Blame social media for the rising cost of weddings

Wedding couple
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The average cost of a wedding has risen for the fifth-straight year to $32,641, according to The Knot. The culprit behind the skyrocketing costs? Social media and the always-on nature of the internet may be to blame.

"It's really hard for couples to turn off wedding planning," said Kim Forrest, editor at WeddingWire, an online marketplace for the wedding industry. "Before there was the internet, people got inspired through magazines. It was very easy to put the magazine away, and take off your wedding-planning hat and divide your life. Now people are always on their phones. It's really easy to have a browser open at work."

On Sunday, WeddingWire will be taking a "site break." Visitors to the website will be greeted with a pop-up notice suggesting they take the day off from planning in order to relieve some stress. Picking a Sunday was no coincidence: It happens to be the most popular day of the week for planning.

Pinterest and Instagram let brides and grooms peruse endless options for their wedding, and Forrest points out this also leads couples to change their minds when they see something better — which can also be pricier.

"Social media has definitely influenced weddings in a way that couples are seeking larger-than-life ideas," said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, executive editor of The Knot. "I think they are having greater expectations for how their day should look and feel."

Cooper points out that 89 percent of couples are using their smartphones to plan their weddings, meaning their wedding planner is always at their side. To help knock off at least one item on the planning list, The Knot offers The Knot Venue Concierge, a free service where a real person helps couples create a venue list, book tours and sign contracts with venues.

Brides editor-in-chief Keija Minor said the proliferation of choices on social media has also led couples to believe that many of the high-cost wedding features are attainable with the average budget.

One trendy lavish wedding decoration is having a flower wall, popularized by Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's over-the-top wedding. People pegged the cost of the floral decorations, which were made up of tuberose, to be around $136,000. Minor points out, however, that because there are now so many pictures of flower walls on social media, couples think it's a routine decoration.

"It's taken the most extravagant and made it seem standard, because we've seen so much of it," she said.


Maria Paviova | E+ | Getty Images

It's also putting pressure on couples to have a picture-perfect and shareworthy wedding. Every guest is now a wedding photographer, posting pictures to their Facebook feeds or through in-the-moment Snapchats. And, it's leading couples to spend more on personalizing the experience for their guests.

In fact, the WeddingWire's 2015 Newlywed Report says the average number of guests at a wedding has dropped from 130 people to 120 people between 2014 and 2015. However, the cost per guest rose $22 from $218 to $241. About three-quarters of couples now go over budget.

Personalization also now means going above and beyond the actual wedding day, Minor said.

"Our standards for what makes a beautiful wedding is not just the wedding, but it's the events leading up to and after the wedding," Minor said. "It used to be a private experience for you and your friends, your aunts and uncles. All of that is documented on social media now for everyone to see."

At the end of the day, Minor says, it's good to be inspired by these things, but you should remain balanced in your way of thinking. Everyone is going to have a good time, no matter what.

"The things that went wrong, 90 percent of guests never knew or noticed," Minor said. "The other 10 percent say it added to the experience. It's a day that people will have fun — whether you have a flower wall or not."