MS. REBECCA SHEIR
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome to "Metro Connection," our special Valentine's Day edition. So you meet someone, you're attracted to this person, you fall head over heels in love, you date a while, one of you pops the question, you plan a wedding, you walk down the aisle, you live happily ever after. Going from one step to another sounds ever so simple, right?
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Well, as we all know, it isn't. But an associate professor at George Mason University is here to help, with one of those steps anyway. Dr. Maggie Daniels specializes in weddings, especially planning weddings. She co-authored a book on the subject and teaches wedding planning and management, one of the only college classes of its kind in the country. Kavitha Cardoza met with Dr. Daniels to talk about preparing to tie the knot and the many trends we've seen in weddings through the years.
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
A wedding today sure isn't the same as a wedding in the 1950s. Take age, Daniels says, most brides used to walk the aisle at 20. The average age nowadays is 29 and the average age for grooms used to be 21. Now, it's 30. She says almost all the differences stem from women becoming more educated.
DR. MAGGIE DANIELS
The number one reason for that is they're getting advanced degrees and because of that they want to complete the master's degree, the PhD before they marry. Simultaneously, it has changed who is paying for the weddings. Research shows that over 30 percent of brides and grooms are footing the bill themselves. Because of that, to me, one of the exciting trends, the grooms are so involved with the decision-making process. They're very interested in where the money is going.
Daniels says the composition of the bridal party has changed, too.
For example, a man of honor instead of maid of honor and the bride will say, you know, my best friend is male, why should I have to push that person to the other side of the bridal party? Or what we have seen celebrities do, which has then moved into the general public, are things such as incorporating dogs into the bridal party.
And you know the interesting training that goes into those. And so now there are whole books devoted to how do you train your cat or your dog to walk down the aisle. You know, I think that the whole idea now is this sense of movement away from traditions. What can we do to be cutting edge? What can we do to be different? What can we do to be memorable?
And to do that, couples are willing to spend more money. She says nationally the average wedding cost is $20,000, but the Washington metro region splurges a little more at $32,000. The cost can vary by place and season. For example, in Mclean, Va. last summer, she says the average cost of a wedding was a $120,000. Daniels says there's a lot of research looking at how gorgeous movie stars playing brides on the big screen influence weddings. She calls it the quest for perfection, detailed in a national survey of wedding behavior.
The quote that we like to use that came out of The American Wedding Study is that, "bridal transformation is an extreme sport." In this study, we see that brides are spending, on average, seven months just in terms of their personal preparation. They're getting their hair color changed, they're going into extreme cross training, they're changing their teeth. They're doing all of these sorts of things.
The concern then becomes that, you know, you got engaged with that person loving you exactly like you were and so the social implications are that somehow we're not satisfied with how we are going into the process that we have to become absolutely perfect.
Couples plan for a wedding for seventeen months. In the past, it was just a year, but Daniels says while the timeline has lengthened, there's a sense of urgency about individual decisions. Take a couple searching for a place to hold a wedding.
My own primary research focused on over 260 venues and the expectation for the communication from a vendor is immediate. For example, if you contact a reception venue and they don't get back to you within four hours, that you move on.
Many traditions are still evolving. There's a recent trend known as trash the dress.
When you look at the 1940s, 1950s, the dress was almost a sacred item. And now what we find are brides who are saying, let's go in the middle of a mud bog and just jump right in and get some photojournalistic images of this or let's set the dress on the fire and see what that looks like or let's play paintball in the dress. And this is an interesting movement in terms of, okay, I'm really edgy, but it also speaks to our disposable society.
But Daniels says while many aspects of a wedding have changed over the years, one thing has not.
That moment when they pledge their devotion to one another is timeless -- is absolutely timeless.
A moment not even passing trends and technology can change. I'm Kavitha Cardoza.
Dr. Maggie Daniels teaches wedding planning and management at George Mason University. For more on her class and her book, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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