Over 55 and in love: Seniors make up 8 percent of wedding business
Couples age 55 and older made up just 8 percent of last year's $53 billion wedding business. But that number has doubled since 2002.
SherryLynne Heller-Wells always wanted a fairytale wedding.Skip to next paragraph
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So when she tied the knot last year, she spared no detail. She walked down the aisle in a flowing ivory gown with a long veil and lacey bolero jacket. Ten flower-toting bridesmaids and seven groomsmen were in the wedding party. And after the ceremony, 100 guests dined on beef tenderloin, clams casino, and a three-tier vanilla cake.
The cost, including a fireworks show during the reception, was $45,000.
Heller-Wells wasn't some blushing new bride, though. When the retired registered nurse, 64, wed her husband, Clyde, a small-business owner who is 65, it was her second time at the altar.
"I met my Prince Charming. He swept me off my feet," says the Clearwater, Fla., widow whose first husband died in 2003. "We're hoping this will be the last marriage. Why not celebrate?"
Only a few years ago, it was considered in poor taste for a bride over age 55, particularly if she had been previously married, to do things like wear a fancy wedding gown, rock out to a DJ at the reception or have the groom slip a lacy garter belt off of her leg. But those days are gone: Older couples no longer are tying the knot in subtle ways.
The trend in part is being driven by a desire to emulate the lavish weddings of celebrities of all ages. But it's also one of the results of a new "everything goes" approach that does away with long-held traditions and cookie-cutter ceremonies in favor of doing things like replacing the first husband-and-wife dance with a group reenactment of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. That's left older couples feeling less conscious about shelling out serious cash to party like their younger peers.
"The rules are out the window ... whether it's what you're wearing or the cake you're serving," says Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings, a wedding magazine. "Sixty is the new 40 and that is reflected in the wedding."
Couples age 55 and older made up just 8 percent of last year's $53 billion wedding business. But that number has doubled since 2002, according to Shane McMurray, CEO of The Wedding Report, which tracks spending trends in the wedding industry.
It's in part because more couples are marrying in their golden years.
In 2011, women ages 55 and over accounted for 5.2 percent and men in that age range made up 7.9 percent of the more than 2.1 million marriages performed in that year in the US, according to Bowling Green State University's National Center for Family and Marriage Research, based on analysis of census figures. That's up from 2001 when 2.6 percent of new marriages performed were among women in that age group; for men, it was 6.6 percent.
And those older couples spend more. That's because they're usually empty nesters who don't have the same worries as their younger counterparts: They aren't saving for their first home, for instance, and they aren't burdened by huge student loan debts they must worry about paying off.