MARRIAGE: WHERE TRADITIONAL MEETS MILLENNIAL
I’m a 23-year-old millennial, and marketers have studied me to death. My generation is defined, above all else, by a relationship with technology. In fact, 1/4 of us say that our relationship with technology is the No.1 thing that distinguishes millennials from other generations. But one thing that marketers don’t usually discuss is how this relationship with technology has affected millennials’ unique sense of self. From online advertising based on our recent Google searches to complete anonymity on message board sites such as Reddit, it’s easy for millennials to feel like they’re just another number in the big data universe. Perhaps that’s why we take such pride in individuality. Ross Douthat of the New York Times predicts that “In the future … there will only be one ‘ism’ — Individualism — and its rule will never end. As for religion, it shall decline; as for marriage, it shall be postponed; as for ideologies, they shall be rejected …”
Though I agree with Douthat in his predictions about the rise of individualism, he is generalizing when it comes to millennial opinions on traditions and institutions. After all, 1 in 4 millennials are currently married, and 30% say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in life, second only to being a good parent. Clearly, the issue isn’t that millennials are opposed to marriage, but perhaps more that the wedding industry is another that makes them feel more like big data and less like individuals — and on the most important day of their lives, no less. Interestingly, marriage seems to be one of few topics where millennials lean away from the individual and toward the traditional. In a recent Friends of Frank survey, we asked engaged and newly married millennial women about their wedding plans. Though they used extremely different adjectives to describe their personal senses of style, ranging from “quirky” to “colorful” to “hipster” to “contemporary” to “timeless,” the majority agreed on a classic vision for their wedding, with 57% characterizing their big day as “traditional, timeless, romantic or elegant.” As a soon-to-be millennial bride myself (cue oohs and aahs), I too fall into the traditional wedding camp. Why? Because wedding planning is a seriously stressful business. There’s a lot of pressure to plan the perfect party to celebrate the most memorable day of my life. And the last thing I want is to look back on my wedding day and regret my choice of trendy yet ridiculous Boho — say, a floral headdress. Though wedding trends come and go, a classic cathedral veil paired with white flowers will never go out of style.
So words to the wise, vendors of the wedding industry: Recognize the dualistic nature of millennial brides. We want our weddings to be unique and personal, but above all, elegant and timeless. We know that we are more than big data — do you?
Pew Research, Millennials: Confident, Connected, Open to Change, 12
The Age of Individualism, New York Times, 2014
Pew Research, Millennials: Confident, Connected, Open to Change, 18
Friends of Frank National Survey, 2015