- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 4, 2017

Big fat weddings are still popular, Greek or not. But they will cost you.

The price of an average American wedding has reached a record-breaking $35,329 as couples seek to provide custom experiences for their guests according to a survey of 13,000 brides and grooms who tied the knot last year.

The most expensive place to get married is Manhattan, where a typical wedding will run $78,464; Arkansas is the cheapest at just $19,522.

“Couples are using their wedding day to make their first big statement as a couple. From invitations to the reception band, couples are spending more to put their personal stamp on every detail,” said Kellie Gould, editor in chief of The Knot, the well-read wedding magazine which conducted the survey.

Those personal stamps include such things as a custom “signature cocktail” created for the bride and groom, photo booths, fireworks, musical performances, dance performers, cigar rolling stations, wine and liquor stations and midway games.

The Knot predicts that aerialists, acrobats, portrait painters, food trucks, live farm animals and gospel choirs will be part of this year’s wedding trends, along with metallic gowns for brides and their attendants.

The survey also revealed that 15 percent of the brides and 18 percent of the grooms reported they got drunk at their wedding, while 19 percent said some guests found a love interest at the event. Nine percent of the couples had a former lover or significant other attending their wedding while 4 percent said their best man had insulted someone during his toast.

Technology is also coming into play. A personalized website for the happy bride and groom is not enough. The survey reports that a fifth of the couples streamed their weddings live on the internet, used aerial drones to record wedding footage or tucked miniature video cameras hidden in the bride’s bouquet for a you-are-there effect.

American couples are not rushing for the altar: the average age of the bride is 29, the groom 31. They invite an average of 141 guests, have five bridesmaids and five groomsmen. The favorite months to tie the knot are September and October, the favorite wedding theme colors for bridesmaid dresses and decor are dark blue, gold and light pink.

And about the bottom line here: The bride’s parents contribute 44 percent of the overall wedding budget, the bride and groom contribute 42 percent,  while the groom’s parents pick up the rest of the bill. Only a tenth of the couples paid for their big day entirely by themselves while 8 percent contributed nothing.

Unexpected locations for weddings are also a must-have. The survey found that only a quarter of their couple were married in “a religious institution.” The rest opted for farms, barns, ranches, public gardens, beaches, museums, wineries and historic buildings.  Destination weddings, defined as taking place at least 200 miles from home, were the choice of 20 percent of the couples. Only 11 percent of these ceremonies were held outside the U.S.

On average, the American bride spent $1,564 on her wedding gown while the groom dropped a hefty $6,163 on the engagement ring. Weddings cakes weighed in at $582 while the officiant for the ceremony received $278.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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