The Differences Between Boomer, Millennial and Gen Z Wedding Trends May Surprise You
A boomer, a millennial and a Gen Z friend walk into a bar…it sounds like the setup for a really bad dad joke (Though I, the millennial in this situation, happen to love dad jokes. What does that say about me?). Except, in this case, it isn't a joke. I sat down with two of my colleagues (one's a baby boomer and one is Gen Z) to look at the dramatic evolution of weddings across generations.
You know that part in New Girl where Schmidt complains about "the youths"—that's me (the millennial) when I try to understand Gen Z. Their trends simply aren't my trends. That doesn't make them worse, it just means I need a little help understanding them. Enter: Chapelle Johnson, Style & Planning Assistant Editor at The Knot. She is both a wedding expert and a pioneering tastemaker with a pulse on the latest Tiktok wedding trends.
I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but I honestly have a little bit too much in common in with boomers, despite not being one. If I took one of those "Am I a millennial or GenZ?" quizzes (millennials love an interest quiz!), I would probably break the matrix and get boomer as my answer. I'm a fan of cottage cheese, can't always work technology, am constantly turning down the music volume and, well, I incessantly complain about "the youths." But—as much flack as they may get, there's one boomer that's an absolute gem and wealth of knowledge: Diane Hall, Travel & Features Senior Content Strategist at The Knot. She is a wedding expert with a wealth of wisdom about cutting-edge topics ranging from celebrity news to honeymoon trends.
So, do Hall, Johnson and I all see eye-to-eye on wedding trends and preferences? When it comes to weddings, do boomer, millennial and Gen Z editors like the same things? We're about to find out.
In this story:
Baby Boomer Wedding Trends
"Older boomers of the hippie generation in the 1970s might have held a casual wedding in the backyard with the groom in a wide lapel suit and bride in a maxi dress carrying a bouquet of hand-picked flowers," explains Hall. "Otherwise, boomers would have followed the traditional wedding format with the mother of the bride playing a big role in planning the event—a church wedding followed by a reception at a hall was the norm, especially for the young bride aged 22 and her groom aged 24." Hall goes on to share that "by the time the 80s rolled around and I got married, things were being influenced by the women's movement, rise of the super model, designer fashion and the popularity of MTV. All these factors led to a break from tradition—couples sought to express themselves, particularly through fashion, entertainment and decorations. Brides were older (age 26) with more life experience and wanted to plan their own weddings. Bridal magazines had the most influence. A stack of magazines was the bride's planning guide, resource for new ideas and catalog for bridal fashion styles and trends. The bride (and to some extent, the groom) was in charge—you're welcome ;)."
Boomer Wedding Songs
"At the ceremony, you might hear traditional church music or a singer and guitarist perform a folk song, especially given the popularity of the genre at the time," notes Hall. "For example, my singer-songwriter sister sang 'Love,' by Joni Mitchell at my wedding. But when the party started—think a mash up of Club MTV, Studio 54 and CGBGs, Rock, Disco and Funk tracks along with emerging New Wave music and Pop tunes of the time were cued up. Wedding music started to get more eclectic."
- "Celebration," by Kool & The Gang
- "Careless Whisper," by George Michael
- "White Wedding," by Billy Idol
- "Rock and Roll All Nite," by Kiss
- "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," by Whitney Houston
- "Love Shack," by The B-52's
- "All Night Long," by Lionel Richie
- "We Are Family," by Sister Sledge
- "Sexual Healing," by Marvin Gaye
- "All You Need Is Love," by The Beatles
Boomer Wedding Theme Ideas
"Typically the color scheme was the wedding theme and drove the selection of bridesmaid fashion, groomsmen accessories, flowers and decorations—especially ribbon that was used on everything," shares Hall. Read on for Hall's guide to boomer wedding themes.
- Trendy Colors: Pastels were traditional—think pale pink, dinner mint green and baby blue. While jewel tones were considered a little more modern.
- Trendy Venues: Hotels and banquet halls were the norm, but private clubs, museums and garden tents started to emerge as modern options.
- Trendy Fashion: Poofy bridal gowns or hip-hugging beaded mermaid styles, chunky jewelry and tuxedo rentals for the men with bow ties and cummerbunds to match bridesmaid dresses were common. For the trendy couple, sleeker dress styles and men's suits with fancy ties emerged as designer fashion shows, MTV and the club scene started to influence bridal apparel trends.
- Trendy Flowers and Bouquet Ideas: Lilies, carnations and roses arranged in traditional wedding bouquet styles, church arrangements and centerpieces were popular. However, as brides started to wear more fashion-forward gowns, flower varieties and color palettes became more diverse and bouquets could be bejeweled with rhinestones and ribbons for a more personalized touch.
- Trendy Food & Drink: An open bar before dinner, wine with dinner followed by a open bar or cash bar was the norm. Signature cocktails were not yet a thing and neither was a vegetarian or vegan main on the menu. Roast beef or chicken? Fake wedding cakes for display and the cake cutting became a practical solution given the wedding cake was typically cut and boxed up for guests to take home as their favor.
- Unique Wedding Trends: Balloons: a single helium balloon tied to each chair or an arch behind the head table was considered a playful touch. And then there were the personalized items such as engraved toasting flutes and custom-printed matchbooks for guests. Freeze-dried bouquet preservation. One of my personal favorite trends… a cavalcade of cars (with horns honking) from the church to the reception led by the newlyweds in their decorated vehicle. Passersby would wave, holler or honk to acknowledge the newlyweds.
- Budget and Vendor Priorities: A wedding typically cost much less than the average wedding cost we see at modern celebrations. The ceremony venue and reception hall (and the vehicles to get you there), were a priority along with bridal salons and, tuxedo rental shops (hello baby blue suits and ruffled shirts). Traditional vendors like florists, photographers, cake bakers, DJs or bands were the same as today. Interestingly, wedding planners and decor designers were not really a thing, yet, leading to some simple DIY projects.
Millennial Wedding Trends
Millennials entered peak marrying age when Pinterest was the hottest wedding inspiration source available. The emergence of Pinterest as a treasure trove of wedding inspiration upped the ante when it came to wedding decor. New trends emerged and greater emphasis was placed on personalization, instead of simply sticking to "what's expected." Even though I'm not yet married, I've spent my fair share of time perusing Pinterest and ogling beautiful wedding ideas. And, according to The Knot Worldwide Future of Marriage Report, I'm not alone in doing so. 60% of millennials (and an impressive 78% of Gen Z folks) have taken wedding planning-related actions (like saving inspiration on social media). In short, we millennials are excited about the prospect of planning a meaningful, personalized wedding, even if we aren't yet engaged.
Millennial Wedding Songs
Some may say they're cheugy, but there are just some songs that immediately transport all millennials back to high school. Those songs are like a magnetic field—it's nearly impossible to resist bopping your head and rocking out on the dance floor the minute the beat drops on these hits.
- "Perfect," by Ed Sheeran
- "Crazy in Love," by Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z
- "You Belong With Me (Taylor's Version)," by Taylor Swift
- "California Girls," by Katy Perry
- "I Gotta Feeling," by Black Eyed Peas
- "Closer," by The Chainsmokers, Halsey
- "We Found Love," by Rihanna, Calvin Harris
- "We Are Young," by fun. ft. Janelle Monaé
Millennial Wedding Theme Ideas
While Gen Z has started leaning into micro aesthetics (generally formatted as ___core), millennials have long adored overarching themes and leaning into wedding style words to inform the event. Think: romantic, timeless, whimsical—those buzzwords are catnip to millennials.
- Trendy Colors: In the early aughts, blush and gold reigned supreme. These days, millennials are especially partial to all-white color palettes with pops of green. Overall, many millennial palettes err on the side of classic and minimal compared to the bold color palettes that are emerging from Gen Z.
- Trendy Venues: Millennials love a good barn wedding venue. Other notable spots include wineries and industrial lofts. If I were to tie the knot today, I'd probably be partial to an industrial loft space that could serve as a blank canvas.
- Trendy Fashion: The iconic TV show Say Yes to the Dress debuted on TLC in 2007 and ushered in a new age of wedding dress shopping and trends. To-be-weds could watch other engaged people embark on the dress journey alongside Randy Fenoli. The show's cult following bolstered many trends, but it also turned wedding dress shopping into a deeply emotional and meaningful part of the wedding planning journey in a way it wasn't before.
- Trendy Flowers and Bouquet Ideas: Boho millennials love pampas grass, and all dried foliage for that matter. For more romantically inclined millennials, garden roses and dahlias are must-haves. Honorable mention millennial wedding flowers include ranunculus, scabiosa, sweet pea and protea. Another big shift with millennial wedding flowers has to do with shape and structure—gone are the expectations of tightly packed round bouquets. I love loose, whimsical arrangements that evoke subtle movement.
- Trendy Food & Drink: Millennials brought about the rise of the signature cocktail, complete with cute names and custom bar signage. Another wedding trend millennials can take credit for? The obsession with late-night snacks. These days, the cake cutting isnt a wedding guest's last chance for a tasty bite. Burgers, fries, doughnuts and pizza are commonly passed around during dancing to keep everyone fed and happy.
- Unique Wedding Trends: Millennials took wedding receptions from being music-only to more experiential events. As a result, alternative entertainment vendors, like photo booths, rose in popularity. Further leaning into the experiential vibe, millennials prioritize guest experience, which is why this generation loves lounge seating areas at weddings.
- Budget and Vendor Priorities: It's all about the experience and the vibes for millennials. Think: specialty rentals, custom welcome amenities, fun bar offerings.
Gen Z Wedding Trends
The millennial vs Gen Z competition will likely never abate. And this might be a hot take, but I think that's ok. Hear me out: Each generation has dreamt up some stellar ideas and I love how something new is brought to the table as generations evolve and age. While my personal millennial questions for Gen Z will never run out, I'm still obsessed with the Gen Z wedding trends this generation is creating.
Gen Z Wedding Songs
In the age of Tiktok, many bops gain widespread popularity after going viral on the app. Gone are the boomer days of vinyls and cassettes. Likewise, burning CDs or sharing iPod earbuds are a thing of millennial lore. For Gen Z, AI suggestions from streaming platforms like Spotify and Pandora contribute to music discovery. But another big source of inspo? YouTube. Another defining characteristic of this generation's music taste comes in the form of eschewing characterization. Gen Z is typically more likely to dabble in a wide variety of genres and not pass over an artist because they "don't like __ kind of music." From K-Pop to melancholy indie-folk tunes, Gen Z has curated some sick beats.
- "Get You," by Daniel Caesar featuring Kali Uchis
- "Say Yes To Heaven," by Lana Del Rey
- "I Like You (A Happier Song)," by Post Malone featuring Doja Cat
- "Love Language," by Ariana Grande
- "Do It To It," by ACRAZE featuring Cherish
- "D.A.N.C.E.," by Justice
- "SWEET/ I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE" by Tyler, The Creator featuring Fana Hues and Brent Faiyaz
- "DO 4 LOVE," by Snoh Aalegra
- "Love's Train," by Anderson .Paak, Bruno Mars and Silk Sonic
- "Adore You," by Harry Styles
Gen Z Wedding Theme Ideas
"Just about anything can become a wedding theme for Gen Z to-be-weds," explains Johnson. "From glam rock to coastal grandma, whatever vibe you're feeling at the moment can influence your wedding color scheme, decorations, outfits and more." See below for Johnson's complete guide to Gen Z wedding themes.
- Trendy Colors: Being bold and unique with your color palette is always the way to go, which is why maximalist weddings are trending right now. Other obsession-worthy colors are champagne, sage/emerald green, terracotta and dusty rose.
- Trendy Venues: Smaller venues (and smaller guest lists) have become all the rage. One of the most popular small wedding venues Gen Z couples love is backyards, whether it's their own or a loved one's.
- Trendy Fashion: The wedding day transformation trend is for people who aren't afraid of change and are always ready to make a statement. Some newlyweds get a mouth-dropping haircut during the cocktail hour or spontaneously alter their wedding outfit mid-reception from a long gown to a flirty mini dress.
- Trendy Flowers and Bouquet Ideas: Single-stem flower and petite bouquets are popping up in lots of Gen Z weddings––I assume it's because it's more striking and affordable than a "normal" bouquet. Also, blooms like anemones, vibrant wildflowers and marigolds are taking over in flower arrangments as a unique alternative to roses and baby's breath.
- Trendy Food & Drink: By now, you've probably seen every form of charcuterie board there is (the baked potato one is my favorite). Take that delicious appetizer and take it up several notches with a grazing table. Another food trend Gen Z couples love is getting their favorite fast food chain to cater their wedding after-party food (think: McDonald's, Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out Burger). For wedding drinks, newlyweds want to add a sense of playfulness to their celebration with a secret cocktail menu. Enlist your VIPs to tell a couple of guests about the "off-menu" cocktails available and see how fast word travels. Also, wedding ceremony drinks are showing up more on my TikTok since there's no rule saying you must wait until the cocktail hour.
- Unique Wedding Trends: Gen Z brought direct flash and film wedding photography and videography to the forefront recently because who doesn't want romantic, old Hollywood vibes on their special day? But the top photography-style Gen Z couples adore right now is photojournalistic or documentary. Posed pictures are out, and candid moments are in.
- Budget and Vendor Priorities: Having a wedding that feels super personal is important to Gen Z marriers. That's why couples are putting their money towards non-traditional wedding attire, venues, decor and more to create a truly unique (and Instagram-worthy) experience. This results in couples hiring diverse vendors to help them realize their dream wedding so they can put a twist on classic cultural wedding traditions that honor their heritage and represent the couple's personality at the same time.