This Is What American Weddings Look Like Today

How much the average wedding costs is surprising

Updated 01/02/19

Studio Firma / Stocksy United

Settle in, everyone—it’s time to talk weddings! Okay, we know what you’re thinking: When isn’t it time to talk weddings here at Brides? But today, our annual Brides American Wedding Study 2018 has finally arrived, revealing everything you ever wanted to know about the cost, trends, and planning of weddings in America today. Ready to see how your nuptials measure up?

Over the past year, we polled hundreds of engaged and newly married women, discovering the average wedding budgets and favorite trends of real brides. What’s the cost of the average wedding in 2018? What’s the most popular time of year to say “I do?” And who the heck pays for everything? The results are pretty surprising, TBH, and they reveal some key details you should definitely consider while planning your own big day.

For example, the study reveals that more brides have been ditching tradition as of late, choosing to rock modern two-piece ensembles or funky jumpsuits in lieu of traditional white wedding dresses. The use of social media is also on the rise, with 94 percent of brides incorporating technology into their big day. Brides are also saying farewell to the heat of summer weddings. With fall weddings on the rise, couples are opting to tie the knot in September and October instead.

Want to know more? Read on below! Want to know how many bridesmaids a bride decides to have, or the average cost of a celebration? Here’s what a wedding today looks like.

01 of 18

Average Age of the Bride and Groom

So how old is the average bride when she says “I do?” Long gone are days of everyone marrying right out of high school. On average, brides are waiting until 28 to tie the knot, while their partners are usually one year older, at 29. Moreover, 84 percent of couples live together before getting married.

02 of 18

So How Much Does a Wedding Cost, Really?

In just the past year alone, average wedding costs have definitely gone up. In 2017, a wedding typically set couples and their family members back about $27,000, but in 2018, that number increased to more than $44,000, according to the Brides 2018 American Wedding Study, which surveyed more than 800 recent brides and brides-to-be.

03 of 18

How Many Guests Is Too Many?

Guests at ceremony

Photo by Zibetti Photo and Film

Does everyone’s future mother-in-law invite her entire office to YOUR wedding, or is that just you? According to the Brides American Wedding Study, most weddings today have less than 200 guests, with the average being 167.

04 of 18

Average Bridal Party Size

Getty Images

Brides love celebrating with their favorite ladies—85 percent of brides still have a bridal party, and who can blame them! Who doesn’t want to share a champagne toast with their besties ahead of their ceremony? Brides usually pop the bridesmaid question to 5.4 bridesmaids, while there’s 5.3 groomsmen in the average wedding.

05 of 18

Who Pays for What?

So who exactly is paying for all this? According to the American Wedding Study, the number of couples who get their parents involved in the bottom line has hugely increased since 2017, with many of those lovebirds completely removing themselves from the payment plan. In 2018, just 27 percent of couples said they'd fully paid for their wedding, while 42 percent handed off that responsibility to their parents. Overall, just 58 percent of those surveyed contributed to their own nuptials, a nearly 20 percent decrease from 2017.

06 of 18

Fall Is Truly the New Wedding Season

Briana Morrison / Stocksy United

Though it may seem like your calendar is especially packed with weddings as soon as the summer rolls around, contrary to popular belief—and to the entire plot of Bride Wars—June actually isn't the most popular month to get married. In fact, according to the Brides 2018 American Wedding Study, summer weddings overall have decreased by more than 20 percent in the last year, while fall weddings are seeing a steady rise in popularity.

07 of 18

December Is Still Engagement Month

T-REX & Flower / Stocksy United

Of all the brides surveyed, a whopping 28 percent got engaged on a holiday or other special occasion, compared to just 12 percent last year. With December being the most popular time to pop the question, 14 percent of respondents got engaged at the end of the year, and July and August were tied for second, with just over 10 percent each.

08 of 18

More Couples Are Living Together


Maybe it’s finally time to forget the ancient tradition of the groom carrying the bride “over the threshold”? Today, 84 percent of couples live together prior to the wedding.

09 of 18

And Talking Finances Ahead of Marriage

Javier Pardina / Stocksy United

Money does matter! Couples are opening up about the state of their finances, with 97 percent discussing their current debts (student loans, et cetera) and 90 percent revealing their credit scores prior to the wedding. They’re also (smartly) planning for times ahead: 95 percent have shared their future financial goals with each other.

In addition, 41 percent of couples said they opened a joint bank account before the big day and 83 percent began sharing expenses such as rent and utilities. (Probably cause they're already roomies—see above!)

10 of 18

Grooms Are More Involved Than Ever

groom and groomsman laughing happy

Photo by Rachel May Photography

Brides, maybe it’s not all about you. Ninety-seven percent of the ladies we interviewed said their partners are “involved” in planning the wedding—and 36 percent went as far as to say they are “very involved.”

11 of 18

All About the Wedding Dress

Bride in window with veil

Photo by Kelly Anne Berry

While brides this year were less likely to choose a traditional white or off-white wedding dress—83 percent versus 92 percent in 2017—they are much more likely to wear a veil. Call it the royal wedding effect but a whopping 76 percent of 2018 brides chose a veil, compared to 47 percent in 2017. Brides are also really embracing trends, with jumpsuits and separates becoming more popular and after-party looks up from 7 percent to 14 percent year over year.

12 of 18

Bridal Salons Top the Shopping List

A view of Loho Bride, a bridal salon in LA and San Francisco, California.

Courtesy of Loho Bride

Bridal salons remain the number one shopping stop for brides-to-be, with an overwhelming 66 percent of those polled going the salon route for their wedding dress. Brides are also spending considerably more on the dress—from $1,562 in 2017 to $2,260 in 2018.

13 of 18

What the Groom Is Wearing

Claire Eliza

Grooms are also choosing to balk with tradition, with 53 percent choosing to wear a suit to the wedding rather than a tuxedo. Perhaps because 57 percent of grooms are choosing to buy their formal-wear instead of renting them, groom attire spending is also up: $602 average in 2018 versus $328 in 2017.

14 of 18

Ditching Traditions

Bride and groom dancing

Photo by Sara Lobla

In 2018, couples continued the trend of moving away from long-standing wedding traditions and toward meaningful personalization.

The tradition most often excluded in 2018 won't come as much of a surprise: Per the study, only 32 percent of couples did or planned to do the traditional throwing of the garter, compared to a full 50 percent in 2017—probably because it's become increasingly seen as anti-feminist. Another major drop came courtesy of the bouquet toss, included in less than half of 2018 weddings. Additionally, fewer couples bought into the idea that it's bad luck to see your spouse-to-be before the ceremony, with only half of respondents abiding by that old superstition, versus 61 percent in 2017. First-look photo sessions apparently are more important.

15 of 18

Personalization Is on the Rise

Photo by Rebekah Jackson Photography

Instead of partaking in old-fashioned traditions, the study showed that couples are introducing more customization into their big days. Nearly half of those surveyed wrote their own vows, up from 2017's 42 percent. Almost as many served a favorite food or drink at their wedding and handed out personalized party favors, while 38 percent came up with a signature cocktail. D.I.Y. decorations and non-traditional wedding cakes (think: cupcakes, pies, and doughnut walls) were other ways in which couples spiced up their weddings. And about one in five brides said they incorporated their or their partner's ethnic or cultural traditions into the ceremony.

16 of 18

To Change Your Name or Not to Change Your Name

Cross going to the the DMV off your post wedding to-do list. In keeping with the theme of brides becoming less traditional, the American Wedding Study found that less women are taking their partner’s last name after the wedding—just 76 percent this year said they plan to, while 82 percent wanted their partner’s last name in 2017.

17 of 18

Social Media Is Where the Inspo Lies

Getty Images

The American Wedding Study found that 82 percent of brides (up from 69 percent in 2017) use social media to find inspiration for their big day—more so than wedding-specific blogs and magazines. Pinterest was their first source, with 87 percent turning to the digital mood board for creative ideas, while 76 percent scrolled Instagram for wedding content.

Double tap if you can relate to this: In 2018, 98 percent of brides flocked to social media to find and vet wedding vendors, with 83 percent (up from 63 percent in 2017) saying they visited a vendor’s social media account before deciding to hire them. And 68 percent (up from 53 percent) revealed that they showed their vendors' ideas from social media. Almost half, 48 percent, even purchased wedding items from social media posts and ads.

18 of 18

It's Engagement Season All Over Your Social Media Feeds

Chelsea Victoria / Stocksy United

While a phone call to your closest friends and family is what etiquette calls for when announcing your engagement, 54 of brides polled say that most of their friends found out about their engagement through social media. Just make sure you take some time for you and your fiancé to bask in that newly-betrothed glow before telling all of Instagram.

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