It's been two years and counting of living in a pandemic world. And two years ago, wedding trends were pointing more toward sustainability, second dresses, power suits, couples coats and honeymoons closer to home. Also over the course of the two years, wedding experts offered tips to keep your day special, as well as on the calendar.
This year, some things have changed while others have remained constant, according to the The Knot 's 2021 Real Weddings study, in which more than 15,000 U.S. couples who married last year weighed in on things like preferred wedding dates, top entertainment features and which vendors couples focused their budget on.
"If I was talking to a couple getting married, the two things I would emphasize is that it's going to be a banner year for weddings," said Lauren Kay, The Knot's executive editor. "We're ready to help 2.6 million weddings happen this year, which is wild, but so exciting. And with that comes a little bit of understanding, empathy and support for both the people you're hiring and the challenges they might face. And the ability to pivot or change your plans as needed and know that you're still going to have an incredible wedding and an amazing memory. That flexibility has been something we've seen year over year as a result of COVID, and I don't think that's going away anywhere yet."
The Chicago Tribune talked with Kay about the study to see how this year's wedding plans will shape up. Her insights have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Sustainability is a big hot topic for Gen Z-ers, who are just starting to get married. We have seen the wedding industry as a whole step up. A florist might say we compost all of our florals after the event. It depends on the pro, but we do see a disclosure of that somewhere on their website in a pretty prominent place so couples who are looking for that or who are prioritizing that will know, "Hey, this is a vendor who's like-minded and shares my value for sustainability." We've also noticed a lot of couples want to be more sustainable, but they don't really know how to do it or it feels very daunting. So, we've seen a lot of experts step up to help serve those couples and make suggestions. You don't have to have a carbon neutral wedding, but there are some swaps you can make and some changes that will allow your wedding to inherently be more sustainable.
On interactive food experiences
We've seen people shuck oysters on the go, a hot pretzel table. We've seen people have food trucks, especially for cocktail hour. We've seen ice cream carts. We've seen grazing tables with sushi. We've seen people doing live-action pasta tossing. We've seen people make mozzarella. There's been taco bars where you're serving yourself, but it's so much more elaborate than just ordering a taco. Maybe the couple really loves brunch, so they have a waffle station and you're able to put on your toppings or choose your batter flavor. A lot of couples are leaning into this idea of food ... the focus being on experiences for the guests.
What we have seen is a lot of couples being really thoughtful around planning. Honeymoon registries are huge for couples. Many are planning experiences, and they're thinking more about the destination and less about the timing. They're thinking about those once-in-a-lifetime trips, those really special destinations they've always wanted to travel to, while watching the restrictions and the guidelines around travel. There's couples that are staying domestic, visiting parts of our country or even doing road trips. Some people who got married, or had a ceremony of some kind, might have gone away to a bed-and-breakfast for a couple of days with the thinking they'll have that honeymoon that they dreamed of ... at a later date.
On the cost of vendors
While many weddings in 2020 were postponed, very few were canceled altogether. They just shifted. There was a period of time where the entire world was in lockdown. I think there is an element of that. But the flip side is we are experiencing a huge wedding boom right now. It's really unprecedented and so the vendors are really working hard to keep up with this overwhelming demand. There's a labor shortage. So, trying to get people to help execute, be it at a flower arrangement or a catering team, is challenging. We're also seeing those inflation prices and the cost of goods going up. I think that we aren't really seeing prices increase as a result of less weddings, but really about the other factors that are impacting every industry, between supply chain delays and inflation and scarcity of products.
On outdoor vs. indoor weddings
October has been kind of a big month for weddings year over year, independent of the pandemic. You're not sweating, but you're not freezing, and you can celebrate inside or outside very comfortably. It used to be that everyone wanted to have a June wedding. We've learned over the years that October has a lot to offer ... from the florals, the colors, the food, but also this idea that you aren't competing with people's summer vacation schedules. And it's kind of this lull before the holidays. I think the timing is really great for those reasons.
I do think outdoor weddings are here to stay. Obviously much more popular during COVID because they allowed people to social distance easily. We might see a slight decrease, especially for receptions. But outdoor ceremonies have been popular and will continue to be popular. We might see some more receptions move indoors because it's safer to do so now, but I think the ceremony, specifically, will continue to be a very popular outdoor affair.
On unprecedented wedding numbers
We do know 2022 is being keyed up to see the most weddings in recent history at a number of 2.6 million. On average, we usually see around 2.1 million weddings. We are attributing this increase to the postponement of 2020 weddings. I don't know that it's so many couples paired up as there was an overflow of weddings that didn't happen -- instead of getting canceled, they got postponed or people got married, but they're hosting an anniversary celebration in 2022. I really think it's just more of that celebration happening and having lived through this pandemic, you're so eager to hug your loved ones, to see your family and to celebrate good things. It's driven the demand of weddings and parties and celebrations even higher this year.