In Hollywood, brides keep the bouquets and throw away the groom. —Groucho Marx
I was amused earlier this week when Bloomberg magazine ran an article about alternative styles of wedding dresses as though the world had suddenly shifted off its fashionable axis. How dare brides not wear long, flowing, white dresses made of silk and satin and miles and miles of fabric? What of the time-honored etiquette? What of the billion-dollar industry built around weddings? Is everything going to ruin?
Of course not. We both know better. No matter what trends might be forthcoming, the foreseeable future is still going to be dominated by traditional wedding wear. There’s very little cause for worry in the short term. Brides dream of their weddings long before there’s a groom or another bride in the picture. Weddings are the stuff of fantasies and the star-lit hopes of runaway romanticism. As long as little girls dream of being a princess, there will be over-the-top traditional weddings.
Times are changing, though, and one would be crazy to not consider how modern trends are impacting the bridal industry, not just in terms of bridal fashion, but all the supporting industries necessary to make a bride’s dream come true. Change, in this case, equals opportunity if one is paying attention.
There have always been brides who do their best to squeeze every ounce of value from what they spend on their weddings. While we don’t advocate overspending on anything, there seems to be a contest among some brides to see just how little they can spend while still getting all the services they want.
To be quite honest about the matter, discount brides are a pain in the ass for everyone else. When one asks a service provider to work for less than their stated rates, or ties to trim expenses by ordering the minimum ala carte, they are devaluing the service that person provides. As a photographer, I find it extremely annoying and presumptuous when someone asks me for a discount off my smallest wedding package. The same is true for florists, caterers, and cake bakers. They all deserve to be paid fairly and not asked to discount their work.
Many brides have solved this problem by doing some things, such as making decorations, invitations, and other items themselves. Some even sew their own dress, which I think is a remarkable and romantic thing to do. There are plenty of ways to save money without cheating anyone in the process.
Kats at that age where a lot of her friends are getting married. Many are getting married out of town, so we won’t be able to attend. One we did get to go to this summer, though, was gloriously alternative. In fact, there was very little that was traditional, short of the fact there was an aisle the bride walked and they did have an officiant, which I think is required by law in most states. The bride wore a green dress. They served breakfast at the reception. The “cake” was made of Long’s donuts. Even though a thundershower soaked the area right as the wedding was about to start, the event was still wonderful, romantic, and happy.
Brides with an alternative mindset are growing in number. There are a number of reasons for this, from a change in same-gender marriage laws to a decline in religious affiliation. Many young women do not feel obligated to tradition in any way. Therefore, they are more open to exploring alternative ceremonies and creating a romantic event that suits the couples’ particular interests.
As Kat and I have discussed the eventual legal necessity of marriage, our perspective is definitely out of the norm. No church. No traditional minister. I wanted to go nude, but she wants to invite her parents, so, uhm, probably some form of clothing will be involved. What we don’t want to do is anything that someone else has already done. We’re unique rule breakers and think any wedding we might eventually have has to follow suit.
Another factor in non-traditional weddings is that a number of brides are older than previous generations. Part of this is due to an increase in career options. There are also more women with multiple marriages than was previously socially acceptable. More than anything, though, a high number of young women today don’t place as much importance on weddings. As a result, they’re waiting much, much longer before making that decision.
Relationship expectations have changed. Few young women today grew up in a home where Dad worked and Mom stayed home. Instead, most were either raised by single parents or in homes where both parents had to work to make ends meet. As a result, young women don’t come out of high school or college expecting prince charming to sweep them off their feet.
Waiting until you’ve traveled a bit and explored some of life’s adventures before getting married is not a bad idea. After all, many of those things become unavailable once one is tied down to the responsibilities of being married. As a result, older brides tend to have weddings that are more low-key, smaller, and more intimate affairs attended only by closest friends and family. Wardrobe is often a secondary thought with a new dress bought off the shelf at the last minute.
Happily Ever After
Ultimately, what matters most about a wedding is the union between two souls who are hopelessly and deeply in love. What they wear, where they are married, the expense involved are all factors, but, in the end, none of that actually impacts the quality of the marriage.
Every bride deserves to have the wedding the way she wants. Some will always choose to be surrounded by white and fluff and all the traditional accouterments. Others will always choose to be different. There is plenty of room for both. We wish everyone the best.