As weddings begin picking up once more, what pandemic trends do young consumers think will stick around for post-COVID nuptials?
YPulse’s Life Plans, Rewritten trend research found that 50% of 13-39-year-olds had to alter major life events and milestones in 2020—and that included weddings: 15% of Millennials told us that a wedding they were planning to attend was cancelled/postponed last year, and 11% of 25-29-year-olds told us their own wedding was cancelled/postponed. The Wedding Report reported that wedding-related spending decreased by $30 billion last year compared to 2019. But in the last year, new wedding trends were born as couples found new ways to celebrate their special day and adapt to the new normal. Just one example: The NYTimes reported at the end of last year that backyard weddings had become “the heroes of the wedding industry,” which kept caterers, cake makers, photographers, and other vendors stay afloat. These downscaled festivities are “simpler, “smaller,” and less formal but still feature all the fixings, which has actually been a boom for smaller businesses.
And 2021 is looking much brighter for happy couples. In fact, YPulse found that getting engaged/married was in the top ten list of life milestones that Gen Z and Millennials were looking forward to this year. A recent survey by The Knot found that 47% of couples with wedding dates between January and December of last year rescheduled their reception to 2021, while our wedding report found that 29% of 13-39-year-olds will be attending weddings in 2021. With vaccines starting to roll out at a faster pace, chances are that number is likely to increase. According to an IBISWorld report, there will be a “significant increase in wedding revenues this year.” After Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested that December weddings should be pushed to June or July 2021 at the earliest, couples “book[ed] their venues with frenzy.” Some venues have reported reservations well into the second half of 2021, and even have several set for 2022 and 2023.
But will all these weddings look the same as they would have pre-COVID? Or will some of the trends that the pandemic created stick around? As young consumers start getting back to their postponed plans, our wedding report asked young consumers if they believe any of the trends that have flourished during the pandemic will stay in style. Here’s what we found out:
Backyard weddings are the trend that young people are most likely to believe will stick around, with more than half of 13-39-year-olds (52%) saying backyard weddings will continue to thrive in a post-COVID future. But in a close second place are smaller. weddings, with nearly half (49%) of 13-39-year-olds saying that micro-weddings with a few family and friends will continue post-COVID. Both trends gave newlyweds and their guests a safe alternative to celebrate their big way with loved ones with a low risk of spreading the virus, but we also see that many young people say they have a preference for smaller celebrations: 41% of Millennials say that a big reception is going out of style, and “intimate” is one of the top things they say they most want their wedding to be. The pandemic likely helped to solidify this preference for more intimate celebrations among some chosen loved ones, and it could be that smaller guest lists will stick around.
Meanwhile, the Zoom wedding guest might live on: 40% of 13-39-year-olds say online streaming of ceremonies will still be in-style post-COVID. Last year, many couples who didn’t want to cancel their plans altogether instead went ahead with their nuptials, digitally hosting their events at home while having friends and family watch on now-popular video platforms like Zoom. On Instagram, hashtags like #ZoomWedding generated thousands of posts, while on TikTok the same hashtag has 3.2 million views. New wedding services focused on virtual attendance were created, and they have a vested interest in the trend continuing. For instance, North Carolina-based LoveStream offered various packages ranging from $450 to $1,850 to couples who wished to “outsource the task of livestreaming their weddings.”
Eloping is another trend that saw newfound popularity in the last year, and 30% of 13-39-year-olds saying that they think it is a trend that will continue in the post-COVID future. Simply Eloped reported interest in their services is at “an all-time high,” with overall site traffic up 135% last August compared to 2019. And to stay connected with their guests, they opted for “micro-weddings” and “highly Instagrammable” elopement ceremonies. Little Creek Events, which usually hosted big weddings, rebranded as “The Reimagined Wedding” after the pandemic hit to accommodate new realities—and they now specialize in elopement packages that are “a step above the courthouse,” and were throwing three to five ceremonies a day complete with flowers and a cactus garden.
While Gen Z and Millennials didn’t have drastically different views of what pandemic wedding trends will stick around, there were a few significant differences that we found between young males and females—and since 67% of young females say that the bride planning the wedding is a wedding tradition that’s staying in-style, they’re worth looking at:
Young females are even more likely than young males to say that backyard weddings and micro-weddings with a few friends and family will be staying in-style post-COVID. They’re also more likely than males to say that eloping will stick around—and if their own assessment of brides’ control over wedding plans are to be believed, they may have more influence to make these trends last.
After a year of wedding drought, several bridal brands and wedding-related services have been preparing for a “wedding boom” this year. David’s Bridal is expecting revenue to grow, anticipating 20% to 50% more weddings-related sales in 2021, compared to last year. Special-order wedding business Kleinfeld’s has reported that their appointments have been ramping up, with bookings for their alterations services currently full through the end of this month—and most current brides-to-be shopping for 2022 and 2023. With the beginning of the wedding season just around the corner, we expect business for wedding-related services to continue going up. But the majority of young people believe that at least one trend from the pandemic will be sticking around—so we can expect that many of the weddings we’ll see in the next few years will look a little different from pre-pandemic norms, and smaller more intimate celebrations will likely continue to trend.
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