The First Look Report 2022

Zola surveyed 3,309 couples to figure out what they want from their 2022 weddings and how they're making it happen.

By Lindsay Dolak

Couple getting married in a field
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

2022 is set to be one of the biggest wedding years ever. To paint a clear picture of what we can expect at weddings this year, Zola surveyed 3,309 couples to figure out priorities, feelings, budgets, themes, values, and just what will make these weddings different than ever before. One major finding: 2022 weddings are personal, and they should be! Couples are really leaning into the whole “it’s your day” thing—and we’re thrilled to see it. Let’s dive in.

After longer-than-average engagements, 2022 couples are planning with more intention, excitement, love and specificity than ever before.

First thing’s first: couples getting married in 2022 have been engaged on average 18 months. This is a huge shift from the average engagement length of 12 months prior to the pandemic. Most of these couples got engaged in December 2020 and hit the ground running with their wedding planning in January 2021. They made it through a pandemic together! And, surprisingly only 17% of 2022 weddings are postponements, so the vast majority of these couples (83%) purposefully spent extra time curating everything from their invite list to the invites themselves to the color scheme and vendors hired.

  • 40% feel more excited than ever and are counting down the days
  • 42% say it’s more meaningful now to be able to celebrate with loved ones
  • 28% are just really ready to party
  • 59% feel closer to their partner than ever after wedding planning together

What’s more: 25% of couples also let us know that they’re sharing the wedding planning responsibilities evenly with their partners. As it should be if you ask us, and that’s a trend that we hope continues to grow! 🥰

After a wait like that, it’s finally time to party—and couples are having on average 3+ celebrations in addition to the big day.

The other events couples are throwing:

  • Bach Party: 81%
  • Rehearsal Dinner: 80%
  • Wedding Shower: 68%
  • Reception After Party: 37%
  • Goodbye Brunch: 30%
  • Engagement Party: 26%

Guest lists are getting longer again, with couples more focused on who exactly they want to be surrounded by at all of their celebrations.

After all of this time spent planning, couples have some feelings on who should join their reception conga lines, and honestly, we’re here for it. There’s nothing worse than getting back an RSVP card with a handwritten “+4 please! 😊.” Invite lists are getting longer again, with 2/3 of couples inviting 100+ guests. But, they’re not reverting back to exactly the way they were. Not only did the pandemic impact the way we love and wedding plan, but it amplified a desire for togetherness. It drove many of us closer together. We see this clearly reflected in wedding guest trends for the coming year.

The full invite count breakdown for 2022:

  • Keeping it small (under 30): 3%
  • 30 - 50 guests: 4%
  • 50 - 75 guests: 9%
  • 75-100 guests: 17%
  • 100 - 150 guests: 33%
  • 50 - 200 guests: 22%
  • 200+ guests: 13%

Guest lists may also be growing again because when it comes to kids and +1s, couples are being generous, too.

  • 47% are inviting children and 10% of those are making it a family affair with their own children in attendance!
    • But 35% are requesting their guests get a sitter if they can. An additional 21% say absolutely do not bring your kids!
    • 62% are extending a +1 to anybody in a serious relationship
    • An additional 26% are extending +1s to any guest who wants one

That said, though, couples are still being intentional with their guest lists, reflecting on all relationships: 23% of couples are uninviting guests to their wedding, with four big reasons why:

  • #1 - The relationship has changed and they no longer want them in attendance
  • #2 - They had to downsize their guest list
  • #3 - They found their values no longer align with these guests
  • #4 - They did not feel that these guests were COVID-safe

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Weddings in 2022 cost anywhere from $5k - $100K, with more than ⅔ of couples going over their budgets

With a longer-than-usual engagement period combined with more time at home, there are plenty of opportunities to rethink and reprioritize wedding plans, and many couples are happy to stretch their budgets if it means wearing their dream attire, decorating with the lushest flowers (seasonal or not), or dancing to the most memorable DJ. 69% of couples are spending more $$$ than they originally budgeted for two main reasons.

  • They found that wedding costs are more expensive than they anticipated
  • They’re willing to spend more to get exactly what they want

It’s no wonder couples are a bit lost when it comes to budget planning. After all, most articles say the average cost is $30K for a wedding in NYC or Des Moines. We found that 27% of 2022 Zola couples have budgeted $10,000 - $20,000 and 31% have budgeted $20k-$40k, but otherwise, budgets are really stratified—from <$10K to >$100K.

“Average” wedding costs are anything but average. When all unique wedding planning variables are considered—think location, seasonality, even personal vibe, plus current setbacks such as supply chain issues driven by the pandemic —the truth is that a dream wedding can happen for any amount of money.

Here's the full breakdown of spend from our survey:

  • $5,000 or less: 5%
  • $5,000 - $10,000: 11%
  • $10,000 - $15,000: 14%
  • $15,000 - $20,000: 14%
  • $20,000 - $30,000: 18%
  • $30,000 - $40,000: 13%
  • $40,000 - $50,000: 9%
  • $50,000 - $75,000: 9%
  • $75,000 - $100,000: 3%
  • $100,000 or more: 2%
  • Prefer not to answer: 2%

Yes, going over budget is scary, but hear us out. If you do your research, talk to vendors and other couples in your area, and make a list of priorities before you even start your planning, you’re much less likely to overdo it. It’s so important to start with a clear picture of what makes sense for your wedding goals and your area before you start writing any checks.

Couples continue to cover their own wedding expenses, opting to invest in party elements and their dream vendors who also align with their values.

In 2022, ⅓ of couples are covering all of their wedding costs on their own, and another 41% of couples are paying in part. So, it’s a really big deal for these couples to be deciding to splurge, especially as many were also financially impacted by the pandemic and a wedding is not the only major expense on their plate.

Here’s what couples are most willing to splurge on:

  • Photographer: 73%
  • Open bar: 60%
  • Venue: 55%
  • Attire (wedding dress, suit, shoes, etc.): 47%
  • Catering: 42%
  • Music: 38%
  • Hair & Makeup: 31%
  • Flowers: 27%
  • Videographer: 27%
  • Cake: 14%

And here are the other post-wedding priorities they’re focused on financially:

  • Travel & Honeymoon: 77%
  • House / Apartment: 73%
  • Student Loans: 47%
  • Cars: 39%
  • Other debt: 25%
  • Starting a family (including fertility treatments): 23%
  • Other medical expenses: 10%
  • A child: 10%
  • Other large purchase: 3%

56% of couples also said they’re intentionally speaking with their wallets when it comes to choosing vendors. Many view their weddings as an opportunity to support small businesses in their local area, as well as an opportunity to highlight vendors who align with their own values.

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Specificity is the theme of 2022 weddings.

These weddings are going to be specific—really specific. Let’s take wedding colors, for example. Yes, moody earth tones are in for 2022, but we’re not just talking “brown” and “green” here. When given the option of every color in the rainbow on our survey, 31% of couples wrote in to tell us exactly which shade they’re going with. We said “red” and they said “burgundy,” “maroon,” “sangria,'' “wine,” “oxblood,” “cabernet,” “chianti” … you get it.

So, the Top 2022 Wedding Colors are:

  • Reds: (see above)
  • Greens, but really: sage, olive, hunter, emerald, and eucalyptus
  • Blues, but really: navy, dusty blue, turquoise, and teal
  • Pinks, but really: blush, mauve, dusty rose, desert rose, coral, and peach
  • Metallics, but really: champagne, copper, gold, rose gold, silver, and bronze
  • Oranges, but really: terracotta, rust, burnt orange, cinnamon, and clay

Pro Tip: Whether they’re searching for an exact color name or a family of shades, couples can find inspiration featuring their favorite hues via Real Weddings on Zola. Seriously, even “eucalyptus.”

And it doesn’t stop there. 36% of couples are opting for a personal wedding theme—and they know exactly what they want and are letting their personalities shine through. We’re talking everything from “light Jurassic Park theme” to “witchy meets European countryside” and “night out in Brooklyn” to “classy Carnival.”

The strong opinions extend to tech, too—and couples are on both sides of the aisle.

It wouldn’t be a 2022 wedding survey without some mention of how tech is playing a role in these ceremonies. 26% of 2022 couples met on dating apps, so these weddings truly wouldn’t even be possible without the wonders of modern technology! But, couples are divided on how to incorporate tech to balance between sharing their dream day and making sure everyone stays present to enjoy it.

  • 44% of couples have a wedding hashtag (and when your theme is “midcentury starburst,” you better ✨)
  • 40% are asking guests to completely disconnect (which after nearly two years on Zoom, we really get)
  • 11% are streaming their wedding to loved ones who can’t attend in person
  • 7% are using a QR code in some way
  • And of course, 100% are doing a lot of wedding planning online (through Zola!)

Couples are connecting with vendors, sending digital save the dates, ordering invitations, and shopping for their registries online more now than ever before, and they’re constantly looking for new ways to automate the planning process. All of the new innovation in the world of wedding technology is only making wedding planning easier and more fun, giving couples more time to focus on what matters most—being in love!

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Traditions are taking new forms as couples personalize their ceremonies.

If 2022 weddings are more unique and more personal, what does that mean for traditions? Because 2022 weddings are such a personal reflection, couples are pretty divided on the value of the traditional American wedding customs*.

  • 53% find value in participating in the same traditions as family & friends
  • 41% are indifferent
  • 15% find them outdated

We found that couples are cherry-picking one or two traditions that they like—and finding new traditions to replace the ones they’re leaving behind. Plus, 43% are incorporating at least one or a few meaningful cultural traditions. That’s everything from chuppahs to Chinese tea ceremonies to Celtic handfasting.

In fact, 20% of couples are hosting multipart celebrations and 28% of those couples are doing so just for cultural or tradition-based reasons. The others are splitting their ceremonies up for COVID safety (21%) or for financial reasons (12%).

It’s also worth mentioning that ⅓ of couples say they feel some level of pressure to incorporate traditions by their family, friends, partner, or culture/society in general. Hey, for a lot of couples, wedding planning comes with a bit of outside influence—it’s totally normal.

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  • We defined these as the customary traditions associated with American weddings that are not specific to an individual’s culture, religion, or family traditions. These include (but are not limited to) bouquet & garter tosses; being walked down the aisle by father/parent; something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue; etc.

Want to see all the data? Contact press@zola.com for a full breakdown and for any other media inquiries.

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