Has Wedding Planning Gotten Easier?

The answer to this question is, well, yes and no.** But first, let’s start with the pros of planning a wedding in the twenty first century.

What used to be spreadsheets, paper checklists, and over-priced ‘full service’ wedding planning agencies are now all-encompassing, integrated platforms such as WeddingWire and Zola. Each site, launched in 2006 and 2013 respectively, offers brides and grooms the opportunities to plan every aspect of his or her wedding online, from creating a personal website and managing a guest list to ordering physical invitations and flower arrangements.

Zola, having proved itself to be worth $140 million in VC funding over the past six years, has recently emerged as a strong new leader in the $72 billion wedding industry. The company has even grown to establish a brick-and-mortar store in New York City this past year, following the familiar ‘clicks to bricks’ trend many analysts have observed in recent years. Here, couples can test out gifts to put on their registries, 3D print custom cake toppers, and even calm their nerves in a tranquil CBD lounge. This new hot spot for marriage hopefuls has been accurately dubbed “the Apple Store of weddings” by FastCompany.com.

Nowadays, finding inspiration for weddings has become equally as simplified. Of course we all know that Pinterest is a huge factor in ideation, as well as platforms such a Instagram and Tumblr, and media outlets like Brides.com and The Knot. Crowdsourcing and setting aside ideas has essentially become effortless. This often leads to the ability for couples to pinpoint creative methods of cutting costs, and even the improved capability to research, design, and execute a destination wedding without ever even needing to step foot on location before the big day.

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in the world of wedding planning these days.

Competition, competition, competition. Because it is so easy to find inspiration for a wedding on the internet, the pressure to make the day perfect is insurmountable. Constant, unrealistic wedding expectations are almost forcefully imposed on millennials to look up to, often times whether they are actually even getting married or not. As one might expect, this can be very negative, even detrimental for any and all of those even remotely involved in the planning process.

And it’s not just the size of the cake or the color coordination of the flower arrangements that brides and grooms need to worry about. Let’s not forget about the infamous wedding hashtags and Snapchat geofilters. In the present social media climate, these are almost absolute necessities, which only contribute to the pressure experienced by wedding planners in that they now know the amounts of photos posted by guests at the event will be exponential. So, if every little detail isn’t perfect, people will know.

Given all the new circumstances of wedding planning brought on by social media and digitization, the average price of a wedding has also increased steadily over the years. Today, the national average cost is said to be approximately $33,931 (which excludes the honeymoon). This obviously varies state by state, but a study conducted by The Knot attributes this inflation toward the hyper-personalization of affairs, in addition to couples going above and beyond in order to make sure all of their guests have an exceptional time on their big day. Consequently, the average spend per guest has increased from just $194 in 2009, to $268 this past year.

As for the future of the wedding planning industry, predictions are varied. On one hand, many argue that the traditional couple who thinks that hiring an in-person professional is the only path to perfection will never cease to exist. Further, the concept of an ‘unplugged’ wedding has begun to emerge as a way for couples to combat the pressure and distraction of social media on their actual wedding days, allowing the minds of their guests to be more present.

On the other hand, many believe that the role of a traditional wedding planner is slowly becoming obsolete. Shan-Lyn Ma, the founder of Zola, told TechCrunch that “this generation of couples is getting married at an older age than before — they’re professionals and they have busy lives, so they want tools and services that are easy to use on mobile and online.” Even engagement ring shopping has begun to move online, as sites like Ritani allow individuals to virtually build engagement rings specific to style and price point.

Overall, the future of the industry is wildly uncertain. It would be difficult to conclude that ‘WedTech’ is just a fad, but there is no guessing what wedding planning trends will take place in the future. One thing I can say for sure though, is that the involvement of digital business has drastically transformed both the idea and costs of achieving an ideal wedding. Whether the process has actually gotten easier… well, that is for you to decide.

**Disclaimer: I am 21 years old and have neither tried to plan nor assisted in planning a wedding in my sweet, young and innocent life. HOWEVER, I did spend my summer at Wayfair, where an office wedding shower is held every other week, so I’d like to think I have a practical understanding of the subject matter.

10 comments

  1. I love how you took such a monumental and unforgettable event in our lives and discussed the implications of technology on it in almost all aspects, from planning to the actual day to the aftermath of it. Growing up, I’ve always been a huge wedding fanatic. One of my dream careers was to be a wedding planner, which is funny because you mentioned how the role of a traditional wedding planner is becoming obsolete. As sad as I am to admit this, I couldn’t agree more. Nowadays, we’re all our own wedding planners. I’ve discovered Zola last year, and I honestly thought it was a genius business idea. I find it fascinating how you can literally plan out every detail on this platform. It gives you all the necessary tools and resources to plan your perfect day. Eliminating a wedding planner also eliminates any possibility of miscommunication and the disparity between two visions. It allows you to be in full control of your special day. I didn’t know that they opened up a brick-and-mortar store, but again, it’s a genius business idea because people want to be able to see and experience firsthand the tangible elements of their wedding. Social media has also played a major role in weddings, increasing the social pressure as all eyes are watching through their screens. I’ve been to plenty of weddings where they had very punny hashtags to either showcase the event or have it on hand to look back on one day. It’s like a digital storage of memories from that day that is accessible to anybody. I was most surprised when you mentioned how the price of weddings have increased by so much. I would assume that planning everything online without a personal wedding planner would cut down costs by a lot, but I guess not! I think the impact of digital business will continue to transform the wedding industry, uprooting old traditions and replacing them with new ones. It’s exciting to witness and anticipate. Loved this blog!

  2. dilillomelissa · · Reply

    This was such an interesting perspective on the wedding industry! I had always been such a fan of all wedding movies and the idea of planning my own wedding someday. I’ve had a lot of friends recently go through the process and it actually seems like a nightmare. The pressures of social media are at an all-time high. I didn’t know about Zola until your blog, so I thank you for that! It’s truly an incredible tool. The older I get, the more I don’t want to take part in all the hoopla. Or, maybe it’s just that I understand the financial consequences more. My cousin is getting married this summer and his stories are always about what him and his fiancé are cutting from their wedding, including guests, because of all the expenses. My mom loves to lecture me on what she did for her wedding compared to what is done today, even though I’m not even close to getting married. She doesn’t understand the engagement photo shoots and extraneous details, and she’s right! One idea you mention regarding picking out an engagement rings online truly does not resonate with me. While I think it’s fun to look online, there is no way I’d actually be able to decide without being in person. I’m curious to see where the industry turns next. Great blog!

  3. I love your disclaimer at the end as well as this post! I completely agree that with the presence of social media, the pressure to have the best wedding has increased. I even see wedding pictures on my instagram explore page and I find myself mentally criticizing the dresses and venues. It’s crazy that on a day that is supposed to be so intimate, people still care so much about what other people think. At the end of the day a wedding should be a moment that a couple shares together, but sometimes it turns into a show that is more for others. I also think that wedding planners will die out because so much of what we do is online. With virtual assistants growing as well, I think many people will lean towards finding help through an app. Really great take on the wedding industry!

  4. I’m at the stage in my life where it seems like everyone around me is getting engaged and married and as exciting as it is, it seems SO STRESSFUL. I love the fact that sites like Zola exist to make the process a more seamless one for the bride and groom, as well as the guests, while on the other hand, I feel like social media can have a negative impact on the planning process. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Instagram and Pinterest and all things wedding, but the amount of comparison that comes along because of these apps and sites and everything being documented by everyone in attendance can seem overwhelming. I’ve actually been to several weddings where the bride and groom ask their guests to keep their phones away and let the photographers capture the special moments from the day, especially since that’s why they paid to have them there. I think this can be a slightly aggressive tactic, but it also makes sense. It allows people to be more present, rather than worrying about getting the perfect shot to put on Instagram to show off the wedding you were at. This was a really interesting post and I think you did a great job of highlighting how technology and social media can affect just about everything, even weddings. It also made me think about my future wedding (whenever that happens to be) and not going to lie, made me sort of nervous to even think about it…

  5. Honestly I had never considered the idea of being a wedding planner as profitable, until I worked for one in high school. I worked for a Florida based wedding company called Gulf Beach Weddings and they too are in on the “digitize everything” mentality after they recently invested into creating a interactive customizable wedding setup on their website. So I think your blog begs a great question, What hasn’t been or shouldn’t be touched by technology? Weddings were a prime candidate with all of the infinite detail and planning necessary. However, I recently saw in the news that a doctor delivered a patient his terminal diagnosis via a robotic doctor (Skype on wheels). It’s beginning to seem like anywhere we can incorporate tech in our lives, we’re all for it. Until it crosses some intangible line…

    1. Great point, I totally agree. It seems odd to think that couples could have spent months on Zola or WeddingWire planning their big day, and then request an “unplugged” wedding on the day of. You’d think that if the goal is to be more present in the event and what it’s really all about, a real wedding planner would be the better way to go. But I think this is mostly a financial thing — wedding planners are expensive! I don’t think Zola or WeddingWire target couples would have otherwise hired a wedding planner, but couples who definitely could not afford a wedding planner, but still need some assistance. I think cost often goes into the determination of what ends up being touched by tech. Even that doctor delivering a terminal diagnosis via a robotic doctor could have been driven by cost; maybe that doctor was based far away from the patient and the patient could not afford another trip to the doctor’s office. So I think that intangible line has to intersect at some point with our financial valuation of a tech-free experience…interesting to think about!

  6. Interesting spin. My first thought was that you had already planned and had a wedding yourself. To even be aware of the new digital tools and wedding planning companies software is impressive. From being in over five weddings to attending over 25, the pressure and demand to top it off are unfathomable. I worked at a boutique hotel in NYC in charge of just marketing and PR. The focus of our event space is dedicated to brides who would pay $75k just for the physical space of the wedding, followed by catering and bartending costs, flowers, decor, event planners, videography, bands, the list could go on. I think back to the time my parents got married on the property of their business school in Chicago with a low key dinner. The expectations and pressure to have the best day of a bride and groom’s wedding come true seem to be good to be true. If these digital platforms and use of social media were not in the picture, I think there could be a step back to a traditional wedding where all of the additional bells and whistles were removed. Having digital planning platforms set the stage for these grandiose events and contribute to the unsurmountable pressures.`

  7. A recent surviving brother and groomsman of a sister who just planned a 300 person wedding this past October I appreciate this post. Weddings have always been a huge deal in my family I’ve had at least 2 a year since I was the age of 16, I have a lot of cousins, and scary enough my sister’s 300 person big day in my family is considered “a small wedding.” Each one has been very different and it has been interesting to see what has changed over time with technology, for example magnetic save the dates were in, but now if you’re a couple without a website what are you even doing. That photo booth with the cardboard cut outs of the couple is now replaced with GIF booth. It has been amazing to see, I will say that I can see the days of event planners going away in a similar fashion to travel agents. Why go to someone when you can customize what you want on your time. The digital age has also changed the competitive nature in my opinion, it is much easier to create envy when the couples can see Snapchats, instagrams, and facebook posts other couples big days. My sister got married 2 weeks after my cousin, we had to have 3 Snapchat filers because my cousin had 2 at hers…

    Great post!

  8. One of my former students used to work at the knot, so I learned a whole lot about digital and wedding that semester! Nice post.

  9. This was a great topic to read about! When my husband and I were planning our wedding two years ago, I leveraged these types of digital resources to generate ideas and help me stay organized through the planning process (I also had a lot of help from my mom, who basically was a free wedding planner!). However, while it was helpful to have so many digital resources available, it also made me feel really overwhelmed at times to have so many options to choose from. Do I make my wedding website on Wedding Wire or The Knot? Which is the best shade of navy for bridesmaid dresses? I love Pinterest for many reasons, but I actually ended up taking a break from it during that time – there are only so many flower arrangement ideas you can look at before going crazy! My perfectionist nature aside, I do think these resources are a great way to help couples access information quickly and keep everything organized so everything they need is a click away. It will be interesting to see how “WedTech” continues to evolve!

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