Wedding Statistics

BRIDES American Wedding Study 2011

June 17, 2011 – New York, NY – BRIDES, the #1 brand in the world for reaching engaged women, has once again conducted the American Wedding Study, the quintessential analysis of spending and behaviors around wedding planning that provides key insights to the emerging and established trends surrounding this economically charged life phase.


Results of the 2011 BRIDES American Wedding Study show couples doing more with less; overall wedding spending has decreased slightly but there are more events surrounding weddings (double digit increases for wedding weekends, destination weddings, engagement parties, and bachelorette parties) and the wedding itself incorporates more elements and more personalization than ever before.

Couples are blending old with new, preserving select traditions like the first dance and cake-cutting but bidding farewell to sit-down dinners and buffets in favor of cocktail hours and passed hors d’oeuvres. Nearly 10% of all weddings feature a “man of honor” or “best woman”, 14% of couples are married by a friend or family member ordained for the occasion and 11% of couples make charitable donations on behalf of their guests.


* The average wedding cost is $26,501, slightly more than a 5% decrease from 2009 when the average cost was $28,082 but up $8,000 since 2002.

* The reception accounts for 36% of wedding costs, with an average price tag of $13,367.

* Outside of the reception, the largest chunks of money are going to photography/videography ($3,367), wedding rings ($1,495) and flowers ($1,426).

* The average wedding cake costs $480.

* The current average cost of an engagement ring is $4,647, a 27% decrease from 2009’s average engagement ring cost of $6,348.

* Average wedding dress cost is $1,289, which a 20% increase since 2009 when the average cost was $1,072.

* The average bridesmaids dress costs $134.

* Everyone pitches in to pay for the wedding and surrounding events.

* Brides- to-be are the primary contributors for the bridesmaid’s luncheon (60%), wedding ceremony (57%), wedding weekend (53%) and post-reception party (47%).

* Together, 68% of brides and grooms are paying for their honeymoon.

* The brides’ parents are focused primarily on paying for the wedding reception (58%), next-day brunch (44%) and engagement party (36%).

* His parents are still paying for the majority of the rehearsal dinner (60%).

* Their friends take charge of the bridal showers (72%) and bachelor/bachelorette parties (88%).


* December is still the most popular month of the year to get engaged (18%).

* Length of engagement has increased from 14 months in 2009 to 15.4 months in 2011.

* The majority (63%) of brides-to-be provided input on their engagement ring, with over one in five (21%) actually selecting the ring themselves. This is an increase of 9% versus 2009.


* 91% have a honeymoon (14% increase since 2009).

* 35% have an engagement party (+21%).

* 22% have a wedding weekend (+38%).

* 15% have a destination wedding (+25%).

* 87% have a rehearsal dinner.

* 86% have an average of 2.3 bridal showers.

* 34% have a post-wedding brunch.

* 24% have a post-reception party.

* 5% have multiple ceremonies.


* She’s buying her wedding dress 9 months before the wedding.

* Average wedding dress cost is $1,289, a 20% increase since 2009 when the average cost was $1,072.

* Today’s bride is also spending another $581 on wedding day accessories, jewelry, headpiece and veil.

* 1 in 2 purchase from an independent local bridal salon, with another 29% buying from a national bridal chain.

* 84% of brides wear something old, new, borrowed and blue.

* Close to half (45%) will box up their dress to pass it on. Another 10% will either sell their dress, give it to another bride or re-cut/remodel to wear again.


* Nearly half of couples (48%) wed in the city or town where they currently live, with 23% returning to their family’s hometown for the occasion.

* One in ten engaged couples (15%) have a destination wedding, which is an increase of 25% from 2009.

* Of those having a destination wedding, they are staying an average of 6 days/nights on location and their guests are staying 3 days/nights.


* The majority of weddings (91%) have a maid/matron of honor, one out of ten (10%) include a man of honor.

* 89% of wedding parties have a best man and 7% have a best woman.

* In addition to a maid/matron of honor and best man, the typical wedding party features 4.5 bridesmaids and 4.5 groomsmen/ushers for a total of 11 people in the main bridal party.

* The average bridesmaids’ dress costs $134.

* 62% of wedding parties also include a flower girl and 53% feature a ring bearer. 4% also include their pets.


* The average number of guests is 152.

* The majority of brides-to-be (67%) would categorize their wedding as semi-formal in contrast to casual (19%) or black-tie (13%).

* 38% of receptions are described as classic or traditional. 30% are described as intimate or modern (24%), a 76% and 71% increase over 2009.

* Traditions are still important:

* 91% of weddings feature the cutting of the cake

* 90% of weddings incorporate a first dance

* 87% of weddings include celebratory toasts

* 68% of brides throw the bridal bouquet (down from 74% in 2 years)

* 57% of grooms throw the bride’s garter (- 65%)

* Only 4% of weddings feature guests throwing rice.

* 20% now have a photo booth.

* 11% now make donations to charities in lieu of favors.

* 3% have started including professional dancers or comedians for entertainment.


* 93% of couples register for wedding and shower gifts.

* On average they register nearly 7 months (6.7) before the wedding – or 9 months after their initial engagement.

* The average engaged couple joins fewer than three registries (2.7).

* 82% of engaged couples register through a combination of in-store and online. Only 17% of engaged couples register strictly online.


* Couples spend $582 on gifts for each other. The #1 gift from bride to groom is a watch; the #1 gift from groom to bride is jewelry.

* They’ll also spend an additional $760 on gifts for parents ($254), bridesmaids ($268) and groomsmen ($238).

* #1 gift for bridesmaids is jewelry; #1 gift for groomsmen is liquor related (flasks, shot glasses, steins or premium liquor).


* Liquor has increased in importance with 92% having some type of bar, toast or signature cocktail and liquor or alcohol glassware gifts for groomsmen doubling since 2009.

* 1 in 5 use a mobile app to help plan, shop for or register for their wedding.

* 17% use a social media app to plan, shop or register.

* Nearly 1 in 5 couples are now using evites or emails to invite guests to the wedding or save the date.

* The #1 theme for weddings is beach, tropical, luau.

* 14% of couples have a friend or family member ordained in order to perform the ceremony.

* Only 42% will have either a sit-down or buffet meal. Instead, couples are opting for cocktail hour (58%), passed hors d’oeuvres (46%), dessert stations (28%), food stations (19%), picnic/barbeque (5%), sushi chef (2%), wine tasting (2%), food trucks (1%) or cheese mongers (1%).


Respondents were women ages 18+, either engaged or married within the year. The sample included women who have visited or Brides magazine subscribers, representing more engaged women than any other media outlet. A total of 2,985 qualified surveys were evaluated. Respondents were surveyed between April 15 – April 28, 2011.


In over 75 years of publication, BRIDES has remained the most widely read magazine in the category and the country’s foremost authority on engagement, weddings, and marriage. BRIDES, and 16 brides local magazines are published by Condé Nast, a division of Advance Publications, which operates in 25 countries and is home to some of the world’s most celebrated media brands.

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