“You May Kiss the Mask:” How Covid-19 is Changing Wedding Culture
Sat, April 10, 2021

“You May Kiss the Mask:” How Covid-19 is Changing Wedding Culture

 

The world may continue to maintain social distancing after Covid-19, creating a new normal for weddings across the world. / Photo by LL_studio via Shutterstock

 

The way a wedding is celebrated varies across cultures. In Western weddings, the bride wears a white gown, which is a symbol of purity while African weddings embrace the tradition of “jumping the broom” to signify sweeping away the old and making a way for the new beginning. Chinese weddings carefully pick a date based on the couple’s birthdates and astrological signs to cement their good fortune.

In India, a pre-wedding Mehndi party is celebrated as a way of wishing the bride good health and prosperity while a typical Japanese wedding begins by conducting a purification ritual called “san-san-kudo.” Drinking sake from the three shared bowls during the ceremony signifies that the bride and the groom are sharing the sorrows and joys in life. These are only some of the interesting wedding practices before the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, as the pandemic unfolds, the wedding industry faces a challenge, and couples have to downscale their celebrations.

 

Tying the knot amid the Covid-19 pandemic

US news provider NBC News featured the story of Emily Stanton, who wanted every detail of her wedding day to be perfect but now becomes excited at the idea of getting married in a sundress in her backyard.

Stanton and fiancé David Pilley are one of the many couples planning to downscale their ceremony in light of the pandemic.

Even though fewer people were getting married around the world before the global health crisis, the growth of the wedding industry has been believed to be unstoppable. This was partly due to the assumption that the increasing expenditures on weddings will also expand revenue in the industry even if the global marriage rates dropped. Another reason why the wedding industry grows is because of the Wedding Industrial Complex.

 

 

The Wedding Industrial Complex

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Professor of Sociology Barbara Risman previously explained the Wedding Industrial Complex, a relationship between policymakers and businesses within the industry, comprising dressmakers, event planners, caterers, limo firms, reception halls, photographers, jewelry designers, and bands, among others. This idea of nuptial extravagance has been fed into women’s heads the moment they watch a Disney movie. It has shaped every girl’s dream of becoming princesses and brides. Magazines and TV shows repeat this idea enough and encouraged a conspicuous consumption, she added. It led to the idea of having a big wedding party to create a statement to the world that two people are now a couple and their families are now one family.

 

This idea of nuptial extravagance has been fed into women’s heads the moment they watch a Disney movie. / Photo by Ksenia Vovk

 

While there is nothing wrong with having a big wedding celebration, overspending is a problem. Splurging the majority of people’s income into a single event without thinking about what comes after could compromise the quality of their future. The 2019 Real Wedding study by wedding planning brand The Knot shows that couples spend an average of $33,931 on weddings. In 2014, the average national cost of a wedding was $31, 213. The study highlighted how couples are both emotionally and financially invested in their weddings.

 

 

Average costs for a wedding in the US

The average costs for a wedding in the US in 2017 comprise the venue/reception hall ($15,163), engagement ring ($5,764), reception band ($4,019), photographer ($2,630), florist or décor ($2,311), ceremony site ($2,311), wedding or event planner ($1,988), videographer ($1,912), wedding dress ($1,509), rehearsal dinner ($1, 285), reception DJ ($1,231), transportation ($80), ceremony musicians ($761), wedding cake ($540), invitations ($408), groom’s attire and accessories (286), officiant ($284), favors ($252), and catering – price per person ($70), according to database company Statista. It surveyed 13,000 respondents in the US who are 18 years and older.

 

 

Who are today’s newly-engaged couples?

From how couples met to the length of their engagement and their guest count, today’s couple is changing it up compared to the previous years. In data provided by wedding platform WeddingWire, 71% of today’s newly-engaged couples date 2 years or more before getting engaged, 88% have spoken about their future finances, 41% have traveled outside the US together, 1 in 4 met online, 27% own a home together, 49% have a pet together, 74% discussed if one person would change their last name after getting engaged, and 27% grew up in different countries or regions.

 

 

As Covid-19 unfolds, many couples choose to downscale their wedding celebrations. It is not only for safety considerations but US record shows that many people filed for unemployment benefits during the lockdown. While spending most of their time at home, the would-be brides were also inspired to reevaluate their priorities. Things they once thought were non-negotiable for the big day are now considered superfluous as the virus pandemic has pushed millions of people into extreme poverty.

Pilley, who serves in the US Army, said that things have become uncertain, such as the number of guests, the groomsmen’s suits, and getting a marriage license. For now, he just hopes he and his fiancée Stanton would be able to get married before he is deployed in September. He's fine with the possibility of having the wedding according to their plans or with only the two of them.

Miranda Geng is also a bride-to-be. A month ago, she and her fiancé rescheduled their May wedding to November and the guest list of 150 became 50. She also opted to have more economical floral arrangements, which she originally planned. Her fiancé is a teacher and his working hours have been reduced. “I saw the reality of what I was spending on one day and it was a wake-up call,” she told NBC News.

Geng added that her mindset completely shifted and she began to consider the wedding as a regular party. She also realized that she had been influenced by her friends who had grand events.

 

Streaming a wedding online

Covid-19 has robbed the world of thousands of lives, employment, and freedom. Would it also mean giving up a dream wedding? Couple Micah and Alyx’s answer is no.  Although their initial plan “fell to pieces,” as narrated by daily newspaper The Guardian, their reason to get married hardened.

With government regulations allowing a maximum of five people at the wedding, the couple streamed their wedding online. They used the online events platform HopIn, which allowed guests to send private messages and have video chats with them, too.

The world may continue to maintain social distancing after Covid-19, creating a new normal for weddings across the world.