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Gen O: The price of tying the knot

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Wedding day checklist

We got in touch with a range of experts to find out about the costs of getting married, and why Gen O couples are spending more planning their wedding day

For many Gen O romantics, saying “I do” will be one of the most important moments of their lives. But with rising wedding costs, and other increasing financial commitments, Gen O are having to save more money for longer, to be able to afford the big day they really want.

Our recent survey1 revealed that 43% of Gen O who do save, are saving money for a one off event such as a wedding. This is compared to just over a third (38%) who are saving for a retirement or pension. This suggests that this generation are more likely to save for something they can enjoy in the short-term, such as their wedding – rather than prioritising their long-term financial futures, such as their retirement lifestyle.

So, we got in touch with a range of wedding experts, to explore the importance of getting married, and why couples feel inclined to spend more money planning their special day.

According to our recent Family Finances Report2, getting married is a top life milestone Gen O hope to achieve – with over half (54%) actively planning or saving more to get married. A study from Interflora3 revealed that 60% of single women have already planned part of their dream wedding – with some starting to think about getting married from as young as 13 years old. Kate Smallwood, a wedding expert and previous associate editor of Wedding Magazine tells us:

I think it’s fair to say that everyone wants to have that special moment. Perhaps we’re all romantics at heart, and getting married is one of the most important days of your life.

It’s clear that saving for a wedding is of very high importance for many Gen O couples. But how much is this really costing?

The increased cost of getting married

Sandy Moretta, Director of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners admits that “over the last few years, we have seen a slight increase in wedding costs.” She goes on to reveal that “UK weddings tend to be quite diverse in scale and cost,” but their research has shown that on average, a wedding could now set you back around £22-23,000.

Although the expense of each wedding component can vary hugely, typically “venue hire and catering are usually the most expensive items, comprising approximately 45-50% of the budget.” Take a look at our checklist below, which reveals some of the elements you’ll have to pay for – proving why the costs can very quickly add up:

Wedding expectations

We spoke to Liz Taylor, a Wedding Planner and the Managing Director of the Taylor Lynn Corporation. She tells us that when it comes to modern-day weddings, “expectations are high,” and that “a wedding reception is no longer a three course meal at a fancy local hotel – it is so much more. Pre-wedding parties, international entertainment, quirky transport, hidden-gem venues.” There’s certainly a huge amount of choice, and more pressure than ever to have an extravagant wedding.

Following the trends

Keeping up with the latest wedding trends could be another factor which is contributing to the rising wedding costs for Gen O. Our experts revealed some of the current trends which can significantly impact budget:

  • Getting married abroad: Taylor explains that these types of weddings are really popular. “They look glamorous but often couples don’t realise the high level of logistical planning that comes with their decision – visiting venues, menu tastings, getting guests to attend. It can be very time consuming and costly.”
  • Multiple wedding celebrations: Moretta reveals that one reason costs may have increased “is that couples often like to celebrate across a number of days, perhaps having a rehearsal dinner and a brunch or BBQ the day after the wedding itself, which inevitably increases the overall cost.”
  • Entertainment: Many couples are now keen to splash out on “interesting entertainment both musical and other, such as circus acts,” says Moretta. “This can increase the cost of the wedding as experienced entertainers can be quite costly.”
  • More than one best man: “Although this does not necessarily affect the cost of the wedding,” if you’re paying for the best man’s suit this can be another factor increasing your costs, explains Moretta.

Feeling the social pressure

Taylor reveals that nowadays, “there is a wealth of amazing ideas from wedding websites to Pinterest, packed with inspiring glossy images – all very seductive and I think provides the incentive, and maybe pressure, couples need to set money aside for the big day.” On top of this, “the celebrity influence is also strong. Not just the glossy magazines now, but also social media. Couples see amazing wedding photos and want to emulate the styles.”

Moretta agrees that there are some couples who feel “pressure to have a wedding which looks absolutely perfect as they are aware that everything is so visible via social media.” As a result, they “will compare their wedding with others,” and therefore there’s certainly “an element of anxiety that a wedding won’t be blog or Pinterest-worthy.” This directly impacts their desire to spend more money on their wedding, in an attempt to keep up with these social pressures.

Don’t enter married life in debt

Couple getting married in church

A bulletin released this year by the Office of National Statistics4 revealed that the average age of those entering their first marriage in 2013 was 32.5 for men and 30.6 for women. This is an increase of almost eight years since 1973. On top of this, an Experian study5 has revealed that one in seven couples are forced to delay their marriage due to increasing costs.

Planning their wedding day is undoubtedly important for many Gen O couples – but with growing wedding costs, and the pressure to spend more money, this may be a factor contributing to this generation’s financial worries. Our survey revealed that 34% of Gen O worry about much debt they have – but Smallwood recognises that “no one wants to start married life in debt.” It’s important to consider careful financial planning leading all the way to retirement, rather than using up all your savings on just one day.

However the good news is that “you don’t need to spend a fortune on a wedding.” She tells us that “some of the most wonderful weddings I have attended have been those with the smallest budget,” and “a great wedding is all about expressing your personalities and throwing a fantastic party.” So, with the help of our wedding experts, we’ve put together a range of tips, so that with some sensible savings, coupled with a little imagination, you can afford your dream wedding without breaking the bank.

Plan your big day without paying a small fortune

We've spoken to a range of wedding experts, who have shared their top tips to help you plan your dream wedding day without breaking the bank

Read here

Social pressures burning holes in Gen O’s pockets

Find out about how social and cultural pressures are encouraging this generation to spend more today and therefore save less for the future

Read here

Additional sources

[1]The research was run in consultation with Future Foundation and ICM. The findings are based on 5,000 online interviews among a nationally representative sample of UK adults aged 18 and above, carried out in February 2016 and analysed during February/ March 2016.
[2]Over 2,000 people aged 18-55 who live as part of one six family groups were interviewed to produce the report’s latest tracker findings for Q2 2016, with additional interviews among 18-35s taking the total in this age group to 1,073 for the spotlight on millennials. 

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