For our annual First Look Report we surveyed close to 7,000 couples getting married in 2024 about what, why, and how they’re planning for their weddings. From this data, we highlight the year’s top wedding trends. Here’s what we found.
We surveyed close to 7,000 couples with wedding dates in 2024 about what, why, and how they’re planning for the coming year. What did we find out?
In 2024, there are many reasons couples want to have a wedding, but most of all, they want to have the fun party that they’ve been dreaming about forever. And, party is a good word to describe what 2024 has in store with guest lists stretching to 145, inspiration stemming from influencers, couples selecting venues based on vibe, and splurging on the best photographers to capture every memory.
But, in response to a challenging economy, love does cost a thing. Weddings in 2024 do come with an average higher price tag than last year, with the average cost of a wedding hitting above the $30,000 mark.
Our report also identifies how evolving trends and consumer behavior has influenced the journey – couples are using Artificial Intelligence tools to help with planning, incorporating inspo from viral celeb #WeddingToks, selecting off-peak dates to save money, and registering for even more cash funds as they cover many wedding costs themselves. Expect garden parties galore, short-personalized ceremonies officiated by loved ones, loads of late night snacks, mismatched wedding party style, multi-day parties, and, overall, a huge amount of energy, authenticity and love.
Couples getting married in 2024 may just be the next generation of wedding planners, and they've truly enjoyed the journey. 18% of couples describe their experience deciding on wedding details to be so amazing, they would do it for a living. With carte blanche to get creative, access to free tools that allow you to plan from anywhere, and wedding experts to guide you along the way - what’s not to love?
In fact, many couples are so into planning, they aren’t waiting for a ring to get started. And, why should they? 89% of couples are beginning the wedding planning process before formally getting engaged, and of these, 17% took, what is in our professional opinion, a very concrete step in their journey before any question was popped. They either: booked a wedding venue together, created their wedding website, shopped for wedding attire, created their wedding registry, asked loved ones to join their wedding party, and/or sent out a save-the-date. Yes, we said booked, not just looked. 297 couples booked their wedding venue before officially, as society defines it, getting engaged.
Here’s what this tells us about today’s engaged generation – just as modern couples are very purposeful in deciding to have a wedding event, they are also very purposeful in how they are getting engaged and planning every day along the way. The ring, while still bursting with meaning and likely lab-grown, is not the first step towards forever. The majority of couples have been together for on average 5 years, already live together (88%), have combined their finances (40%), and have discussed exactly when they’ll be getting engaged (25%). We also can’t discount that 100% of these couples have been together for what can only be described as a memorable half a decade including a global pandemic, a teetering economy, fights for human rights and marriage equality. 2024 couples are simply practical, with eyes on the prize – each other – and we’re here for it.
Even with the best intent, it’s statistically significant to say that wedding planning is a glass case of emotion. Exciting was by far the most common feeling used to describe wedding planning. But, a comparable number of couples told us wedding planning is simultaneously stressful and fun, special and overwhelming, full of love and unexpected, and inspiring while absurd.
What part of the process is most overwhelming? If we had to guess, we might point to the 44% of couples who are experiencing family drama while wedding planning, or the 39% who said their parents/guardians have made the process more difficult. But, the #1 pain point of the actual to-do list as ranked by couples continues to be creating and managing their budgets, followed by creating and managing their guest lists, and booking their vendors. This is no surprise, considering 90% of 2024 couples are contributing financially to their weddings, with 30% covering every penny themselves. Luckily, Zola has innovative tools like a budget tracker, a guest list manager, and a vendor marketplace to help couples with all three of these pain points.
Now, onto the most fun stuff besides the parties themselves– a definitive look at the emerging trends for 2024.
Couples also took to the “polls” to settle some very hot button issues. A few first looks: wedding hashtags, donut walls and dessert tables, bouquet tosses, and long ceremonies are decidedly “out” while diamond alternatives, pearls, outfit changes, kid-free weddings and mismatched wedding party attire are very “in”. A few debates remain too close to call including required guest dress-code, elaborate exits and choreographed first dances.
As much as we wish hashtags and dress-codes were the biggest sources of stress during the process, we know planning a wedding can be a minefield – both financially and emotionally. In 2024, the average cost of a wedding will increase from 2023 (link), hiking above the $30,000 mark as more couples than last year budget between the $30k - $40k and $40k - $50k buckets. While this number may set off sticker shock, economic changes have impacted the cost of goods and services across many industries. In 2023, 83% of Zola wedding vendors reported that the cost to run their business had been driven up by inflation.*
With the average cost of a wedding going up, couples are finding creative ways to save, and spend wisely. The #1 reason Zola couples choose digital save-the-dates is because they are completely free and easy to send. 56% of couples thought budget-first in selecting their wedding venue, and 14% chose an off-peak date, aka a not-summer-or-fall Saturday. 87% of couples are adding personalized cash funds to their Zola registries, using this money to not only help cover some wedding costs, but also post-wedding financial priorities such as the first purchase of a home. The number of couples adding cash funds is up 6% from 2023, which at the time we believed to be an all-time high.
It’s also important to call out that, even as we work alongside members of our industry everyday to celebrate and support all love, we know the journey is not equitable for many couples including members of the LGBTQ+ community. In our own data there is a noticeable divide in comparing who contributes financially to sexual orientation. It’s true that the vast majority of all couples contribute financially, but it’s also true that a larger percentage of LGBTQ+ couples, in comparison to heterosexual couples, are responsible for covering wedding costs:
And, the overall balance of wedding planning responsibilities is…very unbalanced. In fact, for millennial couples, the stereotypical assumption that one person will take on the majority of wedding planning responsibilities is the #1 societal expectation they want to change. In contrast to the financial data above, LGBTQ+ couples generally have a more positive experience sharing wedding planning responsibilities equally. But, between women and men who are marrying each other there is a clear discrepancy about time spend:
Several truths can exist here–regardless of identity, most people who opt into a lengthy wedding planning survey are likely very interested in wedding planning and/or are assuming a significant amount of responsibility during the process. While the data speaks for itself, it may also be true that the men who answered our survey are very much active participants in the process.
As much as we work to promote progress and inclusivity in the wedding industry, and watch it evolve alongside technology, social media, and consumer trends, the vast majority of couples, 83%, believe that at least one societal expectation is due for a change. For Gen-Z, toxic wedding diet culture and the expectation for the bride’s family to pay for the wedding rank just slightly above the imbalance of responsibilities. For many couples who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, gendered wedding parties, being “given away” and representation of weddings in media and popular culture beg for further disruption.
Through it all, couples are there for each other, and that’s what it’s all about. For most to-be-weds (79%), their partner is their absolute rock for every day along the way. After the fun party that is a 2024 wedding, 87% of couples are using their cash funds to help pay for their dream honeymoon. They’re prioritizing purchasing a home together, starting a family, paying off debts, and simply taking a breather to enjoy married life.
Want to see all the data? Visit our all-the-data breakdown here, and contact email@example.com for any media inquiries.
Q & A
A lot goes into wedding planning, don't do it all at once. Here are the must-do to-dos the first month after you get engaged.
Everything you need to know to find values-based wedding vendors.
While setting your wedding budget may not be the most exciting item on your planning to-do list, it is an important first step. Avoid the financial headache by tackling one of the most confusing questions for many couples: how to set your wedding budget.
Here’s a look into where our 2023 couples’ love stories started.
We’ve got wedding planning advice on everything from save the dates to wedding cakes.