The pandemic forced many to take a closer look at their finances and where their money is being spent. The Knot’s 2020 Real Weddings Study reflects this, detailing how this new mindset affected the price of weddings. The report shows that the average cost of a wedding today is $19,000, a decrease of approximately 32% from 2019. Fewer attendees and downsized ceremonies helped couples save overall, but many chose to reinvest those funds into their guests’ experience, with the average cost per guest rising to $244 compared to $214 the prior year. This shift in spending presents couples with a unique opportunity to choose new or grander elements they may not have considered when the overall cost of weddings was higher. Here are some areas where couples are splurging.
No matter the size of the wedding, florals are continually a staple element, transforming venues and popping in photography. With the smaller weddings of 2020, couples maximized their budgets by moving away from having multiple displays to fill space and shifting toward employing fewer arrangements that were more impactful and left an impression.
“People seem to be focusing their floral budget on larger focal points and/or a juicy bridal bouquet rather than spreading flowers throughout the venue,” says Noelle Parent, owner of Blue Sage Bridal. “With a smaller guest list, there’s no need for dozens of centerpieces when you can opt for an over-the-top floral display at your small ceremony.”
The size and number of arrangements wasn’t the only change. Couples also strayed from traditional styles, instead selecting more unique pairings.
“We are seeing a lot more requests for blue this year — thistle, delphinium, muscari, anemone with the dark blue center,” says Brenna Coady, floral designer at Strawberry Fields Flowers and Finds. “We are also seeing a lot more elopement-sized weddings where the bride requests a simple color palette with no floral requests, and we as designers get to choose the best available seasonal blooms to work with.”
It seems only fitting that the nontraditional celebrations of the past year will carry over into more unique floral arrangements going forward.
This symbol of unity remains an important aspect of engagements and marriages, but now couples are looking to budget more money for a ring that speaks to them.
Rather than paying for “The 4 C’s” (cut, color, clarity and carat), COVID gave many a new perspective on where their priorities lie when purchasing rings. It has become more important for the wearable symbols of love to represent personal style and adhere to individual values.
“It’s not necessarily about a big diamond but more about the design,” Parent says. “We have been seeing a trend of smaller, uniquely designed rings from local jewelry designers or vintage rings, which is a wonderful way to support small businesses.”
The co-owner of Urban Set Bride and the creative director of The Hive Wedding Collective, Christine Haines Greenberg has also seen a shift in how brides and grooms are consciously selecting their jewelry.
“Many of our clients are becoming more thoughtful with where their rings are sourced from,” she says. “Many are choosing to find Black-owned, local businesses for their wedding jewelry instead of buying from a big-box store. For many folks, the 2020 quarantine gave them more time to reflect and become more aware of where they invest their money.”
Whether it means allocating extra funds or staying within a budget, couples can justify the cost when purchasing the rings that best represent them.
Photo and Video
While photography has always been paramount for preserving wedding memories, a newfound importance has been placed on capturing and sharing the big day. With fewer guests in attendance, family and friends have relied on images and video to experience their loved ones’ wedding.
Haines Greenberg says, “Our clients are hiring a photographer along with a second shooter or [more] and a videographer team.” she says.
Photography isn’t the only method couples are using to capture their big day. According to The Knot, 17% of weddings nationally were celebrated exclusively via livestream in 2020, and companies have pivoted to include this as part of their offerings.
Livestreaming is a service Cory Tapia, owner of Afterglow Creative, provided occasionally in the past, but in 2020, he received more inquiries for it.
“I used to offer it, and no one asked for it, but as soon as COVID hit, everyone was asking for it,” Tapia says. “It’s been a nice add-on because you have people who can’t come from overseas or an older population who can’t come due to COVID, and you want them to feel at least a little bit a part of it.”
Downsized wedding or not, it’s clear that capturing every special moment remains a priority.
The Knot’s study found that of those who decided not to postpone their wedding in 2020, 42% transitioned their ceremony into an intimate “minimony.” But having fewer guests doesn’t necessarily mean a smaller venue.
“Before COVID, the guest list had to match the venue,” Parent says, “but now it’s not uncommon to have a 20-person guest list at a grand estate.”
For couples looking to splurge on venue size, most also want the most bang for their buck.
“The venue trend is moving closer and closer to all-inclusive every year,” Haines Greenberg says. “It is no surprise that the more amenities that are included, the more popular a venue will be.”
Venues around the region have picked up on this trend and adjusted their business plans accordingly.
“Many venues now offer microwedding packages that include almost all of the vendors needed for a small party,” Parent says. She anticipates that the trend of smaller, more intimate affairs will stick around for good.
“If we’ve learned anything from COVID, it’s that people are going to get married regardless of the circumstances,” she says. “We’ve just been reminded that there is no right way to get married as long as you are with the one you love.”
Finding that perfect wedding ensemble is a rite of passage for every bride. So when the overall wedding cost is lower, brides can reallocate those funds toward the dress of their dreams.
“When it comes to dresses, the rules have been thrown out,” Parent says. “If a bride wants to wear a gorgeous gown to a backyard wedding because she had to change her wedding from 200 people to 20, who is going to tell her she can’t?”
Parent and Haines Greenberg have seen the full gamut of trends lately in their salons; everything from short dresses and gowns with color to ensembles with unexpected silhouettes and accents like capes or feathers. But keeping it simple has grown in popularity.
“Think Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Meghan Markle,” Haines Greenberg says. “Elegant, high-end and well-crafted gowns that don’t distract.”
To achieve that look, brides may need to prioritize the dress when deciding where to splurge in their wedding budget. High-end and well-crafted gowns often come at a price. The average cost of a dress is around $1,600, with many factors affecting the overall cost, such as material, beadwork, embroidery or alterations. And some designer gowns can reach upwards of $8,000.
When it comes to the dress, brides want something that they love wearing and they can look back on in photos and smile.
Between the importance of sanitation and the dwindling number of guests, couples have changed the way food is served at the reception. Caterers have pulled out all the stops to ensure guests are well-fed without the buffet.
“People are getting creative with food safety, with things like individual charcuterie cups for cocktail hour and cupcakes or mini desserts in place of having one large cake that would need to be cut and served,” Parent says.
Haines Greenberg has seen similar offerings along with pre-poured cocktails, dinner plates with multiple protein options and individually wrapped treats in lieu of buffets or dessert bars.
She’s also noticed a shift away from large dance parties at the reception in favor of food-focused celebrations, including cocktail hours and plated dinners.
“More guests are enjoying themselves at their seats,” says Haines Greenberg, “so our couples are really investing in table design and more individual portions of food, multiple-course meals, jazz music at dinner.”
Having fewer guests makes these thoughtful touches approachable, and the food is one area where couples are more willing to spend big to ensure their friends and family are safe and enjoy the evening.
With travel restrictions and safety precautions in mind, destination honeymoons were mostly put on hold in 2020, but this also gave couples a chance to get creative with their travel plans.
Travel agent Geri B. Jones at Accent on Travel sees couples spend $5,000-$10,000 on average for their honeymoons, including accommodations, food and beverage, excursions and travel. However, this average cost has spiked over the past year as a result of the pandemic.
Amanda Roberts, travel agent and owner of The Vacation Chic, has seen couples splurge on their vacation because they haven’t incurred any other travel expenses over the year.
In 2020, most of Jones’ and Roberts’ clients opted for domestic travel, and Roberts sees this new trend sticking around post-COVID.
“I don’t think that the minimoon or staycation will disappear entirely,” she says. “I think a lot of couples are now open to the idea of doing something similar, provided it still has the potential to create great memories.”
Jones, on the other hand, believes couples will continue spending big on travel now that things are opening back up.
“My clients are eager to travel,” she says. “I think travelers will make impulse purchases now more than ever.”
Special thanks to Gather, Jolene and Rent-E-Quip.