Wedding industry in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Every year in the United States, there are approximately 2.5 million weddings, and the wedding industry has grown to an empire of $40 billion per year.[1] 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.

In historic times, marriages have been a way to secure peace and form alliances between families, tribes, or even nations. This type of marriage was known as a Marriage of state and played a heavy role in the history of the world. A prime example of this is the marriage of King Henry VIII of England to Catherine of Aragon, Spain in 1509, and this wedding formed an alliance between Spain and England. King Henry the VIII also used this alliance to invade France. Using marriage to climb the social ladder has been used throughout history and in each economic class.

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.[2] This industry is atypical of United States companies in that it is made up of many small parts, and many of them are local. There is no one major company that provides all the services for a wedding but several that generally have to be contacted, scheduled, and paid for separately; making the planning and organization of the modern wedding very complicated.

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.[3]

Weddings in the history of humanity and the United States have always played a major role in society.

Bachelor and bachelorette parties[edit]

Pre-wedding rituals such as the bachelor party and the bachelorette party have been going on for more than sixty years. Countries around the world have celebrated these parties in various ways with different activities. Bachelor parties were believed to have started before bachelorette parties. It is also believed that bachelorette parties started sometime during the sexual revolution in the 1960s. Bachelor parties are also known as stag nights or stag parties.[4] People believe that the bride and groom should not pay for the event and must always keep the bride and groom's interests in mind.[5]

The bachelor party is known to be the final night out for men where they participate in various activities. Also, it is so that the groom can spend his last moments of the "single" life with his male friends. Different events are known to go on during bachelor parties. Men will engage in different activities such as going out to a bar or "bar-hopping," going to strip clubs, or even hiring a stripper to come to the host's home. Some believe that bachelor parties are a rite of passage from bachelorhood to a more responsible martial life with their spouse. The person that organizes the party is usually the best man or the sibling of the groom. Usually the groom is not to know about any of the activities that are going to take place however, some plan out the event. Other activities that men would like to participate in would involve attending sporting events, hosting a sporting event, or a road trip.[5]

Different countries hold different types of "bachelor parties." For example, Denmark has parties called a Polteraband. The men will meet for breakfast, then go on to activities such as paintball or some sort of activity that is very casual, then dinner at a nice restaurant and finally go out on the town. Also, France has parties that are called "enterrement de vie de garçon", which literally means burial of the life as a bachelor. These parties usually involve heavy drinking and sometimes strippers.

Bachelorette parties are also known as hen do, hen parties, and hen nights. Activities involved include exchanging and laughing about intimate secrets with the bride's closest girlfriends, getting drunk, attending strip clubs, and drinking games. Also, the maid of honor gives a speech to the guest of honor.

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.[6]

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.[7] 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 lude behavior of the brides involved makes many viewers around the country tune in week after week."[8]

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. These shows show a variety of different aspects involved in this very special day. Realistically, it seems that these shows have become so popular because of America's need to become part of a higher social class. Though it is just a reality show, over the past few years, reality shows have made simple California girl Lauren Conrad of The Hills and Tiffany a.k.a. New York, originally from Flavor of Love television royalty. According to an article from the Washington Post, this desire to be in the spotlight is a psychosocial issue. Simply put, these shows make the wedding of small-town people mirror images of storybook celebrity weddings.[9] Though Americans reject the idea of social classes and status, for those who aren't "A-list celebs", they still try to recreate that sense of privilege and entitlement. Weddings are one of the few occasions that social classes almost mesh or at least become less important.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

The wedding ceremony itself can cost a couple about 2,600 dollars on average, depending on the site, whether it be indoors or outdoors, a church or the beach. The location may only cost the couple 500 dollars, but accessories and decorations cost extra. For the officiant, priest, minister, or rabbi a couple may spend about 300 dollars. The rehearsal dinner, which many couples have for their guests, costs them about 1,269 dollars.On flowers alone a couple may expect to spend about 2,000 dollars. This cost includes flowers used for decorations in the wedding venue, as well as for bouquets for the bride, bridesmaids, flower girls, maid of honor, groom, groomsmen, minister, parents, grandparents and ushers.[14] 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.[15] The Wedding Planner may cost them on average, about 25 dollars per hour or $3,000 total.[12] The national average for the number of guests that attend the ceremony is 126 to 136.[16]

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.[17] On average, a bride will spend about 6 percent of her budget on her dress.[18] 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. [2] In recent years, more frugal or eco-friendly brides have started a new trend by buying preowned wedding dresses. This can save a bride 30 to 60% off retail prices.[19] Other accessories which are marketed with the dress include wedding veils and shoes. Wedding shows also provide another great source for locating cheap bridal gowns and accessories.

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.[20] In the wedding industry, it is most common for the groom's suit or tuxedo to be rented. There are various retailers that have this service including Jim's Formal Wear [3], Men's Wearhouse [4] and After Hours Formal Wear [5]. Bridesmaid dresses and tuxedos for the groomsmen can also be purchases at formal wear stores.

Wedding jewelry and rings[edit]

According to The Wedding Report, [6], 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.[21][7] This industry consists of well-known jewelry retailers which carry wedding jewelry and high-end designers.

Wedding accessories[edit]

There are other services included in the wedding industry including but not limited to the wedding flowers, music, photography and video, stationary, and catering.[22] The types of accessories included in the wedding can depend on the individual couple and the season of the wedding. Not to mention the setting in which the wedding is held. For example, an outdoor wedding may use fewer flowers and depending more on the natural beauty of the venue.[23]

Wedding reception[edit]

The style and format of a wedding reception is largely dependent on culture and regional customs, but in general the reception is informal celebration of the wedding which contrasts the formality of the actual wedding ceremony.[citation needed]


The locations of wedding receptions vary due to factors such as climate, finances, family tradition, and many other reasons. The wedding industry provides a wide variety of places to celebrate a new betrothal from a Las Vegas casino to a beach in the Caribbean. The depth of a couples pocket books coincides with uniqueness and grandeur of the location. An example of the extravagance of a wedding locations is when Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes in Odescalchi Castle in Italy.


  • 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. It was not until the marriage of Prince Albert to Queen Victoria in her satin white dress that the fad of donning a similar dress became the ordinary.[3]

  • Dancing

Often the first dance of a wedding reception is a waltz or foxtrot of the bride and groom. This can present a problem to a couple if they do not know how to dance, and so dance lessons during the engagement have become somewhat of a tradition.

  • Cultural differences

Weddings are very culturally distinct events, and the reception is no exception. Each culture has their unique traditions that are an integral part in the wedding reception, and give these special events a personal touch that helps to make them more intimate for the bride, groom and family. The wedding industry caters to these different traditions by the sheer availability of locations and options it provides. Wedding planners are educated in the most common ethnic traditions, and are capable of creating an ideal environment that coincides with a traditional wedding celebration.[citation needed]

  • Music

Music has always been a tradition of any wedding and wedding reception.[citation needed] Recently,[when?] the music of wedding reception is mostly conducted by DJs or bands, and anything from rock, country, hip hop, and/or R&B will be played. Music has always been part of weddings to facilitate the dancing, but only recently we[who?] have developed the capability to play a whole range of music with only one person (the DJ). Personal music devices have allowed the wedding party to further control the night's music if costs dictate.

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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] This extravagant spending on weddings portrays a theme of showing off versus an intimate and personal atmosphere.

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.[27]


In 2012, the average cost of a wedding in the United States was approximately $28,400.[28] Approximately twenty eight percent of the wedding budget is spent on the reception, which makes it the most expensive part of the wedding.[29] This not surprising since the reception usually consists of food for each guest present, music (DJ or band), wedding favors for guests, decorations, the wedding cake, and the reception location itself.

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[30] 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,[31] also anyone can buy cover not just the person who is financing it.


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."[32] Out of all the newlyweds that marry, 96% go on a honeymoon.[33] The honeymoon industry is a 12 billion dollar industry annually.[34] An estimated 16% of weddings actually occur at resorts each year.[33] As part of the honeymoon, there are many aspects to consider, including destination, budget, and packages such as cruises and tours. There are numerous resources online that can help in a decision for the perfect honeymoon; searching on the Google engine alone gives roughly 25,500,000 results.[35]


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.[36] The average length of a honeymoon is roughly a week to 8 days.[37]


The average honeymoon costs approximately $4,500, which varies according to household income, age, willingness to spend money, and many other factors.[33] Because there is a wide age-range of newly married couples, companies usually target a certain age range with a specific budget in mind. For example, couples who get married around the age of 25 - 29 earn an annual income of $85,000, are targeted in a different way than older couples, wealthier couples, and couples of different social-economic status.[33] 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.[38]


Companies use packages to appeal to honeymooners and act as a deal to attract attention. Because newlyweds do not usually know much about the place that they are about to vacation to, a package, such as a cruise or a tour of the city, country, or island, has the best appeal. Because of the high demand of honeymoon packages, as seen by the 1,370,000 hits on the Google Search Engine when one inquires about "honeymoon packages," there is a large industry involved, and can expand to multiple arenas of the business, including the destination weddings mentioned above, and also celebrations such as an anniversary.[citation needed] 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.[39]

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[40]


  1. ^ Basic American Wedding Industry Statistics
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Bachelor party
  5. ^ a b Bachelor Parties in the United States
  6. ^ Cost Helper on Bachelorette Parties
  7. ^ Wedding Statistics for the Media & the Wedding Professional
  8. ^ Reality Wedding TV Shows
  9. ^ Numerous current and past Celebrity Weddings & engagements
  10. ^ Here Comes the Bride. The Question is: Why?
  11. ^ History of Weddings
  12. ^ a b Heidemann, Kai,University of Pittsburgh Sociology of Marriage Lecture, 2009
  13. ^ Wedding Statistics 2006 for Cost of Wedding Elements
  14. ^ What flowers are needed for a wedding
  15. ^ Wedding Statistics 2006 for Ceremony
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^
  18. ^ 2009
  19. ^ New York Times
  20. ^ The Wedding Report: 2006
  21. ^
  22. ^ The Wedding Report
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Wedding Insurance in the USA
  31. ^
  32. ^ Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  33. ^ a b c d AAH Franchise RSS Blog
  34. ^ Top Wedding Links
  35. ^ Google
  36. ^ Business Reference Services, Library of Congress
  37. ^ Honeymoon Statistics
  38. ^ Petty, Nathan. "How I Had My $20,000 Wedding For Less Than $5,000". Nathan Petty. 
  39. ^ Honeymoons Romantic Travel and Wedding Statistics
  40. ^ Honeymoon Activity Statistics