At Bridal Shows: Couples Spend More Per Guest for Unforgettable Experience

BY Courtney Huckabay

Eight of the 10 top dates to get engaged occur during the holidays, with Christmas Day coming in at No. 1, according to WeddingWire. Valentine's Day is No. 2, followed by Christmas Eve. The wedding-​planning process can be overwhelming, and bridal expos can help with a jumping off point. Fortunately, there are a lot of bridal expos and wedding shows planned for the beginning of the new year.

The Knot did some research on wedding trends, and this information will be top of mind for Bridal Show Attendees and expo sponsors. Retailers and service providers in the the wedding industry can tailor their trade show booths and other event appearances around the following trends and data.

In 2016, the average cost of a wedding reached an all-​time high at $35,329, while the number of guests dropped. That correlation means spend per guest increased, showing that couples are spending with a focus on guests. Custom guest entertainment has more than tripled, from 11% to 41% since 2009, with photo booths (78%), games (18%), musical performances (12%) and fireworks (8%) at the top of the list. Not only are guests being entertained at weddings, but this year couples reported that nearly 20% of their guests hooked up at or after their wedding.

This is very good news for the bridal industry! With more spending, comes better bridal show attendance. The AudienceSCAN survey revealed 4.2% of Americans already plan to attend bridal shows in the next 12 months!

Top 2016 Wedding Statistics

  • Average Number of Guests: 141
  • Average Number of Bridesmaids: 5
  • Average Number of Groomsmen: 5
  • Average Length of Engagement: 15 months
  • Most Popular Month to Get Married: October (16%) and September (16%)
  • Popular Wedding Colors: Dark blue (29%), gold (28%) and light pink (28%)
  • Percentage of Destination Weddings: 20%

Wedding industry pros know they can reach a lot of brides by exhibiting at area bridal shows. Making sure brides hear about it, though, is another obstacle. The AudienceSCAN survey found 23% of Bridal Show Attendees find out about nearby events through the radio, and 14% through entertainment/​city guides. Try advertising in these top picks!

Top 2016 Wedding Trends

GUEST EXPERIENCE IS TOP OF MIND AS GUEST SPEND RISES WHILE GUEST COUNT DROPS. Showing just how much couples are focused on creating the ultimate guest experience, the average number of wedding guests in 2016 is down to 141, compared to 149 in 2009, while the cost per wedding guest is up to $245, compared to $194 in 2009. To create a completely memorable experience for guests, couples are amping up the entertainment and personalization. Seventy-​five percent of all couples have at least one signature wedding element (up from 66% in 2008), such as a signature cocktail (24%). Custom guest entertainment has more than tripled, from 11% to 41% since 2009, with photo booths (78%), games (18%), musical performances (12%) and fireworks (8%) at the top of the list. Also on the rise are cigar rolling stations, wine and liquor tastings and dance performers. Don’t be surprised to see aerialists, acrobats, live painters or gospel choirs this year as 2017 wedding trends reach new heights in guest entertainment.

WED TECH HELPS CAPTURE EACH AND EVERY MOMENT. As technology has become a part of our everyday lives, 22% of couples incorporated some type of technology into their wedding day including: GoPros in bridal bouquets to capture the walk down the aisle, drones to take aerial wedding footage and live streaming video to share the wedding day with loved ones who couldn’t attend. Sixty-​four percent of couples created a wedding hashtag and shared with guests on their personalized wedding website (48%), table tent cards (32%), ceremony program (20%) and wedding invitation (19%).

Photographers can tout their top-​of-​the-​line tech at bridal shows and in ad campaigns. A great place to talk about both is on social media! The AudienceSCAN study found 52% of Bridal Show Attendees took action after seeing ads on social networks in the past month.

COUPLES ARE SPENDING OVER PLANNED BUDGETS WHILE PARENTS TAKE ON MOST OF THE WEDDING COSTS. Tradition rings true with parents paying for a majority of today’s weddings. On average, the bride’s parents contribute 44% of the overall wedding budget, the bride and groom contribute 42%, and the groom’s parents contribute 13% (others account for the remaining 2%). In 2016, 10% of couples paid for the wedding entirely by themselves, and 8% of couples didn’t contribute any finances to the wedding budget. Most couples (89%) say the economy did not affect wedding plans and 47% (up from 42% in 2011) report spending more than they planned for.

MOBILE WEDDING PLANNING DOUBLES AS MORE COUPLES ARE PLANNING ON THE GO. In 2016, couples using smartphones for wedding planning activities more than doubled from 42% in 2014 to 90% in 2016. The most popular mobile wedding planning activity: browsing wedding gowns (62%). Researching wedding vendors (51%, up from 31% in 2014), using online planning tools (43%, up from 21% in 2014), creating a personal wedding website (25%, up from 14% in 2014) and using an online RSVP service (20%, up from 7% in 2014) are also top of mind wedding activities on mobile.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Ceremony and reception locations are becoming even more important as couples plan a personalized wedding that’s a true reflection of their personalities and relationship together. Forty-​eight percent said that having a reception venue with a scenic backdrop or locale was the top priority, while having both an indoor and outdoor space was most important for 30% of couples. As unexpected places to wed are on the rise, only 26% had a ceremony in a religious institution (down from 41% in 2009). Hosting weddings at farms, barns and ranches increased from 2% in 2009 to 12% in 2016, and historic buildings and homes rose in popularity from 9% in 2009 to 13% in 2016. Other popular non-​traditional ceremony sites include beach houses, public gardens, wineries and museums.

Make sure unique locations shine in ad campaigns and at booths at bridal shows. 54% of Bridal Show Attendees took action after seeing television (over-​the-​air, online, mobile or tablet) commercials in the past month.

COUPLES CONTINUE TO WED FAR FROM HOME. Only 20% of couples considered their wedding a destination wedding, down from 24% in 2011. Of those who had a US destination wedding, 49% got married 200 miles or more from where they lived at the time of their wedding. Nearly 13% of destination wedding couples host a second party when they return home for friends and family who weren’t able to attend. There are more than 340,000 destination weddings each year with 89% (up from 77% in 2015) taking place in the continental US and 11% (down from 23% in 2015) at international destinations. Top locales include Hawaii (35%), California (14%), Florida (12%), Caribbean (27%) and Mexico (10%).

FALL WEDDINGS DOMINATE. Summer weddings still remain a popular season to say “I do,” but fall has taken the top spot with 40% (up from 30% in 2009) of couples hosting their nuptials in the fall months. September and October are tied for the most popular month, each accounting for 16% of weddings, followed by June with 13%. Saturday nuptials are still strong at 70% followed by Fridays (14%) and Sundays (12%).

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.