(Photo by Lyndsey Goddard. See more of her wonderful work here.)
At the VCU Brandcenter last week, Gautam Ramdurai gave a dazzling display of the tools that Google puts at our disposal when it comes to tracking trends.
This weekend I looked at weddings.
By one reckoning, weddings account for $52 billion of expenditure in the US. And most of it goes to local “mom and pop” operations: florist, caterers, photographers, seamstresses, musicians and planners. That makes weddings a mighty engine of our local economies.
Here’s what I got from Google Trends:
These data are interesting because almost no one else seems to be talking about a decline in the industry. In fact, most of the chatter on line describes a wedding industry that scales ever upward.
There is some small journalistic encouragement for the “decline” argument. Writing for the NYT, Helaine Olen says,
The lower-key wedding, if still a bit unexpected, is having a moment…
Turning to everything from public parks to the living rooms of friends and family, couples are recreating the traditional wedding one ceremony at a time. […]
The Wedding Report, a market research firm, has been tracking the change, noting that in the last year, couples participating in the company’s surveys have increasingly reported a desire for “fun, romantic, simple, casual and unique weddings.”
“The backyard is the new ballroom,” said Amy Kaneko, an events planner in San Francisco.
Stacy Scott, a caterer in Marin County, Calif., added, “I think people are waking up to the insanity that is the wedding market.”
Still, it would be wrong to rush to conclusions. The Google Trend data is merely suggestive. (Google searches for these topics may be falling because there is now an “oral culture” shared by friends that supplies the knowledge and contacts needed to stage a wedding. Hence the decline in searches for “wedding planner.”) And the New York Times story may merely report the exceptions made vivid by the larger trend.
But let’s say there is a trend here. Let’s say weddings of the “hang the expense, let it rip, more is always better, nothing less than sumptuous will do” kind are in decline.
There is LOTS to think and say about this trend. “Big weddings in decline” is a trend that must have many causes and many effects. (I fear especially for those local economies.)
I will leave it to commenters to dig into the cause or effect of their choice. And, yes, if necessary, to insist that I am delusional and that there is no evidence that the big wedding is in any kind of peril.