How Millennial Brides Are Changing the Wedding Industry

Millennials are known for throwing traditional expectations to the wind and making their own way. Brides in this 20s-to-30s age group are no exception. Stephanie Andrews, of Step Aside Event Planning and Management Services, said most of what she sees with Millennial brides could be described as “non-traditional.”

“You have people not getting married in churches,” she said. “They use sand or ropes instead of a unity candle. There are more options for things to do at the reception than there were in the past, such as photo booths and new favor ideas for guests. Even the style of the gowns and tuxes has changed to either more-modern or less-formal styles.”

Over the past few years, perhaps thanks to websites like Pinterest and Etsy, there has been no shortage of blue mason jars, burlap and chalkboard signs spotted at Millennial weddings. Barns and rustic venues have been popular, for both country folks and city slickers.

Asked about this theme, Foxie Morgan, of the Nelson County venue Pharsalia, said it’s still popular, but evolving. “They all still want farm tables, but they’re more dressed up. They might use silver and glass on them, and might use garlands that are more sophisticated looking, in whites and greens. … It’s a little more sophisticated, a little more elegant vs. country.”

This “return to glam” also is showing up at local bridal shops.

“We’re seeing a lot more requests for beaded lace, as opposed to the soft lace popular with barn weddings,” Jessica Boardman, manager and co-owner of Celebration bridal boutique, said. She added that ball gowns also are popular.

“It’s a return to glamour—traditional, opulent looks [and] getting away from the rustic look that’s been so popular for years. We’re still getting requests for that but not as much as a couple of years ago.”

Sheilah Mercer, manager at Church Street Bridal in Lynchburg, agreed. “Right now it’s lace, lace and more lace. I can’t say lace enough,” she said, before joking, “I feel like if I have one more bride come in and say, ‘Lace,’ I’m going to scream.”

When it comes to footwear, however, Mercer said it’s still common to see Millennial brides forego the more traditional, dyed bridal shoes for something with more character. “The thing in our area of Virginia is cowboy boots,” she said. “They love to show their personality. The wedding dress is kind of a rule, but you show your personality through your shoes.”

Another change local wedding planners have seen with Millennials concerns who’s planning the nuptials. “One of the real differences I see is I really work with the bride and groom,” Morgan, who’s been hosting weddings at Pharsalia since 2007, said.

“I don’t so much work with the mother. You know, it used to be the mother ran the show. It’s not to say the mother isn’t involved, but typically the bride and groom are older and they really, for the most part, seem to know what they want. They know the look they want.”

Boardman said today’s brides are “more independent” and “for the most part they know what they want and, for the most part, think individually.” She said it’s common for brides to come into the shop with a friend, sister or even their future mother-in-law, rather than their mom.

“We do have a lot of brides that purchase their wedding gowns without their mothers,” Boardman said. “Five or six years ago, you weren’t seeing that.”

Who’s paying also bucks tradition. “You will now see that the bride and groom are paying for the majority of the wedding items,” Andrews said. “Gone is the idea of ‘Father of the bride pays for everything.’

“I think having a wedding how they want it is the most important part and that they have a part in all of the decisions that need to be made.”

That said, cost can be a big issue for Millennial couples, who might be early in their careers. Asked where the money is being spent, wedding planner Barbie Sutton, of Sutton Event, said photography is a big ticket item.

“Almost no matter how poor they are, they don’t bat an eye on spending beaucoup on photography, which I understand in a way,” she said. “A lot of us look back and say, ‘I wish we had better photographs.’ I’d almost have to agree.”

As one might imagine, Millennial brides also are incorporating more technology into their weddings, particularly when it comes to documenting the big day. “It almost is a must now,” Andrews, a Millennial herself, said. “You have to not only have a photographer and videographer, but there needs to be … drones and live-streams as options now.

“And hashtags are a must. You have to have one and have others take pictures and load them up on their social media sites with your hashtag. It used to be you put out disposable cameras … for people to take pictures and then you would have a variety, but technology has allowed us to do so much more.”

Another Millennial trend is the “naked cake.” Before you Google that and get yourself into trouble, a naked cake is frosted between the layers but not on the sides. Between the layers might be crammed with icing, candies or fruit, for example, but the sides are bare. Thus, “naked cake.”

Some brides are choosing not to have cake at all. “Most of my brides are thinking uniquely,” Morgan said. “They might not even have cake. They might have little pies for everyone. Not so much the cupcakes anymore, but they’re looking for something a little different.”

With Millennials, “something a little different” appears to be a trend in itself. “The more different anything is, I love it,” Sutton said.

“I love it, love it, love it. I think anyone should do anything. I think people get excited about, ‘No one’s done this. I’m going to do it.”

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