At Weddings, Elvis Is In -- Hashtags, Ed Sheeran Are Out

This year, some 2 million couples will walk down the aisle in weddings that average $35,000 each. Many traditions are durable and predictable, says Kiara Kempski, vice president of global consumer and vendor marketing at the Knot Worldwide. But major shifts are underway as the industry transitions from the tail end of millennials to the pioneers of Gen Z.

Retail Insider: You do this research every year, this time including 9,300 couples. Usually, not much changes. People spend a surprising amount of money, dance with their parents, and brides wear white. Did anything surprise you this year?

Kiara Kempski: Many things do stay the same. I had to laugh when Sept. 21 turned out to the most popular day to get married, just like the prior year. But trends do change. Elvis’ “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” is now the top first-dance song, bumping Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” out of the top spot for the first time in six years. There have been several Elvis movies and documentaries, and it’s just a fun example of how pop culture shapes weddings.

We’re also seeing lots of Taylor Swift's “Eras” inspirations. And there are plenty of choreographed “Barbie”-type dances. We’re also seeing more signature cocktails and more kid-free weddings. First looks are still gaining. More than half of all couples are now choosing [to have a private, pre-ceremony meeting when they first see themselves in their wedding finery] versus the traditional reveal as they come down the aisle. And there’s a more significant move toward authenticity.

Retail Insider: How so?

Kempski: As Gen Z pushes into the wedding picture, we see more efforts to incorporate cultural and traditional elements. Not just things like jumping over the broom and breaking the glass, but in cultural music and food, too. People are working hard to weave bilingual entertainment into their weddings.

Retail Insider: It’s nice that we’ve been having this conversation without once saying “COVID.” Have all the COVID snags and backlogs finally worked through the wedding retail universe?

Kempski: Yes! Some trends remain, like a continued rise of QR codes on save-the-dates and invitations. And last year was sort of the Super Bowl year for weddings. But we are finally returning to the pre-pandemic average of about 2 million per year.

Retail Insider: Funny, because that’s not quite true in the engagement ring business. Signet, for example, says it doesn’t expect ring sales to fully recover until next year because fewer people started relationships throughout COVID.

Kempski: We are seeing weddings return to that 2 million mark overall. But planning timelines have changed. People are taking a little bit longer and thinking about it. And couples are choosing to get married later in life.

Retail Insider: What’s the average age of Knot users?

Kempski: About 32, so younger millennials. But with the older people in Gen Z coming into that marrying age range of 26 or 27, this is a transitional year of who our customers are. Gen Z  has different preferences, and they’re picking up trends in other places with plenty of TikTok inspiration. Millennials have been Pinterest-driven. Many polls have shown a continued decline in marriage rates, but our research finds they are optimistic, and 90% want lasting relationships. Even if they choose not to get married or don’t want a wedding, they are looking for ways to celebrate and commemorate that commitment.

Retail Insider: Finally, how is the Knot faring after last year’s advertising scandal? Former long-term employees accused the company of defrauding investors and advertisers. And many observers say the ways the company responded to those accusations made advertisers even more mistrustful.

Kempski: I don't have much to share beyond statements we’ve already made. Those claims were taken seriously, investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. But I will add that our partners and wedding professionals are our top priority. We've kicked off some new initiatives, creating different forums and using social listening. We prioritize customer service and support, focusing on leads and lead quality.


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