When Illinois couple Joel Burger and Ashley King marry in July, fast food giant Burger King will be footing the bill.
The nuptials may be a golden opportunity for some online publicity for the burger chain. But Burger King's sponsorship also speaks to the growing role of the Internet and social media in funding modern weddings – the costs of which continue to rise – whether via crowdsourcing, corporate sponsorship, or a combination of both.
In 2014, the average wedding in the United States cost upwards of $31,000, according to a study by top wedding site The Knot. The amount represents an increase of more than $1,000 from the 2013 average, despite shrinking guest lists, the study found.
“Unable to afford a wedding on their own or with the help of their parents, couples are mounting campaigns on crowdfunding websites asking for financial help,” CNN reported in 2014. More than 16,000 donors had at the time contributed to over 1,500 wedding-related campaigns on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe, according to CNN.
Some couples ask for donations in lieu of a traditional wedding registry, while others cite a sick relative or an out-of-work fiancé as the reason behind their money challenges.
Still others have gotten more creative: On his page, “Wedding for a Wedding,” Enget Dang of Plymouth, Mass. hopes to pay for his wedding by offering his skills as a videographer to couples looking for an inexpensive way to capture their special day.
“In exchange for my services to capture and edit a 6-8 or 8-10 minute video of your wedding … you will in turn help provide funding for a man who desparately [sic] wants to get married to the love of his life,” Mr. Dang wrote on his page.
Some couples have taken a more businesslike approach to covering wedding costs. In August 2014, Courtney McKenzie and Jamil Newell launched SponsorOurWedding.com, inviting companies to front the funds they needed in exchange for plugs and advertising, Today reported.
Interested brands could get their names on signage at the wedding venue or get their logos sewn onto the bride’s gown or the groom’s tux. In the end, the couple had seven sponsors cover costs for their destination wedding in Thailand.
"I thought, why not couple my two loves: my soon-to-be-husband Jamil and my love for marketing?" Ms. McKenzie told Today.
The Burger-King nuptials also show what pairing a strong brand with social media can do. What started as a simple tweeted photo of Ms. King and Mr. Burger standing in front of a Burger King sign in Springfield, Ill. became a viral sensation once the State Journal-Register picked up the story.
Journal-Register columnist David Bakke then went a step further. He wrote:
Since Ashley had already tried to reach out to the Burger King company, but unsuccessfully, I sent an email to the company's media relations representative. I soon heard from Alison Brod Public Relations in New York City, the company that has the Burger King account. I sent them an email about the wedding, they contacted the company, and Burger King took it from there.
Of course, not every crowdfunding attempt or social media campaign comes to fruition: Some attract thousands of dollars, but others barely rake in a few hundred, CNN noted.
Nor is everyone a fan of non-traditional funding. Couples risk offending friends and relatives by asking for money, noted The Knot editor Rachel Torgerson. Worse, she added, plans can be thrown awry when venue or catering deposits are dependent on the generosity of others.
“There's a very simple reason that most people don't put on a wedding in three months – they're taking the time to save money so they can afford the things they want,” Ms. Torgerson wrote for The Knot blog.
Still, there’s something to be said for having a corporation (or two) take care of wedding costs.
“When we heard about the happy Burger-King couple, we felt an overwhelming urge to celebrate their upcoming marriage,” Eric Hirschhorn, Burger King brand spokesman, told the Journal-Register. “On so many levels it felt like fate; they found each other and their story found us.”