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A new wedding guest outfit, time spent with loved ones, and an entire day celebrating romance… these are just some of the reasons we love a good wedding.
But it’s no secret that modern weddings have been slowly undergoing a bit of a makeover. While age-old traditions may still feature regularly, according to our new research, 72% of people have planned (or plan) to introduce at least one non-traditional element in their wedding, while 62% have even planned (or plan) to introduce rules such as no phones at the ceremony and specific codes around wedding guest dresses and outfits.
So, with Gen Z getting ready to enter their marriage era, just what can we expect when attending a wedding today?
We surveyed 1,000 UK participants who are either married, engaged, plan to marry in the future or have been married previously. We wanted to know their plans and preferences when it comes to their dream wedding day - from traditions* they want to ditch and keep to their ideal wedding attire, venue, and rules for the big day. We also looked at how Gen Z weddings differ when it comes to these preferences, and how younger generations are switching up the rule book.
Among those we surveyed, £13,814.62 was the average amount spent or what people would be willing to spend, on a UK wedding. But Gen Z reported they spent (or plan to spend) an average of £23,686.78 - up to 72% more.
Though it’s important to note that inflation will be playing a part here, it’s clear that weddings of today are big business, with Gen Zs paying significantly larger amounts, and 26% more than Millennials, their closest age group.
Much of the UK is open to welcoming new rituals; particularly Gen Z, of whom 84% said they planned (or plan) to incorporate at least one non-traditional element in their wedding.
That doesn't mean that age-old traditions die hard though, as our research found that many common wedding practices don't seem to be going anywhere.
Over half of respondents said that the exchanging of rings is a tradition they wanted to keep, suggesting that some traditions just can’t be replaced. This is followed by people taking the same name as their partner (52%), having that first kiss as a married couple (49%), exchanging traditional wedding vows (47%) and being walked down the aisle (43%).
When it comes to Gen Z weddings though, some of these traditions were less important, with just over a third (34%) wanting to keep the exchanging of rings, and wanting to take their partner’s name (33%). Traditional wedding vows are also much less important, with Gen Z being the only generational group to value the wedding party walking down the aisle together (30%) - a tradition not prioritised by other age groups.
Almost a fifth of people are happy to forego the traditional seating plan and let their guests sit where they want, with this being the most popular non-traditional element amongst those we surveyed.
Writing their own vows was the next popular non-traditional element, with 16% choosing this, along with choosing modern ceremony music (16%), having a relaxed dress code and sending online invitations (15% respectively).
Writing their own vows is even more important for Gen Z, of whom almost a third (29%) would incorporate this into their wedding. A relaxed dress code and online invites are also more of a priority for this generation, with 20% and 24% respectively, and they also seem to be introducing the idea of an alternative guest book, with almost one in five (18%) wanting one for their wedding (more than any other age group).
Rima Barakeh, Deputy Editor at Hitched.co.uk explains,
"We are definitely seeing a shift towards more unique and alternative weddings with social media trends such as anti-bride and anti-wedding growing in popularity."
"Now, more than ever, couples are prioritising weddings that truly represent them as a couple, and for many, that means steering away from certain traditions."
"In our latest National Wedding Survey, planning a wedding that was a true reflection of their relationship was couples’ second biggest priority after having happy guests - both of which came above price!"
"Couples are very much moving towards doing things their way, whether that involves tradition or not."
62% say they either introduced or plan to introduce rules for their wedding, with this figure rising to 82% for Gen Z nearlyweds and newlyweds.
The top five rules likely to be in place at a Gen Z wedding are:
While only 19% are happy for the wedding party to wear white, Gen Z are much more relaxed about this, with 30% being okay for them to wear white (and 24% for ivory).
One in 10 Brits are happy for their wedding party to wear black, whereas this jumps to almost one in five for Gen Zs (18%).
When it comes to wedding guest dress attire, only 15% of Brits are happy for their guests to wear white, vs. 41% of Gen Zs.
"White wedding guest outfits are becoming more acceptable may have something to do with the fact that some brides are becoming less attached to the idea of wearing white themselves," says Rima.
"Tying into the anti-bride wedding trend, searches for coloured wedding dresses are on the rise. Google search results show that searches for black wedding dresses are averaging at 9,900 a month in the UK, the term pink wedding dress gets around 5,400 a month and blue wedding dress sees 3,600 average monthly searches."
“Wedding dress codes are also a growing trend, and with Instagram being the place to share wedding pictures, having black and white dress codes works really well for aesthetically pleasing photographs.”
While Gen Z are the most lenient age group for guests wearing white or ivory to their wedding, that doesn’t mean they don’t still have expectations for the attire of their guests. We quizzed respondents on what they thought were the least appropriate wedding guest outfits, which according to Gen Z include mini dresses, jeans, and flip flops.
The most inappropriate outfits for wedding guests
The most appropriate outfits for wedding guests overall:
“Interestingly, Google search results show that an average of 1,900 users in the UK search for wedding flip-flops every month - but this seems more linked to the couples tying the knot as opposed to guests attending the wedding,” says Rima.
“When it comes to attending a wedding and deciding what to wear, it’s really important to think about the couple’s vision. If a dress code hasn’t been specifically laid out, guests should take the setting and style of the wedding into consideration before choosing an outfit."
“Weddings held at a funfair wedding venue or festival-style tipi are much more likely to have a more casual dress expectation than those which take place in a castle, stately home or religious building - but you can never assume."
June is the most popular month to get married for Brits, apart from for Gen Z, who prefer August for tying the knot. Gen Z are also the most likely to get married in the peak of winter (January- February).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Saturday is the most popular day of the week to get married, followed by Friday. Gen Zs are the most likely generation to get married midweek.
Houses of worship (such as a church or temple) are still the most popular places to get married, apart from for Millennials and Gen X, for whom a registry office is the preferred location.
“A well known fact is that getting married in low wedding season (October - April) will see you pay much less for a wedding venue than in high season (May - September) and getting married on a weekday can also lead to significant savings.
"Spending is at the forefront of many couples’ minds with the cost of living crisis and current economic climate. Because of this, it wouldn’t surprise us if next year we saw an increase in mid-week and winter wedding dates booked by couples looking to save - however I don’t believe this would be exclusive to Gen Z couples."
No matter what style of wedding you’re headed to, we all know these occasions can bring a ton of questions and things to consider. When attending a Gen Z wedding though, there might be some additional things to think about.
Wedding etiquette expert and Hitched Deputy Editor, Rima Barakeh, shares her top tips for being a model wedding guest and helping ensure a beautiful day for the newlyweds.
“1. Whether it’s a Gen Z wedding or not, we always advise wedding guests to do what they can to respect the wishes of the couple. If they’ve decided to go with an unplugged wedding with no pictures or phones, or have requested no children attend, it’s important to adhere to this if you decide to attend.
2. “If you are unsure of what to wear, I’d recommend asking members of the wedding party for guidance rather than bothering the couple, as they will have a good amount of insight into the wedding vision and what would be appropriate to wear. If there isn’t anyone to ask, we’d always advise erring on the side of being smarter, rather than risking being too casual.
“3. If you have any questions or concerns about anything to do with wedding rules or protocols, be sure to raise them as soon as possible. Leaving questions and queries to the last minute will only add to the stress of planning a wedding and are likely to not be received well.
“4. If a couple are planning to steer away from tradition and do things a little differently at their wedding, be open minded about this and remember it’s their day, not yours. We often hear of family members and parents finding it difficult adjusting to younger couples who want to do away with some traditions, and it can be hard to understand, but the last thing any couples need are judgemental opinions about the way in which they want to plan their wedding.
We surveyed 1,000 UK participants in June 2023, on their current, past or future wedding plans. Questions were multiple choice, with the option to provide qualitative data where needed.
Respondents were split by age/generation, gender, city and marriage status.
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