Brides and Grooms Hold to Favorite Traditions

Looking at both the road to the wedding and the big day itself, do Americans still feel the hopefully-​happy couple should hold to the traditions and big to-do's associated with saying "I do?" As it turns out, many traditions still curry strong favor among U.S. adults. Americans are more split on others like those that involve technology. These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,300 adults surveyed online between April 16 and 21, 2014.

Our culture has undergone countless shifts over the years, but Americans still resoundingly support the idea of a bride's father "giving her away," with the vast majority (84%) agreeing with this tradition – 44% strongly so.

Strong majorities also agree with the traditions of having a women-​only bridal shower (74%), the bride and groom spending the night before their wedding apart (71%), asking a bride's father/​parents for permission before popping the question (70%) and the groom's family paying for the rehearsal dinner (65%).

Americans are more split on some other wedding mainstays, including the expectation that the bride wear a white dress (54% agree with this, while 46% disagree), the bride's family paying for the wedding (53% and 47%, respectively) and, ahem, "waiting" for the wedding night (51% and 49%, respectively).

And what's the odd tradition out? Two-​thirds of Americans (66%) disagree with the practice of spending on an expensive engagement ring.

Looking more broadly at feelings toward weddings, there are elements of thrift and restraint at work. Strong majorities indicate that they prefer small, intimate weddings and that spending money on an elaborate wedding is a waste (83% each), while seven in ten (71%) believe that if it's not a first marriage for either half of the happy couple, the wedding should be more subdued. Fewer than half, meanwhile, believe a wedding ceremony should be held in a place of religious worship and that they prefer "adults only" weddings (46% each).

Several of these sentiments vary from a generational standpoint:

  •  Millennials are less inclined than their elders to believe a bride's father should "give her away" (75% Millennials, 85% Gen Xers, 90% Baby Boomers, 88% Matures) but more likely to agree with the tradition of spending big on the ring (43%, 34%, 32% and 21%, respectively).
  • Meanwhile, Baby Boomers and Matures are more prone than their younger counterparts to support the traditional billing practices, being more likely to agree that the groom's family should pay for the rehearsal dinner (56% Millennials, 60% Gen Xers, 71% Baby Boomers, 73% Matures) and the bride's should pay for the wedding (46%, 49%, 58% and 62%, respectively). They're also more likely to favor the ceremony being held in a place of worship (40%, 41%, 50% and 56%, respectively).
  • As to the question of "waiting?" Matures (63%) are the only generation with a clear majority in favor; about half of all others agree (47% Millennials, 48% Gen Xers, 52% Baby Boomers).
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, men are more likely than women to support bridal showers for the ladies only (78% men, 70% women) and the bride's family footing the bill for the wedding (58% and 48%, respectively) while women are more likely to support the two spending the night before their wedding apart (76% women, 65% men) and the tradition of asking the bride's father/​parents for permission (73% and 67%, respectively). Men and women do, however, agree on the matter of the ring, with 35% of men and 34% of women voicing opposition to spending on an expensive engagement ring.

Ah, the R.S.V.P. Who's a "yes?" Who's a "no?" And who's MIA entirely? Of course, there will always be invitees who can't make it. But what are the top impediments? About half of Americans (49%) indicate having ever chosen not to attend a wedding, and among those the top obstacle by far is that they couldn't afford to (44%). Other noteworthy barriers include avoiding drama, such as family drama (11%), having another wedding to attend the same weekend (8%), and disapproving of the person their friend or family member was marrying (6%); among those in households with children, not being able to bring the kids has been a factor to 13%.

This isn't the only time cost came into play in the survey; when asked about "destination weddings," nearly nine in ten Americans (88%) agreed that these put an unfair financial burden on guests.

About 3% of U.S. adults will be paying for wedding and honeymoon expenses at some point in the coming year according to Ad-​ology Research. Getting a manicure/​pedicure is on the list for 37% of these consumers, and 39% will be getting their teeth whitened. Marketers may want to place ads in magazines to reach these consumers as 30.2% say they've started an online search as a result of a magazine ad they saw in the past year.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to Ad-​ology PRO. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.



Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.