Wedding industry in the United States

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Every year in the United States, there are approximately 2.5 million weddings. The following provides a sociological overview of how the wedding industry functions in the United States, cultural and social elements of the event and how it has become the economic giant seen today. The article will also discuss elements of the wedding process that generate major revenue for many major corporations each year. This includes clothes, flowers, music and many other elements that are a part of the ceremony, reception, honeymoon, and bachelor and bachelorette parties.

History of the wedding industry[edit]

The wedding industry is a modern phenomenon.

The wedding industry changed and evolved into a capitalist industry that we know today between the 1920s to 1950s, and many of our traditions today were developed during this time by advertisements and promotions from major retailers, jewelers, caterers, and many other companies.[1]

In the 1960s and 1970s brides started to deviate from the original wedding plan, and moved the wedding outside of the church. This developed the idea of the "destination wedding," and is still very popular today.[2]

Bachelor and bachelorette parties[edit]

Costs of bachelor and bachelorette parties can vary depending on what the party is going to entitle. On average, if the party was very casual at host's home and played games such as horse shoes or bocce, then it may cost 15–30 dollars per person. If everyone went out to a steakhouse or sushi bar, then went bar hopping or wine tasting, it may cost 35–50 dollars per person. Or lastly, say the party was held at an upscale hotel or resort with a 5 course meal and then everyone went out to a nightclub in a limo or a party in a suite then people may be paying anywhere from 150 dollars to 300 dollars.[3]

Weddings in the media[edit]

As of 2006, Bridal Television Shows in the United States attracted more than 30% of the brides planning their wedding each year and over 6,000 bridal shows have taken place each year.[4] Wedding TV shows allow viewers to see all the hard work and planning that goes into this one-day event. Though humorous and entertaining for those watching at home, these shows get up close and personal into the bride and groom's emotions right up until they say their vows. Many of these shows focus on the temperament of the bride and receive outstanding ratings, but some offer great tips on planning, organizing, and budgeting for a wedding. For example, one of the most popular of these shows is Bridezilla. The process of the wedding along with the lewd behavior of the brides involved makes many viewers around the country tune in week after week."[5]

A few other popular reality TV shows include My Fair Wedding with David Tutera, My Big Redneck Wedding, A Wedding Story, Say Yes to The Dress, and Rich Bride, Poor Bride.

Wedding ceremony[edit]

Until the Middle Ages, the Wedding ceremony or betrothal involved of the exchange of a ring or a piece of fruit, a kiss, and then the bride moved into the groom's home.[6] Today however, the ceremonial aspect of marriage has become more extravagant and more detailed. The average American couple today spends about 19 to 20 thousand dollars on their wedding and for a middle-class family, this can be about 51 percent of their income.[7] This money may go towards things such as the venue, the rehearsal dinner, the officiate, the wedding planner, and invitations to the event, as well as a band, singer, or pianist for when the wedding party walks down the aisle.[8]

Even mundane elements of the wedding such as invitations can cost a pretty penny. Couples spend on average, about 848 dollars which includes costs of stationary accessories ($188) and printed, pre-made invitations or reply cards ($659). A wedding band or singer may cost at least 1,000 dollars depending on who performs, and this cost can be for either the ceremony or the reception.[8] The Wedding Planner may cost them on average, about 25 dollars per hour or $3,000 total.[7] The national average for the number of guests that attend the ceremony is 126 to 136.[9]

Wedding Music[edit]

Hiring and String Quartet, Violinist, Soloist, or disc jockey to provide music for your ceremony transitions is quite traditional. Most weddings have music for the Mothers and Wedding Party Entrance, The Brides's grand entrance (processional), the kiss, candle lighting, and exit as man and wife (recessional). These events can vary based on religion or local customs.

Song suggestions lists for Wedding Ceremony music[10] can be very helpful in planning out the wedding ceremony transitions and also make the wedding ceremony more memorable.

Clothing and accessories[edit]

Bridal gown and accessories[edit]

The number one item on a bride's to-do list is finding the perfect wedding dress. In the United States in 2013, the average wedding dress costed 1,211.[11] Television series like TLC's "Say Yes to The Dress" which features bridal boutique, Kleinfeld's, show the workings of the bridal gown industry. The bridal gown industry relies mainly on bridal magazines for advertising.[1]

Formal wear[edit]

As for the groom, the cost of his clothes and accessories is considerably less than the bride, with the average cost coming to about $313.[12]

Wedding jewelry and rings[edit]

According to The Wedding Report, [2], the man will spend up to $4,411 for the engagement ring, and $2,067 for his and hers wedding bands. Even in times of economic hardship couples rarely skimp on the jewelry. This boosts sales for the jewelry industry as wedding jewelry is part of a larger industry.[13][3]

Wedding accessories[edit]

There are other accessories such as "something old", centerpieces, décor, bouquets, the wedding veil, garter, and the couple's toasting glasses that are often purchased before the wedding day.

Wedding reception[edit]


  • White wedding dress

The white dress is a standard for modern wedding, but this was not always the attire the bride would wear. Before 1840, brides wore whatever nice dress they had or could make.[2]

Social status[edit]

The size and grandeur of a wedding reception can be an indicator of a couple's social status or the one they would like to portray. The amount of guests, quality of the food and drinks, location, and who plays the music can all symbolize the wealth and presumed status of the newly weds. The reception can be an opportunity to flaunt wealth and impress guests (friends and family). This can lead to couples and/or parents spending an excessive amount of money and even putting themselves into debt to pay for the wedding.[14] Celebrities like Donald Trump and his wife Melania Knauss spent an approximated amount of 1 million dollars on their wedding; which is significantly higher than the average American wedding ($26,000). The reception consisted of 400 guests, was serenaded by a full orchestra, and was catered by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.[15] But this is nothing compared to Liza Minnelli and David Gest's wedding that was estimated at 3.5 million dollars, and then the couple divorced the next year.[16]

The lavish spending of celebrities is an extreme example of what is happening to the spending for weddings of the average American. In 1945 the average cost of a US wedding was $2,240 (adjusted for inflation?, if not this is equal to $25,802 in 2007 dollars), and in 2007 the amount increased to $28,730; this massive increase is mostly like caused by the wedding industry and its presence in the media.[17]


In 2012, the average cost of a wedding in the United States was approximately $28,400.[18] Approximately twenty eight percent of the wedding budget is spent on the reception, which makes it the most expensive part of the wedding.[19]

Wedding Insurance[edit]

A couple may purchase wedding insurance to cover unexpected financial losses related to their wedding, for instance loss or damage to the wedding dress or tuxedo. Other things potentially covered by wedding insurance include lost deposits as a result of vendor bankruptcy, cancellation due to illness, injury, military service or extreme weather and third-party or liquor liability claims. Wedding insurance 'can cost between around $150 and $1,000[20] depending on the level of cover required. Problems a couple knew about before taking out the policy are not covered and almost all insurers will not cover cancellations that are due to "cold feet". Currently, only one company does and it can only be purchased by the person who finances the wedding, not the Bride or Groom, and only applies if the wedding is cancelled more than 180 days before. Wedding insurance in the UK is very different with quite a few big name providers.[21]


Main article: Honeymoon

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the honeymoon as "a period of harmony immediately following the marriage," "a period of unusual harmony especially following the establishment of a new relationship," or as it is mostly known for in this case, "a trip or vacation taken by newly married couple."[22]

The honeymoon industry is a 12 billion dollar industry annually.[23]


The destination is usually the most important aspect of the honeymoon onto which a newlywed couple focuses their attention. Influenced by budget, the destination can range from anywhere as near to home to as far as one wants. Usually, newlywed couples choose a tropical climate for their honeymoon, and the cliché location is Hawaiʻi. An alternative that couples choose is a destination wedding, which is a wedding held neither near the bride or the groom's families, but rather at a chosen destination; the most popular destination weddings are held in Hawai'i, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Europe.[24]


There are specific ways couples can try to save money on their weddings including having the wedding on a week day, having a wedding at home as opposed to a large venue and limiting the number of guests.[25]


On average, about 10 percent of newlyweds book cruises as their honeymoon trip; 37 percent travel to domestic locations, while 63 percent go abroad; lastly, 40 percent stay at a resort, while 27 percent stay at a large hotel, while 10 percent look into a small hotel.[26]

Leisure activities[edit]

Other than romance, couples often choose to engage in outdoor activities to enhance their honeymoon experience. The top five activities are listed below:
Visiting a new place for sightseeing, restaurants, entertainment and nightlife- 75%
Beaches and lakes – 45%
Casinos – 20%
Cruises – 15%
Golf/sports vacations – 10[23]


  1. ^ "Brides, Inc. – Vicki Howard". 
  2. ^ a b "Here Comes the Bride: A History of the American Wedding". 
  3. ^ "Cost of a Bachelorette Party - Weddings -". CostHelper. 
  4. ^ Wedding Statistics for the Media & the Wedding Professional
  5. ^ Reality Wedding TV Shows
  6. ^ History of Weddings
  7. ^ a b Heidemann, Kai,University of Pittsburgh Sociology of Marriage Lecture, 2009
  8. ^ a b "The Wedding Report". 
  9. ^ "Wedding Statistics and Market Research for United States". 
  10. ^ "Ceremony Music Ideas & Tips – 800DJ". 
  11. ^ Michelle Hall and Lizzie Jury, CNN Library (9 August 2013). "I do ... cost a lot: Weddings by the numbers". CNN. 
  12. ^ The Wedding Report: 2006
  13. ^ Panos Mourdoukoutas. "Information for the World's Business Leaders". 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Lea Goldman and Tatiana Serafin (12 July 2007). "In Pictures: The 20 Most Expensive Celebrity Weddings". Forbes. 
  16. ^ Lea Goldman and Tatiana Serafin (12 July 2007). "In Pictures: The 20 Most Expensive Celebrity Weddings". Forbes. 
  17. ^ "The Wedding Report – Wedding Statistics and Balanced Market Research for the Wedding Industry". 
  18. ^ Melanie Hicken (10 March 2013). "Average wedding cost $28,400 last year". CNNMoney. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Wedding Insurance in the USA". 
  21. ^ "Wedding Insurance". 
  22. ^ "Honeymoon – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". 
  23. ^ a b "Honeymoon Planning, New Jersey Bride, Wedding Statistics". 
  24. ^ "A Guide to the Wedding Industry (Business Reference Services, Library of Congress)". 
  25. ^ Petty, Nathan. "How I Had My $20,000 Wedding For Less Than $5,000". Nathan Petty. 
  26. ^ Susan Breslow Sardone. "Wedding & Honeymoon Facts & Figures". About.