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Study shows wedding scene seems to be returning to normal

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Ceremony backdop (copy)

Marysa Wilson and Patrick Heisterkamp enjoy their wedding day. A Knot study revealed that many factors impacted by COVID in 2020 are back to pre-pandemic numbers.

Omaha skydiver proposes to his boyfriend during a jump, and also makes a big landing during the reception.

Get ready for lots and lots of weddings in 2022 — 2.6 million compared to the pre-pandemic average of 2.2 million, according to The Knot’s 2021 Real Weddings Study.

The study revealed that many factors impacted by COVID in 2020 are back to pre-pandemic numbers. Only 10% of couples needed to change their wedding location in 2021 (45% in 2020) and in 2022, 98% of those set to wed are confident their wedding will take place as scheduled.

Lauren & Alex

In 2022, 98% of those set to wed are confident their wedding will take place as scheduled. The third time they tried to marry was the charm for Lauren Brandt and Alex Olinger, who had a fairytale wedding at the Orpheum.

Guest count started to rebound by the end of 2021 (110 in the second half of the year) and the 2022 average guest count is expected to be on par with pre-pandemic guest size at 129.

The Knot study provides a comprehensive look at how weddings unfolded this past year, as well as an understanding of what we should expect for the 2022 wedding season.

The data came from the responses of 15,000 couples who were married in 2021.

Some other key findings:

2021 weddings at a glance:

In 2021, 85% of couples incorporated at least one health and safety measure into their wedding, with three on average.

On average in 2021, couples spent $34,000 total on their wedding, including ceremony, reception and engagement ring, back in line with 2019 spend. That average jumped to $84,000 in New York City.

The average age a couple got married was 34 (33 for women, 35 for men) and over 50% of couples dated for two to five years before becoming engaged.

Couples who wed in 2021 were engaged for an average of 16 months and 75% of those who got engaged in 2021 have already set a date for 2022.

75% of couples utilized digital wedding planning platforms, like The Knot, and 84% created a wedding website to share their wedding details with guests.

On average, couples hired 14 wedding professionals — from florists to planners — to help them plan and execute their weddings.

Kath and Sam

The flowers for Katherine and Sam Riggs’ wedding were done by EverBloom. On average in 2021, couples hired 14 wedding professionals − from florists to planners − to help them plan and execute their weddings.

22% of weddings took place in October, and four of the five most popular 2021 wedding dates were during this month.

Alberts in October

Since Chase Alberts is in the Army, he and bride Cassie Noble did a saber ceremony with his West Point and Army friends for their grand entrance. They were married in October, the most popular wedding month in 2021.

“Couples, guests and wedding pros alike are demonstrating how far we’ve come in the last two years as the desire to celebrate is stronger than ever. This year will not only be the year with the most weddings in recent history, but also starts to welcome the next generation of couples — Gen Zers — getting married,” said Lauren Kay, Executive Editor of The Knot. “Gen Z is a uniquely diverse generation and particularly eco-focused; as a result we’re seeing personalization take center stage like never before.”

Looking ahead to 2022 weddings

Looking ahead, 75% of couples who got engaged in 2021 have already set a date for 2022. Summer and fall will continue to be the most popular seasons to get married with 65% of couples choosing to wed during this timeframe. For the sixth year running, October is poised to be the most popular month to get married (17%) with October 22, 2022 as the busiest date.

Ninety-eight percent of those set to wed in 2022 are confident their wedding will take place as scheduled. While the reality of Omicron is top of mind, couples feel confident that they can move forward with their wedding plans and 81% will implement at least one health or safety measure on their wedding day.

Providing hand sanitizer is the most common (53%), followed by requiring staff to wear masks (40%). Sixteen percent of couples will require testing or for guests to be vaccinated (30%). The average guest size in 2022 is projected to return to pre-pandemic numbers at 129 (131 guests in 2019).

Health and safety remains top of mind

party favor

Hand sanitizer was a party favor at this wedding.

According to the study, healthy and safety measures remained top-of-mind in 2021 with 85% of couples incorporating at least one health and safety measure into their wedding. The average guest count in 2021 was 105 guests (compared to 131 in 2019), though numbers differed in the first half of the year compared to second half due to vaccine availability and weather.

Average guest count for January through June weddings was 94 compared to 110 guests for July through December events. Couples in the Midwest averaged the highest number of guests in 2021 at 128, whereas weddings in the West had the smallest average count at 90.

On average, 17% of couples provided a virtual viewing option for guests unable to attend in person.

As vaccines became more widely available and travel became less restrictive, 73% of couples who married in 2021 were able to carry forward with their original wedding date, while the remaining 27% were couples who were initially slated to get married in 2020 (most who postponed from fall and summer of 2020, 60%).

Of the 27% that had to postpone until 2021, 81% had delayed both their ceremony and reception, while 19% had delayed the reception only. Nearly 20% of weddings in 2021 were destination weddings (up 10% from 2020) — meaning outside of a couple’s hometown or where they currently reside — and about half of those destination weddings were hosted in international locations. This is back in line with pre-pandemic numbers for destination weddings (21% in 2019).

Wedding pros lead the way

As COVID restrictions continue to evolve, wedding professionals are more prepared than ever before to navigate unforeseen changes and guide their couples through any situation. The average engagement lasts 16 months (24 months for those that needed to postpone) and nearly 50% of couples agreed that planning a wedding during COVID was one of the biggest challenges.

Couples enlisted an average of 14 wedding professionals to assist in planning, which is back in line with 2019 levels (15 vendors). The top wedding professionals couples hired were for the wedding dress (93%) and venue (88%).

More than 70% of couples indicated reviews were very important when deciding which vendors to contact.

Couples prioritize personalized experiences and sustainability

Personalization continues to be a priority for couples who want their wedding day to be a true reflection of themselves and their relationship (59%, up 4% from 2019).

paddleboard

Sydney Norris purchased two gowns, in case she fell in the water during her paddleboard wedding to Logan Smolla. Personalization continues to be a priority for couples who want their wedding day to be a true reflection of themselves and their relationship.

One in five couples marry someone with a background different to their own and 60% find it important to incorporate their ethnicity, religion and/or culture into their celebration.

Couples are further personalizing their reception with food and beverage options, such as signature drinks (36%, up from 29% in 2019), late night snack options (26%) and dessert options other than cake (61%).

Castner Wedding Reception Decorations (copy)

A sign on the wedding table of Chelsea Borrenpohl and Luke Castner. Lemon and red velvet are their favorite flavors. The study found couples spent on average $266 per guest, up from $214 in 2019, offering guests open bars (79%), champagne toasts (51%), interactive food experiences (11%) and personalized favors to round out the night (56%).

It is also increasingly important to be conscious of the environmental impact of weddings, as nearly 70% of couples say they did/will put some or significant effort into incorporating sustainable elements into their day, such as opting for recycled paper invitations, renting items and minimizing food waste.

Guest experience takes the cake

Findings from the 2021 Wedding Guest Study3 indicate that guests looked forward to weddings more than ever, as 50% said they loved attending weddings (up from 39% in 2019), while 68% of guests were also willing to spend more on weddings (as a result of a year+ of quarantine) — most commonly spending more on gifts from the couple’s registry.

On average, guests spent $160 on a wedding gift in 2021 (up from $120 in 2019), with the average overall cost of attending a wedding being $460.

In return, 73% of couples wanted to ensure that their guests are well taken care of. The study found couples spent on average $266 per guest, up from $214 in 2019, offering guests open bars (79%), champagne toasts (51%), interactive food experiences (11%) and personalized favors to round out the night (56%).

To keep the party going, 27% of couples hosted an after party following the reception and 26% of couples hosted a day-after brunch for guests.

Marjie Ducey's Favorite Wedding Stories of 2021

OWH Wedding Essentials writer Marjie Ducey looks back at her favorite wedding stories of 2021.

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