The Knot 2023 Real Weddings Study

Taking an in-depth look at weddings in 2023; plus what's inspiring this year's couples.
Couple laughing on wedding day
Photo: Kir Tuben Photography
The Knot Research & Insights Team
by
The Knot Research & Insights Team
  • The Knot Insights team surveys thousands of couples, guests and wedding professionals each year to get a comprehensive view of the industry and wedding trends.
  • With a combined 35+ years of wedding industry expertise, Kirsten Francis, Emily Hightower, Natalie Wilson, Sam Joneswood, and Mark Barna have a pulse on consumer preferences.
  • The team’s industry reports are cited in major outlets in such as Wall Street Journal, ...
Updated Feb 14, 2024

The confetti is falling, the champagne is flowing and love is in the air—we're talking all things weddings, of course! To understand the current wedding landscape, The Knot surveyed nearly 10,000 US couples married in 2023 to ask them about their planning strategies, how they overcame challenges along the way and all the details in between (think: style and aesthetics). We also spoke with engaged couples who are currently planning their 2024 nuptials to understand what to look out for in the months ahead.

But first, let's rewind to the beginning for a minute…

The Engagement

Before jumping into the wedding statistics, let's take a peek into the lead-up to the proposal.

Today's Couples

Before weddings come proposals, and before proposals come…long conversations about finances, goals, kids and best practices for a healthy relationship. Let's set the groundwork to understand today's couples and the facets of their relationship. Couples' ages certainly contribute to the behaviors they exhibit during their dating and engagement journey (not to mention the rise and fall of various social media movements). Seeing as a large portion of Gen Z is quickly entering peak marrying age (the youngest of the group turned 26 in 2023), differences are apparent among the age groups when it comes to relationships.

The difference in relationships between Gen Z and Millennials

The Proposal

Popping the question is undoubtedly a memorable moment for the couple. December continues to be the most popular month to get engaged, with Christmas Day and Christmas Eve being the most popular days of the year. While holidays are often special moments to propose, proposers use other opportune times to pop the question such as a planned trip (38%, which is similar to pre-pandemic rates), when they're around friends/family (20%) or on a day with a special meaning to the couple (19%). The gravity of the moment is not lost on proposers—58% feel some or a lot of pressure to plan a highly-unique proposal, so much so that 7 in 10 proposers report planning the moment up to six months in advance! Thankfully, our friends with expertise and equipment can help make the moment unforgettable (we're talking about wedding vendors, of course). The popularity of enlisting wedding vendors for proposal assistance has steadily increased over the years. In fact, one-quarter of proposers say they hired a photographer and/or additional vendor(s) to help, which is more than double that of 2019. Vendors, hats off to you for your help even before the ring is on.

marriage proposal wedding statistics

The Ring

Speaking of the ring, let's see that sparkler! Almost all couples exchanged at least one ring after getting engaged (95% to be exact), but the type they're exchanging shows more variety. Check out the latest statistics when it comes to engagement ring styles:

  1. Diamonds remain the most popular engagement ring stone (85%), though there was a shift in style. Side stones/accents on the ring have seen a decline in popularity since 2015 (-12%) while a diamond solitaire has grown in popularity (+10% vs. 2015).

  2. Moissanite as a center stone continues to grow more popular. Among the 10% who choose a non-diamond stone, nearly 3 in 10 selected Moissanite in 2023, which represented a 10% increase in popularity since 2019. This stone is particularly popular among Gen Z couples (40%).

  3. Round continues to be the most popular shape for an engagement ring stone, though less so than prior years (34%, a 15% decrease since 2015). On the other hand, oval (23%) and pear/teardrop (8%) are on the rise over the past eight years.

  4. Yellow gold is on the rise. Though white gold is currently the most common type of metal used (39%), it's seeing less popularity in favor of yellow gold (31%, up 15% from three years ago).

  5. The total average engagement ring size increased—again—in 2023. One in three engagement rings total over two carats (including side stones and accents) which is up 10% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019. The rise of lab-grown diamonds contributes to this increase as they're typically less expensive than natural stones.

  6. Roughly one in three couples say having a lab-grown stone is important to them (+17% vs. 2019). In fact, nearly half of center stones were reported to be lab grown in 2023 (46%), which is nearly four times as high as it was in 2019 (12%).

Top engagement ring facts from 2023

Planning the Wedding

After the engagement, congratulations are in order! 🍾 The question now likely swirling through couples' heads is…

"So, where do we start?"

This is understandable. From choosing a date to finding the ideal venue and a rockstar vendor team to help bring the wedding vision to life, there is a lot to do before the wedding day. To provide a little perspective, let's take a broad look at some decisions couples are making.

Wedding statistics

The average length of engagement in 2023 was 15 months, though 12% of those surveyed were engaged for two years or longer. During that time, couples spend an average of seven hours per week planning, and much of that planning time is spent online (91%). As shown over the past several years, use of online resources to help find vendors, provide QR codes for guests to easily navigate to wedding details (up 18% just in the last year!), and determine their ideal wedding aesthetic has been steadily increasing. With the proliferation of TikTok as a wedding planning resource (used by 30% of planning couples and an even higher 48% of Gen Z), social media is one way couples are looking to find inspiration.

Online wedding planning statistics

So, who's handling what? Our wedding data shows that on average, the couple undertakes 81% of the planning followed by parents at 11%, a wedding planner at 7% and other loved ones at 2%. During this process, the top five most important factors to couples surveyed are:

  • 75% - Guests are well taken care of and have a good time

  • 64% - Cost/budget

  • 63% - Personalization

  • 62% - Overall look and vibe

  • 62% - Food and beverage

Now let's talk details—colors, style and attire!

Wedding statistics

The Wedding Vendors

Similar to prior years, couples hired an average of 14 vendors, proving that when the value of each vendor is brought together, a truly special event comes to life. Finding vendors who will help the couple highlight their relationship through the wedding details is of top value; in fact, 63% said that personalization was one of the most important factors to the couple during the planning process. Choosing the venue helps set the tone, and couples are choosing settings that are uniquely them. In 2023, traditional religious institutions continued to decline in popularity as the venue choice for the ceremony (-7% over the past five years) while farms/barns/ranches were selected most often (17%). When looking at the reception venue, banquet halls were the most popular choice (chosen by 20% of couples, similar to 2022) followed by farms/barns/ranches at 18% and historical buildings/homes at 14%. The couple's style will help dictate not only the location but also other elements such as the stationery, attire, food and entertainment (all of which can be found via expert vendors on The Knot Vendor Marketplace). When searching for those other elements, seeking out specific types of businesses was important to many. Close to 1 in 2 couples (45%) sought out at least one niche vendor, from small businesses to diverse-owned businesses such as women-owned, black-owned or LGBTQ+-owned.

Top wedding vendors hired statistics

Besides knowing where to start, other tasks that arise include determining and planning within the budget, making decisions and balancing the wants of the couple with the wants of the family. Because of this, vendors have become well versed in stress (and sometimes crisis) management. In fact, nearly 7 in 10 couples report having at least one vendor who helped calm their stress. Vendors are often going above and beyond in other ways too, like sacrificing their own time off to help a couple or fellow vendor in need (68%). Wedding planners specifically report dedicating an average of 77 hours to one wedding, while 25% spend over 100 hours! Knowing this makes their calm, cool and collected demeanor even more admirable. When it comes to feeling the love for all their hard work, vendors are most likely to say they feel appreciated by the kind words couples offer in the form of reviews. Not only does leaving a review make their work feel appreciated, it also helps future couples who are searching for their vendor team. In fact, reviews are one of the most common features couples use when researching vendors.

Wedding vendor statistics

The Wedding Day

After the to-do list is fully checked off, the vendors are booked and the venue is prepped, the wedding has finally arrived. Let's take a look at how couples are spending the day.

Before and During the Ceremony

Before greeting the guests and beginning the festivities, there are a couple of traditions many couples like to participate in. For example, 56% of couples had a first look in 2023, which is up 8% from five years ago. Other special moments include writing personal letters to each other (37%). 💌

Couples find ways to personalize their wedding not only during the reception through food and music, but also during the ceremony, which is the time when a couple's love and commitment for each other really shine. Twenty-one percent reported including a special custom related to the couple's cultural or religious background, such as breaking glass, communion or a unity candle. Others showcased their love for friends and family by honoring those who couldn't be there for the wedding (57%). Finally, 44% chose to have unique musical choices during the ceremony such as rock music or bagpipes.

The Reception and Post-Wedding

The reception is truly the time for the couple, the family and all other guests to celebrate together. With three-quarters of couples surveyed reporting that the guest experience is top of mind when planning, couples find it important to create a reception experience that they and their guests will enjoy. From having a signature cocktail (45%) or mocktail (6%) and local food (24%) to photo booths (61% among those who had additional guest entertainment) and games (20% among those who had additional guest entertainment), couples are incorporating elements that tell their story in the form of celebration. In the spirit of conservation, roughly 3 in 10 couples included eco-friendly or sustainable options in their weddings through items like flowers, decor, invites or attire. To end the night, 26% had a last dance—a private last song just for the couple to savor the remaining few moments of their special day together.

After the wedding, there are a few loose ends to wrap up. Preserving items like the wedding dress (46%) or other keepsakes like the bouquet (65%) is common practice, as is making changes to the couple's last name. 74% said at least one member of the couple changed their last name while 1 in 10 report that one or both hyphenated their last name. Taking a honeymoon is another tradition we can't leave out, which is taken by roughly 72% of couples after the wedding day (13% said they'd take a minimoon, while 14% said they'd take both a minimoon and honeymoon).

Top 10 Most Popular Wedding Traditions

  1. Couple had a first dance (92%)

  2. Order of the day was ceremony, cocktail hour, reception (85%)

  3. There were dances with parents (79%)

  4. Took engagement photos with their partner (79%)

  5. Followed any of their wedding vendors on social media (76%)

  6. The father of one/both of the couple escorted them down the aisle (73%)

  7. Guests had specific table assignments (73%)

  8. Females in the wedding party wore the same color (66%)

  9. Groom(s) dressed in a suit or something more casual than a tuxedo (65%)

  10. Preserved wedding bouquet and/or other keepsakes (e.g. wedding invite) (65%)

    While wedding trends change each year, new generations also bring their own take on weddings, and Gen Z is no different. With this group entering peak marrying years, there are a few things they are doing differently than Millennials. Check out how Gen Z is shaking up weddings:

    Gen Z Wedding Preference Statistics

    2023 Wedding Spend

    In 2023, the average combined wedding ceremony and reception spend was $35,000. Compared to 2022 this is an increase of $5,000, which is likely a direct result of inflation and the overall US economic landscape over the past couple of years. In fact, 61% of newlyweds said that inflation and the general state of the economy affected their wedding budget and planning (10% higher than in 2022). Among this group, couples helped mitigate these challenges by increasing their overall budget (60%), becoming more selective with upgrades and add-ons (53%) or trimming their guest list (40%). Those who had a destination wedding spent an average of $41,000 on their ceremony and reception, while those who had hometown weddings spent an average of $33,000. First marriages also tended to be more expensive than second marriages.

    2023 average wedding cost

    Wedding ceremony and reception spend also varies by US state, with larger cities often having a higher total average spend. Heavily-populated cities like New York and Chicago see an average spend much higher than the national average (often approaching or surpassing $60,000) whereas less-dense cities like Grand Rapids or Salt Lake City sit well below that average (dropping to ~$20,000 for the ceremony and reception total).

    average wedding cost in 20 largest metro areas

    A Look Ahead

    With each new year comes new curiosities around what aspects of weddings will change and what will stay the same; so far, the economy is still top of mind for many couples. Data on weddings in 2024 from our most recent economic survey conducted in January found that about 7 in 10 engaged couples reported that the current economy has had an impact on their wedding planning. Among those who are making changes to their wedding to help alleviate some of these effects, couples are making modifications to what they originally planned such as changing their decor (60%) or reducing their guest count (46% are reducing by an average of 29 guests).

    Similarly to couples getting married in 2023, the majority of 2024 planning couples do not expect to make changes to their wedding budget as a result of the economy. Of the 38% who do, folks are most likely increasing their overall spend (85%) while roughly 1 in 10 plan to decrease.

    Continuing to look ahead, there is excitement in the air when it comes to the wedding details. In fact, planning couples say that they are most looking forward to seeing their friends and family on the wedding day (70%), witnessing their wedding vision come to life (60%), experiencing the ceremony and vows (57%) and reveling in the music and dancing (56%)! While traditionally popular colors like white, gold, and champagne are always top hits, standout colors like green are expected to be utilized by 61% incorporating the light and/or dark shade in their 2024 weddings; an honorable mention goes to blue with roughly half of couples expecting to incorporate this color. Finally, when it comes to style we're hearing lots of "romantic," "classic" and "elegant" descriptors.

    Wondering when you might be invited to attend a wedding yourself? Well, the most popular wedding day in 2024 is expected to be September 21, 2024 which is a fitting day to welcome the autumn season - a notoriously popular time to wed. In fact, similar to past years, October is expected to be the most popular month overall to get married. Be on the lookout for new details and fun aesthetics–the word on the street is that espresso martinis, Taylor Swift inspired details, and champagne towers are on 2024's 'in' list (talk about an elite trio!). 👀 We're excited to continue watching how 2024 weddings evolve to best reflect the love and joy of the couple and their guests.

    expectations for 2024 weddings

    All graphics created by Megan Herlihy

    Survey Methodology: The Knot Real Weddings Study captured responses from 9,318 US couples married between January 1 and December 31, 2023; respondents were recruited via email invitation from The Knot and/or WeddingWire membership. Respondents represent couples from all over the country with various ethnicities, income levels, race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. To provide the most comprehensive view of 2023 trends, this report also includes wedding statistics from ad hoc studies conducted throughout the year. In a typical year, The Knot Worldwide conducts research with more than 300,000 couples, guests and wedding professionals globally.

    *Based on The Knot January 2024 Economic Pulse Study, N=650

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