Offbeat wedding market lessons #1: 43% of nontraditional couples pay for their own weddings

Huddle up close, wedding industry readers and anyone else who likes to nerd-out on market research. This week Liene Stevens of Think Splendid released her market research about the nontraditional wedding market, and there are some FASCINATING tidbits. This week, I'll be putting on my demographer's hat and highlighting five unique aspects of the nontraditional wedding market.

First, know this: about 20% of the wedding market identifies as "offbeat." This is a surprise to me, as I thought it was only about 10%. This makes it so that the offbeat wedding market is about as big as the destination wedding market — um, holy shit!? I had no idea.

Offbeat wedding market lesson #1: Couples are paying for their own weddings


This was a big component of my presentation about the nontraditional wedding market at the WMBA conference a few weeks ago — it makes sense, right? 43% of nontraditional couples pay for their own weddings (…and if you're paying for your own wedding, it's more likely you want it to reflect YOUR interests). This also explains why so much of this market is on the more economical end of the spectrum.

Liene's findings show that 48% of nontraditional couples have weddings budgets of $10,000 or less, but according to my 2011 Offbeat Bride Reader Survey, that number is more like 60%. Again, this all makes sense to me: couples are paying themselves, so they have less money… but more control over the vision and direction of the wedding itself.

My take on this data

If you want to reach this market, your prices need to be pretty accessible. The vendors who do the best with the Offbeat Bride market tend to be newer businesses with more introductory-level rates. The sad truth is that once vendors get a few years of experience and start charging what they're actually worth, they often see a steep drop-off of nontraditional clients… many of whom simply can't afford the higher rates.

This makes the nontraditional market an amazing opportunity for new business owners looking to build their portfolios, but definitely makes for a tough challenge for businesses who've "grown up" with offbeat clients. You can ask some of Offbeat Bride's sponsors from 2007… there's a certain point when they started charging fair market rates and found that they're priced out of the nontraditional market.


If you're dying to know more about the offbeat wedding market, you can purchase the whole report from SpendidInsights.

  1. I had no clue that paying for your own wedding was "nontraditional."

    It only seems as common sense for us. It's our wedding, our choice, shouldn't we pay? Besides that, our parents certainly don't have the money to pay for it. I also hate taking large money handouts. I guess growing up in our current financial state, a $20 gift seems generous, so I couldn't imagine taking thousands from someone.

    This isn't intended to bash or put down anyone who is receiving financial support for their wedding. Our friends and family are providing so much help, just not by providing money (but certainly saving us some!)

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    • I wouldn't interpret this data as saying that "paying for your own wedding is nontraditional" — rather that a large number of people who identify as nontraditional are also paying for their weddings.

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  2. I'm curious in that population budgeting under $10,000 how many budget even less than that? Say around $5,000?

    • Here's that data from my 2011 reader survey:

      Under $1000 4.8%
      $1000-$3000 13.5%
      $3000-$5,000 18.1%
      $5,000-$10,000 28.3%

      Note that these percentages are from the ENTIRE population of Offbeat Bride, not just the population budgeting less than $10k.

      3 agree
  3. Just out of curiosity, if you and your parents are splitting the wedding costs, where do you fit in the demographic? Do you count in both categories?

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    • This — I was wondering this. At a quick glance, the percents look like they sum to 100, so it seems like you could only be in 1 category. Which made me wonder, was the question "Who is paying for the wedding?" or was it "Who is primarily paying for the wedding?", or something along those lines. I think you'd be missing key data if you didn't allow for multiple parties paying. Back in my market research days, I'd probably have asked "Who is primarily paying for the wedding?" With a follow up question asking for all parties paying and maybe percents contributing.

      The other thing I was wondering is does "Non-traditional" equal "Offbeat"?

      • This question is about who is primarily paying.

        This particular survey is sliced by people who identified as wanting their wedding to be either "offbeat" or "indie." There is another "non-traditional" descriptor, but I didn't include that data in this report because many people selected it as a means of saying they didn't want 1 Corinthians read at their wedding, but who are having a rather traditional wedding nonetheless.

  4. Oddly – some of the lowest budget weddings that I've shot have been for Offbeat Brides, but ALL of the highest budget weddings have also been for Offbeat Brides.

    Photography prices in the UK are a lot more competitive than in the states – if you start over £2500, forget about it. No one is going to hire you. So there is less room in there for pricing too far out of people's budgets – but even for next year – even now that I'm being much stricter about how low I will go and about charging reasonable (for me) travel fees I'm still booking through you guys. In fact y'all are sending me to France next May & Wales in June, with some local weddings sprinkled in for fun – all paying reasonable UK market prices. I haven't had to give up my Offbeat Brides yet, thank goodness.

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  5. This is a cool introduction to the whole foreign land (to me) of Wedding Planning And All The Details. Granted, we just got (officially!) engaged this last Saturday, but oh, I am an information hoarder!

  6. I am in the process of starting a new business, so it was nice to learn that "vendors who do the best with the Offbeat Bride market tend to be newer businesses with more introductory-level rates"

  7. I just found this post today, even though I know it's a couple of years old. I appreciate this data and particularly your analysis at the end. I've been wondering if this was the case, and definitely hoping that it wasn't! 🙁 I will say that all the offbeat couples I photographed in 2013 felt the photographer was so important that they allocated a significant portion of their budget to photography. I guess it depends on how highly the photography is valued. It may be my demographic, too (Austin, TX), where many couples are interested in crafting, creating, and infusing their personalities into their day even if they may not be considered "offbeat" by most. I'm going to take what you've said to heart so that I'm not disappointed if I find that the number of offbeat clients I work with dwindles as time goes on, but I will also stay positive and hope that there are couples that want to do their wedding their way and prioritize photography! Because an offbeat, quirky, authentic couple that loves me and values my work is my favorite!

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