I’ve never been the girl forever fantasizing about floating down the aisle dripping in Lorraine Schwartz and ensconced in Chanel haute couture (though, let’s be clear, I certainly wouldn’t turn either of these down).
Yet, here I am: engaged, planning a wedding, and constantly at odds with the Wedding Industrial Complex. So far, my main takeaway is this: getting hitched is big business. Worldwide, weddings are a $300 billion industry. In the U.S., $58 billion according to IBISworld. And with last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, analysis by NerdWallet projects the wedding industry will add an additional $2.5 billion to that figure as a result.
Did someone say, Here comes the cha-ching?
But, consider the modern wedding not in the context of dollars but in change. We’re living in a new era where the old rules no longer apply – for the betrothed, and for business. We’re charged by a cultural current that places more value on experiences, not stuff. The “right way” to do a wedding is divorced from this generation, and in its place is an urge to try a new way and, in many cases, digitally augment the entire wedding experience.
With that in mind, here is a guide to today’s weddings, disrupted.
Hiding the ring in the champagne glass might have gotten you the yes in 1987, but today popping question is about upping your game: documenting the reaction to achieve viral video infamy. From recording proposal reactions straight from the engagement ring box to the 365-day proposal that has racked up more than 28 million YouTube views, wedding proposal vids are the best thing on YouTube since that kid got a Nintendo Sixty-FOOOOOOOOOOUR!
The Announcement/Save the Date
The sky’s the limit with creativity here, so do you. Like this couple, who chose a totally rad Back to the Future-inspired engagement announcement poster (great Scott!).
Or this badass “Boss Wedding” save the date, a masterpiece that truly must be seen to be believed.
Money-saving, DIY invitation hacks, like designing and printing with sites like Minted or Shutterfly, are the new nuptial norm. And, don’t be pressured into thinking you have to have 60 layers of paper and ribbons and rainbows stuffed inside the envelope. My invites, for example, are a simple front-and-back card that elegantly conveys the vibe of the day, with instructions to RSVP online on my wedding website. (WARNING: You will have to assist some of your aunts in adjusting to this new normal.)
Marriage is becoming less important to today’s young adults, and many couples are choosing to cohabitate for years before finally putting a ring on it. This has registry implications. “I think couples today have the opportunity to use a few registries to curate for their own needs, and technology is evolving rapidly to help manage multiple registries,” says Wendy Fritz, a former SVP at Best Buy and current CEO for the Category Management Association. She’s right. With a tap and a swipe on apps like Zola and Honeyfund, it’s easy to simplify, streamline, personalize, curate, and manage wish-lists (think contributions to a Tahitian honeymoon, or money for a down payment on a new home), as well as how and when gifts are received.
Digital is every bride’s BFF. A 2014 survey on new digital wedding trends revealed that 89% of brides use mobile apps to make lists, stay organized, browse gowns, and more. Planning sites like Loverly are taking note, investing time, money, and resources into enhancing the digital user experience. As Loverly CEO and founder Kellee Khalil told Racked, “We’re seeing a lot of brides planning on the go, so we’re really optimizing the site for that.”
Besides an open bar, the bride’s gown is one of the most highly anticipated wedding components. And brides now have more choices than ever to find the perfect silhouette (crop top dresses, anyone?) at the perfect price. Retailers like David’s Bridal have caught on. “David’s Bridal’s reputation used to be that it was the Walmart of bridal. We’ve changed that internally and externally,” CEO Pamela Wallack said of the company’s revamp to cater to modern brides. But if in-store shopping just isn’t your thing, there’s the option of scoring a second-hand steal from resale sites like Still White and Nearly Newlywed, giving “something old, something new” a whole new meaning and context.
The Ceremony and Reception
With an iPhone in every guest’s pocket or purse, documenting the main event is now a crowdsourced affair. For example, Wedit is a fun, affordable, DIY alternative to the traditional photographer. Wedding guests double as videographers to “capture every moment from first kiss to last dance.” The site will upload all the footage, host it for a year, and, for an additional fee, they’ll even edit it for you. Alternately, for those with larger budgets, collecting footage from drones is now possible.
Hey, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. No worries, sites like Wevorce have your back. It’s a one-stop online shop connecting you to attorneys, mental health counselors, financial planning pros, and more.
Weddings are becoming more about self-expression, less about kowtowing to bygone tradition. This is all positive – it’s progress. Especially for those of us who scoff at the stale ceremony, the Electric Slide, and the predictable choice between the Beef Wellington and the Chicken Cordon Bleu.
As couples forge their own paths to create their ultimate wedding experience, brands must keep in mind that nuptial disruption lurks behind every corner. From the bragging to the planning to the Big Day itself, all of it is underscored by hyper-personalization and uber-socialization. The brands that say “I do” to this new reality will win.