With wedding season around the corner and on the mend, we asked young Europeans what they most want out of their big day…
- Between COVID and young consumers’ decreasing interest in marriage, the wedding industry has been tested—but they are bouncing back
- COVID may have a permanent impact on the size and style of wedding young Europeans want
- Young Europeans want their weddings to be unique with some tradition
The past two years have not been good ones for weddings as COVID restrictions forced the vast majority to be canceled or postponed. In the U.K. alone, some 320,000 weddings were put on hold between March 2020 and summer 2021, and globally, it’s estimated that the wedding industry lost over $150 billion. But weddings were having a hard time even before COVID as young people continue their Extended Singledom and delay major life milestones. Our recent WE Life Milestones and Future Plans report found that nearly four in five 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe agree, “I don’t care in what order life milestones were done in generations past. I will do it my own way,” while three-quarters say their generation has the freedom to choose their own life path—and that includes settling down. In fact, YPulse’s recent WE Dating and Relationships report found that more than one-third of young Europeans say they never want to get married, giving the already challenged wedding industry even more obstacles.
All that said, the majority of young Europeans still do want to get married, and weddings are making a comeback. Our WE Weddings report found that 35% of young people have attended or plan to attend a wedding this year, close to 2020’s (preCOVID) average of 39% in the U.S. Regardless of their return, though, weddings may never look quite the same in the post-COVID world, with trends like micro-weddings and backyard celebrations likely to stick around. And with most young Europeans agreeing that weddings aren’t as important as they used to be, the question remains: what do they want their weddings to be like now? In our recent survey, we asked 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe exactly that. Here’s what they had to say:
Young Europeans are far more likely to say they want a small, inexpensive wedding than a big, expensive one, indicating that the COVID era could be impacting the size of the celebrations young consumers want for their big days. In general, though, weddings have been trending small and DIY for a while, and that’s at least partially because of price. As we’ve long said, one reason Millennials have been delaying life milestones such as marriage and starting a family is because of their economic situations (which weren’t helped by the pandemic), which means that those Millennials who do want to get married likely aren’t in a position to go big. In fact, the majority of young Europeans say weddings have gotten too expensive, and that they’re too much work to plan, making clear why a small, inexpensive wedding might be more appealing.
Of course, not everyone feels the same. Though most Gen Z are still far away from their nuptials, they’re more likely than Millennials to say they want a big wedding. Meanwhile, young Italians are also more likely to say they want to go big and less likely to say weddings are too expensive, meaning some regions may still opt for the more traditional blowout. But regardless of whether they want to go big or small, young Europeans are most likely looking to make their wedding their own:
When we gave young Europeans a list of options for what they most want their weddings to be like, “unique” is their top answer, followed by “personal.” YPulse has long tracked the “Millennial-ization” of weddings, which has caused many traditions to be thrown out the window in favor of new ones—and many think Gen Z is on the way to changing the wedding landscape even more. But while both generations are known for their need to do things their own way, Gen Z is the most likely to say they want their wedding to be unique, and “unique” is by far their top answer. Millennials, on the other hand, want things to get a little sappy more than they want to make their celebrations unique: “emotional” is their top answer, followed closely by “personal.”
While just 12% say they want their weddings to be traditional more than anything else, 64% agree with the statement, “I want my wedding to be traditional”—and they’re opting for some classic weddings trends:
For young Europeans, weddings will likely follow the script of ceremony followed by reception for a while—and many will also continue the trend of getting hitched in the great outdoors. This is even more true in the U.K., where outdoor weddings just became fully legalized—before last year, weddings at a licensed venue were required to take place inside. But after a temporary measure to allow outdoor weddings proved popular, the government opted to make it permanently legal to tie the knot outside, which the member of parliament who spearheaded the measure said would “provide a welcome boost for the wedding sector” as well as give couples the ability to “hold more personalized ceremonies”—which is just want young Europeans want to hear.
YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE Weddings behavioral report and data here.
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