cutting is seeing a bit of a push-back with 85% of couples in 2017 saying that it was part of their ceremony (down from 88% in 2016).
On the other hand, bridal couples said it was still important to infuse their heritage, culture and/or religion into their special day. Twenty-one percent of couples incorporated a traditional cultural element, including a Chinese tea ceremony, Irish bagpipers, Moroccan belly dancers and traditional Hindu ceremonies.
On average, the bride’s parents contributed 45% of the overall wedding budget, the bride and groom contributed 41% and the groom’s parents contributed 13%. ("Others" accounted for the remaining 1%.) In 2017, 10% of couples paid for the wedding entirely by themselves, and 9% of couples didn’t contribute any finances to the wedding expenses. Exactly 45% said that they went over their budgets.
These were the average costs of key bridal services in 2017: reception band ($4,019), photographer ($2,630), florist/décor ($2,379), ceremony site ($2,311), wedding/event planner ($1,988), videographer ($1,912), wedding dress ($1,509), rehearsal dinner ($1,285), reception DJ ($1,231), transportation ($830), ceremony musicians ($761), wedding cake ($540), invitations ($408), groom’s attire and accessories ($286), officiant ($284), favors ($252) and wedding day hair stylist ($119). Catering averaged $70 per person.
The 2017 Real Weddings Study is based on the responses from nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms married between January 1 and December 31, 2017.
Credits: Image by BigStockPhoto.com. Infographics courtesy of The Knot.
Cheryl Burchell Goldsmiths