Prolonged Engagements Are the New Norm in the U.S.
A combination of factors has contributed to engagement lengths nearly tripling over the last 30 years. Escalating prices, fierce competition for venues, and the absence of the previous social stigma associated with prolonged engagements have caused the time from "will you" to "I do" to balloon to an average of 14 months.
TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com released their study findings in March based on surveys of over 17,000 brides. Interesting findings included: average length of engagement (14 mos.), average wedding budget ($28,427), and average number of guests (139). Regional breakdowns revealed that the length of engagements in the Middle Atlantic region (NJ, NY, PA) exceeded the national average, checking in at nearly 16 months. Additionally, a study conducted in 2012 by the Wedding Paper Divas revealed that 69% of engagements in the U.S. last longer than 13 months.
Unsurprisingly, the cost associated with weddings in major cities was astronomical. Ceremonies in New York ($76,687), Chicago ($49,810) and Boston ($39,239) all cost well above the national average. U.S. Census data also revealed that since 1980 the average marrying age has jumped from 22 to 29 for brides and from 25 to 31 for grooms.
L'Oreal Thompson, the Arts & Entertainment Coordinator for The Baltimore Sun, covers weddings in Greater Baltimore and can attest to longer engagements becoming the new normal.
"I think this a new trend among people in our generation, that 20s to early 30s crowd. Many of the couples I interview for the Baltimore Sun also have that one-to-two year engagement period," said Thompson.
She believes the economics surrounding the big day play an integral role. Thompson continued, "one of the reasons (for longer engagements) is to save money. These weddings are a lot more expensive now than they were in previous generations. I see a lot more couples being fiscally responsible, as they're trying to pay off their credit card debt or student loan debt before they get involved in a marriage."
After the economic hurdles have been cleared, many couples face logistical issues with their ideal venue. Thompson explained, "securing a venue is so competitive now that you have couples who book venues years in advance. When you're competing against some of these so-called 'Bridezillas' out there that really want a particular place, you have to be willing to book one-to-two years out."
With financial and logistical issues standing in the way of fast tracked weddings, lengthy engagements no longer carry negative connotations. It will be interesting to follow these trends to see if we've hit a wall in terms of engagement lengths and average age of those tying the knot.