I have a theory for what will happen to (Western) weddings, once this whole COVID-19 business is under control. I don’t think it’s a particularly bold or outlandish theory, but I’m reasonably confident in my speculations.
To put it succinctly, I think that the current pandemic will only expedite the trends we’re already seeing among Millennial weddings. Of course, not all weddings happening now are Millennial weddings, but the vast majority (roughly 80%) are. I believe we’re going to see a brief spike in bigger weddings as people celebrate the end of the quarantine era. I believe we’ll see a sort of cathartic celebration expressing itself through weddings, with large guest lists attempting to make up for months (or maybe years, who knows?) of social distancing and isolation. Once this spike has run its course, which I don’t think will take long, we’ll see small, intimate weddings and elopements become the norm. Ask any wedding professional- we already saw this coming. But instead of waiting ten-plus years for it to happen, I think we’ll see it much sooner.
The Big White Wedding™ as we know it is actually a pretty new phenomenon. Less than a hundred years old regardless of how you slice it… Less than fifty if you want to get specific. Weddings with big guest lists and big vendor lists only became popular in the 1980’s, when the economy was doing quite well and young people actually had money to spend. And when consumers of an industry have money, what happens? Marketing. Marketing happens. Gradually, a lot of things that weren’t very important before became necessary for a wedding.
Unfortunately, Millennials aren’t in the same position as ye olde Yuppies. We have a staggeringly high amount of debt, largely from attending college and university, which has become exponentially more expensive over the last few decades while wages have stagnated. Housing has become unattainably expensive for most of us, and the job market is, to put it bluntly, terrible. Many of us have to make do with part-time jobs and “side hustles”, since full-time, entry-level positions in the fields we’ve been educated for have ridiculous requirements. In short, we’re over-educated and under-compensated. We can’t afford the Big White Wedding.
Of course, while this is extremely common among Millennials, it isn’t necessarily universal. Some of us are lucky enough to have money to spend. BUT, even when we do, we spend it differently than our parents and grandparents did. As a general rule, Millennials are prioritizing experiences over the material. Our love language leans more towards memories and less towards items. With our love of travel, many of us are more likely to spend extra money on our honeymoon than we are on our weddings!
It’s perhaps the most constant trend among our generation, and any wedding professional can see it: We want quality over quantity. So, sorry, Wedding Industrial Complex: We’ve caught on to the guest list game. The more guests you have, the less quality time you end up getting with your loved ones. Of course, it’s worth noting that the general Price per Head at Western weddings has increased: Your wedding meals, drinks, and packages cost more per person now than they did five, ten years ago. Noticeably more. So in a way, it evens out. The Wedding Industry caught on to us catching on, and now we’re starting to catch on to them catching on to us catching on.
It’s all very cloak and dagger, truly.
Regardless, our guest lists are getting smaller. Or nonexistent. Why give an okay experience to a hundred guests when you can give a great experience to fifty for the same amount of money? Alternatively, why bother with a complicated wedding at all when you can just have an amazing, intimate elopement or “weddingmoon”?
Finally, the fact that we’re seeing more microweddings and elopements via social media is making a big difference in our perception of them. It’s incredibly easy to dismiss something or see it as unappealing when you don’t have many examples to draw from. But we’re suddenly seeing a huge variety of microweddings and elopements in our feeds. Now, we see a lot of different flavours and possibilities where there were none before. We’re able to look at a lot of these weddings and say, “Okay, this isn’t so bad,” or “Wow, this is so beautiful and romantic.” Our limited, preconceived notions of these types of weddings are changing very quickly, partly out of necessity. But I’m confident that this change will have huge, long-term effects on how weddings look in a few years.
There are a lot of reasons why big weddings and traditional weddings were on their way out. Weddings are perpetually changing, and trends rise and fall over the years. If you ask me, small weddings, microweddings, and elopements were already en route to becoming the next norm. And I think the pandemic has swiftly and effectively fast-tracked their popularity.