Fellow millennials, let’s talk engagement!
But we don’t just mean the period before your wedding day; we're also referring to the ways in which you and your guests will interact come the official launch party of your latest branding venture—Married You™. Any successful brand nowadays appreciates the importance of engaging an audience by providing them with a quality experience.
So, our friends over at Wedding Wire small-talked with just shy of 1,000 wedding guests to figure out which ceremony and reception features they were really feeling and which aspects they hated or didn't care about at all. And while we’re mostly kidding with all the millennial-speak above, it turns out the younger generation actually does have a very different approach to planning and attending weddings than their Generation X counterparts.
"Millennials are all about that experience," says Wedding Wire trend expert Anne Chertoff. "They're focusing on creating an aesthetic—through food, drinks, entertainment, whatever—that they as a couple love and want to share with their friends."
Meet the Expert
Anne Chertoff is a Wedding Wire trend expert and has experience in lifestyle media, video production, websites, social media, and podcasts.
For the millennial attendees’ part, they’re most excited about dressing up, dancing, and visiting a new place. They’re also paying way more attention to décor (42 percent) than Gen Xers (27 percent). But what they’re not about is messy drunks on the dance floor or the specifics of your escort cards and ceremony readings.
"Thinking about what people are looking forward to and paying attention to can help couples figure out where they should put their effort," says Chertoff. "Spend your time and money on what you’re really excited about and also things that your guests are really excited about for a much more meaningful day."
Read more fascinating findings—including regional trends and wedding guest "confessions"—below for even more insight on how to throw a wedding that pleases you and your crowd. May you reach all of your engagement and engagement goals.
Handle With Care…or Don't
This editor personally thinks that food is the most important detail of life in general, and the masses agree it’s priority numero uno for wedding receptions, as well.
"It used to be that you never expected wedding food to be good," says Chertoff, who thought this particular survey result was most interesting. "You’d always just get a dry piece of meat. Now, food is such a focus. Guests are looking forward to what surprising thing the food is going to be, and couples really want something different and really good. They want their reception to feel like a dinner party at their home or favorite restaurant or even their favorite pizza food truck."
Alternatively, Chertoff says you may want to stop putting so much care into things your guests couldn’t care less about. "It’s interesting that the little details everyone likes on Instagram or Pinterest are things that guests aren’t really paying attention to," she says. "People need an escort card to tell them what table they’re being sat at, but maybe you don’t have to have a calligrapher engrave each person’s name on theirs. Make it pretty in a less expensive way."
Top 8 Ceremony Details Guests Value Most (and Are Paying the Most Attention To)
- Bride’s dress
- Bride’s entrance
- Couple’s vows
- Ceremony location (setting, area, etc.)
- Look on groom's face when partner enters
- Bridesmaids’ dresses
- Ceremony venue
Top 8 Ceremony Details Guests Value Least (and Are Paying the Least Attention To)
- Ceremony language and/or readings
- Person officiating the wedding
- Groom’s attire
- Wedding programs
- Other guests (people watching)
- Length of ceremony
Top 8 Reception Details Guests Value Most (and Are Paying the Most Attention To)
- Entertainment (photo booth/props/etc.)
- Couple’s entrance
- Reception location (setting, area)
Top 8 Reception Details Guests Value Least (and Are Paying the Least Attention To)
- Escort cards
- Extra amenities (flip-flops, toiletries)
- Bouquet or garter toss
- Couple’s grand exit
- Table settings
Top 10 Overall Pet Peeves for Guests at Weddings (in Order from Most to Least Obnoxious)
- Drunk guests
- Not knowing anyone else at the wedding
- Bad music and/or DJ
- Traveling far or to an inconvenient location
- Having to sit and/or mingle with strangers
- The cost of travel/accommodations
- No open bar and/or dry wedding
- Wedding toasts (i.e., too long, bad speech, etc.)
- Needing to take time off work (9 percent)
- Sitting through all the dances (i.e., first dance, parent-child, etc.)
While cost showed up at number six on the list, survey says that on average, guests spend between $665 and $1,065 to attend a wedding (depending on travel arrangements) and another $230 on gifts purchased prior to the celebration for showers or other parties.
Where to Care
Some of the regional nuances were funny—guests from the northeast are more likely to take more than one favor (29 percent) versus those from the Midwest (16 percent), and Wedding Wire teases it must be the pressures of more expensive rent—but others could be helpful for planning.
"It’s good to know the expectations of your guests," says Chertoff.
For example, guests from the northeast pay more attention to reception music than Midwesterners. Party people from the West Coast pay more attention to the entertainment (photo booths, props, etc.) than those in any other region. The friendly folks of the south are generally more excited about meeting new people than everyone else.
"If you’re getting married near Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world, it might be worth researching unique specialty entertainment ideas," says Chertoff. "These days, you can do things like hire mermaids as your waitstaff if you're so inclined. If you’re getting married in the south, it’s nice to know you can probably count on southern charm at your rehearsal dinner. Plan to include your guests from out of town, and expect people from home to be super friendly and hospitable. That’s the wonderful thing about having this information at your fingertips: You don’t have to act on it, but little things spark ideas and you can draw some kind of inspiration."
Millennials Vs. Generation X (a Comparison, Not a Competition)
On one hand, all wedding guests are there for the same reason....or are they? While millennials are checking out the décor, Gen Xers are checking out people, paying more attention to other guests during the ceremony than the next generation. One of the most surprising findings, however, is that the older guests are paying more attention to the alcohol situation than kids these days.
"Millennials grew up through the recession—when people lost their homes, savings, everything," reminds Chertoff. "So, they're a bit more cost-conscious about things. To have a top-shelf open bar isn’t necessarily something they’d want to spend money on. And nobody—nobody—should have a cash bar."
Enter more branding opportunities—down to the tap water.
"Millennials will have flavored water or ice cubes infused with edible flowers or fruit," Chertoff says. "They’re also thinking about specialty bars. They’re more likely to be like, 'You know what? We really like bourbon.’ They save money doing a bourbon bar or a whiskey bar or a martini bar. We’ve seen boozy milkshakes. We’ve seen hired professional baristas set up little Starbucks stations. We’re seeing millennials focus on drinks in different and creative ways."
And what you’ve saved in drink considerations could go toward some killer music for the dancing almost half of your guests are there for, because, as Chertoff notes, "Music can make or break your wedding."
The 8 Things Wedding Guests Are Most Excited About (Broken Down by Generation)
- Celebrating the happy couple All: 68% Millennials: 63% Gen X: 73%
- Catching up with friends/family All: 63% Millennials: 60% Gen X: 65%
- Free food All: 50% Millennials: 52% Gen X: 42%
- Dancing All: 41% Millennials: 46% Gen X: 31%
- An excuse to dress up for the night All: 36% Millennials: 38% Gen X: 28%
- Meeting new people All: 32% Millennials: 31% Gen X: 27%
- The bar All: 30% Millennials: 30% Gen X: 41%
- Visiting a new location All: 27% Millennials: 31% Gen X: 20%
All About the Giving
In perhaps yet another exercise in personal branding, while the majority of guests select shower gifts from the registry, millennials prefer to find their own and are less likely to give money gifts than Gen Xers. Millennials are also more likely to select sale or discounted items and strive to find something "unique and meaningful to the couple."
One last cross-generational tidbit about "giving" for ya: Of polled wedding guests who provided an answer, more than one in four of them mentioned that the weirdest registry item they’ve ever seen was "adult paraphernalia.”
Good from the Bad
Finally, we reach a wedding altar call of a different sort. Here’s a list of the percentages of wedding guests who confess to these conventionally frowned upon "offenses."
"People who crashed a wedding? That’s funny. And if it’s edible, I’m the person taking more than one favor," says Chertoff. "But some of this stuff is important for planning."
If 35 percent of people never visit a couple’s website, that means 65 percent, i.e. the majority, of people did, she points out. Make sure you have one—with attire guidelines, registry information, and some detailed directions. "They might not really care about who the members of your bridal party are, but they’re going to need to know where they’re going," Chertoff says.
And if more than half of your guests are snapping photos and almost a third are tagging them with a wedding hashtag, maybe you want one.
"This is a really great snapshot of the country in general, but you also know your friends," Chertoff says to millennials, specifically. "If your friends are really into tagging people on social media, then create a hashtag and figure out where you can place it so people can see it. And, you’ll get to see the photos. The bride and groom are only seeing so much of the day. Having people tag photos allows you to see their experiences and the fun that they had."
Solid advice since if you’re reading this article, we can probably assume you care about both of those things.
31 Wedding Guest Confessions
- Used your phone to take photos of the couple during the wedding 51%
- Took shoes off during the reception 38%
- Never visited/viewed the couple’s wedding website 35%
- Judged the wedding against your own and/or others you’ve attended 31%
- Thought the bridesmaids’ dresses were ugly 30%
- Tagged a photo on social media using the couple’s #hashtag 28%
- Attended the wedding even though you thought the marriage was a mistake 27%
- Posted a photo of the couple on social media during the wedding 27%
- Took more than one wedding favor 23%
- Wished you could have turned down a wedding invitation 22%
- Called the bride/groom to ask for wedding details 22%
- Didn’t like the bride’s dress 21%
- Arrived late to the wedding ceremony 18%
- Hit the open bar too hard 17%
- Were part of someone’s wedding party that you didn’t want to be in 16%
- Didn’t know the bride or the groom 13%
- Gave someone a lesser gift than they gave you for your wedding 12%
- Went to a dry wedding where you brought your own alcohol 11%
- Attended a wedding where you had a previous relationship with one of the marrying individuals 10%
- Declined being in someone’s wedding party 10%
- Tried to hit on a member of the wedding party 10%
- Pushed someone out of the way to catch the bouquet and/or garter 9%
- Didn’t attend a wedding at the last minute (even after RSVPing yes) 9%
- Brought a guest even if you didn’t get a plus-one 9%
- Had your phone ring out loud during the ceremony and/or reception 8%
- Attended the bach/bachelorette party but not the wedding 8%
- Wore white as a guest 8%
- Fell asleep during the ceremony 7%
- Brought your children even if they weren’t invited 6%
- Objected, or witnessed an objection, during the vows 6%
- Crashed a wedding 3%