There will be more weddings in the United States in 2022 than any other year since 1984, according to a new survey by The Knot. The wedding planning site estimates that some 2.6 million weddings will take place this year, a boom that follows a record number of cancellations, postponements, elopements–and lots of Zoom nuptials–during the past two years.
“Weddings are, without a doubt, back to pre-pandemic levels,” says Hannah Nowack, Real Weddings editor at The Knot.
While some couples will certainly continue to host small, intimate micro-weddings and minimonies, wedding vendors, venues and planners note a return to traditional ceremonies with larger guest lists. In the second half of 2021, The Knot saw the average guest count climb up to 110. In 2022, the average number of guests is projected to be 129, which is in line with pre-pandemic numbers, when the average was 131. “After so many months of planning, and time spent away from loved ones, these couples are eager to reunite and celebrate with a blowout bash,” says Nowack.
Jennifer McNicholl got engaged in December of 2020, before the nationwide rollout of the first Covid-19 vaccines, but immediately knew she would still opt for a big, traditional Long Island wedding. “I planned a big traditional wedding right from the start,” says McNicholl. “I didn’t hesitate because by 2022 the vendors and I were confident that we wouldn’t be in a state of emergency.”
Last week she sent out invitations to all 250 guests for her July 2022 wedding.
Couples are also ready to once again shell out more green for their white wedding. The Knot found that, on average, couples spent $28,000 on their ceremony and reception, back in line with 2019 levels. And for the sixth year in a row, October will be the most popular month (17% of all weddings), with October 22, 2022, being the most sought-after booking date.
Other trends include the rise of domestic destination weddings and weddings as multi-day events, which hotel venues are ready to capitalize on. Venues and hotels are now adjusting to the return of the big wedding, while still answering to the bride who craves an intimate gathering.
“Big ‘traditional’ weddings will never go away . . . but intimate, smaller weddings are also here to stay,” says Vasso Power, director of catering at The Gwen, a hotel located in the former McGraw-Hill building in downtown Chicago.
Two years into the pandemic, The Gwen reports that 65% of all wedding inquiries are for smaller affairs and micro-weddings. “Requests for 20- to 30-person weddings at The Gwen have increased tremendously and we receive inquiries daily,” says Power. “The most popular package is the non-package,” she continues. “In essence, it’s all about customizing the experience to reflect the couple’s style. With smaller weddings, there is more of an opportunity for the culinary team to play with flavors and cuisine that is meaningful to the couple.”
Value-focused planning is another big priority for the newly engaged, especially for Millennial and Gen-Z couples. “Instead of simply seeing their nuptials as a fun celebration, they’re also finding ways for the big day to leave a positive, lasting impact,” says Nowack. In addition to dealing with supply chain issues, brides are more mindful about wedding wastefulness and the pandemic’s long-lasting effect on small businesses, new brides are supporting the local economy and environment whenever possible. As a result, hiring local vendors, relying on seasonal flowers and produce are becoming central to the wedding planning process.
Domestic destination weddings are especially popular post-pandemic, according to Nowack. “With the uncertainty couples may feel when it comes to international travel regulations, we’re seeing some to-be-weds opting for U.S.-based destinations that remind them of international spots,” says Nowack.
Marcy Cline, a hair colorist in New York City, is maid of honor to a couple getting married in Miami next month at The Villa Woodbine, a venue designed by Walter de Garmo, famous for his Mediterranean-Renaissance style. “They’re expecting more than 100, and people are flying in from out of the country,” she says. The bride and groom also don’t have any safety measures in place, and have been pretty easygoing about planning—up until the weeks leading up to their Jack-and-Jill wedding shower in January, right after the omicron spike during the holidays.
“Finally, they were pretty nervous,” says Cline, “but their wedding will go on as planned.”
In 2021, The Knot found that 85% of couples enforced at least one health and safety measure, with three on average. Affianced couples in 2021 were able to plan without any delays due to vaccines, eased restrictions and a rise in available testing. But like McNicholl, many 2022 brides are altogether ditching the norms that the brides of 2020 and 2021 had to enforce.
“There are no masks, no restrictions at all,” says McNicholl. “I’m paying thousands of dollars to my photographers, and I want to see the emotions and happiness.”