Weddings: the return to tradition

Futurologists who prophesied that in the '80s youth would turn practical and manners would go formal will find both predictions somewhat confirmed by current trends in weddings.

Or so a survey suggests, based on current polls plus interviews with bridal registry consultants, the editors of Bride's and Modern Bride magazines, and a few of the 2.3 million brides who are expected to walk down the aisle before the years is through.

The 1980 wedding signals a return to tradition. The far-out ceremonies in parks and mountain peaks, when barefoot brides and grooms exchanged a few vows they wrote themselves, have gone, along with the '60s and '70s that spawned them. today, 3 out of 4, or 75 percent of all first-marriage brides, want a religious wedding ceremony performed in a church, chapel, or synagogue.

Ninety-eight percent of brides surveyed in one recent poll want to wear a white or ivory formal wedding gown with dramatic neckline, pinched waist, and big skirt. A yesteryear, or heirloom, look is a favorite in 1980. Brides this year will spend an average of $234 for their wedding dress. Also, many brides will this year carry a replica of the bridal bouquets that their mothers carried.

About 95 percent of the grooms say they plan to marry in formal wear.

Bridal couples will be attended by an average of four bridesmaids in addition to the honor attendant, and four ushers in addition to the best man. And about 95 percent of the couples will, according to one poll, invite an average of 151 guests to a wedding reception costing an average of $1,400.

The engagement period in 1980 has lengthened to an average of 10.2 months.

One source lists the average age of the bride this year as 21.5 and another 22, but both sources list the average age of grooms as being 24. Most bridal couples are older, better educated, wider traveled, and more mature in their tastes than they were a few years ago. They are also more practical and realistic in their choices of gifts and furnishings.

Most brides are still signing up at store gift registry services for the classic bridal choices of place gettings these gifts, despite higher prices. But now more people are participating in their purchase. Several friends or family members chip in today to buy one place sterling silver that might range from $140 to $200, or more, for many four-piece place settings. Silver plate and stainless steel are the most popular metals in 1980 because both are offered at "affordable" prices and are handsomely styled, as well.

Since most newly married couples will spend something over $4,000 for basic furnishings in their first months of marriage, cash is always a welcome gift. These basics usually include a bed, a sofa (which averages about $600 in price), a lounge chair, a coffee table, two night stands or small chests, four lamps, bookshelves, and at at least one decoratively important piece such as a reproduction of a French country armoire or an 18th-century English chest. Linens and housewares are basics as well.

Many couples who marry this year will put off buying dining furniture for a while and make do with a good-looking card table and four folding chairs. Most will furnish with what one editor refers to as the "newlywed mix," which consists of family gifts (and perhaps a few family hand-me- downs), what the bride and groom bring to the new home from their former bachelor pads, wedding presents, and the brand new basics that they add.

Some couples, say some of the experts, will almost immediately begin to think in aesthetic terms of acquiring as soon as possible a grandfather clock or a good painting or an Oriental rug. Most will be initially most concerned with finding the right flexible, multipurpose storage units, so they can get some order in the new nest.

It will come as the smallest of surprises that at least 80 percent of new brides, according to several polls, plan to work full-time and also keep house during their first year, or years, of marriage.

The most significant innovations this year seem to involve a greater participation on the side of the groom.The groom, for instance, is getting in on the bridal showers. Mr.-and-Mrs. or bride-and-groom showers are coed, and usually take the form of buffet suppers, backyard picnics, potluck or "fetch- it" suppers, or cookouts. One popular theme is a "fix it" shower, where guests bring everything needed to outfit a toolbox for the home. Another is a "pantry" shower, aimed at stocking the newlyweds' larder with all kinds of home and commercially canned foods. A third is the "money tree" shower, where the bridal couple is given a living plant or tree, with bills of money rolled up and taped to its branches.

The groom, or at least the father of the groom, is now more likely to be footing part of the bill. The cost of the wedding reception is often shared by the parents of both bride and groom, and other expenses choose to sponsor a wedding, and both their names are listed in the wedding invitation. since almost one-third of all brides in 1980 are remarriage brides, another novel twist is the sponsorship of the marriage by the older children of the bride or bridal couple.

Grooms are going to bridal fashion shows and getting in on formerly undreamed-of choices, from the wording and style of the wedding invitations to the patterns of silver. Their presence is felt on bridal "want" lists in requests for bicycles, stereo equipment, and power tools. they also specify food processors, electric woks, and pasta makers by brand name.

This may be a decade of tradition, but somehow everybody knew the '80s had arrived when a young groom turned up alone at a store's bridal registry in Texas announcing that he had the gift list he and his fiancee had made out together. He had come himself "because I had a longer lunch hour."

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