Mega Wedding Mega Bust: The Small Wedding Trend is Great for Investors

Advisors working with either young couples, or their parents who may have less ability to contribute to the cost of a lush wedding, may want to consider these smaller wedding trends as potential solutions for families who don’t want to choose between a marriage or a mortgage.

Pandemic wedding trends like micro weddings and elopements and Zoom “celebrations” may have grandma clutching her pearls, but they may also signal an important reset for young couples. Many couples put off weddings until the pandemic because they simply couldn’t afford the cost of a large affair. When some couples found creative ways to get hitched, those hesitating because of the cost caught on and had their own celebrations. The trend shows an other important issue: the cost of housing.

In 1985, Fortune Magazine [1] reported on the Marriage MegaBucks trend and noted: “In 1984, 2,487,000 couples, 16% more than in 1975, were married or remarried. The newlyweds and their families spent $20 billion, an increase of 152% over the decade, or 43% after adjustment for inflation. The money went for everything from rings and flowers to music, limousines, and honeymoon trips. Few weddings are as opulent as the $50,000-plus extravaganza.”

Other sources reported that just a few years later, that trend, towards opulent mega weddings, only increased. “The cost of the average American wedding climbed from $15,208 in 1990 to $27,852 in 2006, according to a Conde Nast Bridal Media research survey.”[2] By 2019 that cost had stabilized at $28,000. Another source reported that number to be   was $33,900. That source also noted that “more couples are contributing to the wedding today, and it's seemingly correlated to the average age of marriage” (which has risen from 28 to 30 for women and 31 to 34 for men). [3]

But in 2020, the average wedding cost , $19,000, a 33% reduction. And it isn’t the pandemic alone. By 2019, the wedding industry may have seen the beginning of a course correction on the mega wedding. Harper’s Bazaar [4] noted that Pinterest recently reported a 128 per cent increase in searches for elopement photography ideas. The size of the average wedding was already shrinking from 141 to 131 before the pandemic.

This has spawned a growth in elopement services, like Simply Eloped. That company reports that the average cost of an elopement nets in around $1500.[5] Just to make that as stark as possible, that’s a $17,500 difference. $17,500 for most couples may not buy happiness, but it can buy a lot of other things. For couples who don’t want to elope, but don’t want the marching band attendance of a full wedding, a micro wedding may be an option. The cost for a micro wedding also is much smaller than for a full wedding. “A micro wedding costs anywhere from $1,600 for an elopement and reception combination with 12 or fewer guests to $10,000 for a full ceremony and reception with 50 or fewer guests.”[6]

As an introvert, the idea of being in a room of 140 people of any sort, whether they are friends and family or foes and fighters, is a nightmare no matter how beautiful the dress. But there is a stronger reason to resist the urge to dump the GDP of a small nation on one shining day: many who want to become newlyweds also want to be come new homeowners. There is even a new Netflix show about this conundrum aptly called Marriage vs. Mortgage where a wedding planner and a real estate agent compete for young couple’s savings. In one episode, the couple has $35,000 to spend on either a wedding or a house. Some couples opt for the house and wait years to get married, others opt for the wedding and wait out buying a house. Opting for elopement may be a way to have your cake and eat it too, or have your wedding and still buy a house.

As reported by CNBC, “The National Association of Realtors found that the starter median home price in U.S. metro areas was $233,400 in the first quarter of 2020.” A down payment of 20% on that starter home (usually recommended) would be more than $45,000. A smaller down payment of 10% comes closer to the $23,000 range or awfully close to the cost of the average wedding in 2020. Most couples can’t choose both mega wedding and mortgage.

Advisors working with either young couples, or their parents who may have less ability to contribute to the cost of a lush wedding, may want to consider these smaller wedding trends as potential solutions for families who don’t want to choose between a marriage or a mortgage.


[1] https://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1985/07/22/66175/index.htm

[2] https://news.psu.edu/story/141364/2008/09/08/research/probing-question-how-has-american-wedding-changed

[3] https://www.theknot.com/content/how-weddings-have-changed

[4] https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/bazaar-brides/a27054966/elopements-are-on-the-rise

[5] https://simplyeloped.com/2020-elopement-and-microwedding-report

[6] https://www.wedding-spot.com/blog/micro-wedding-ideas



These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.

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