The Business of Wedding Fashion

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location: Gasoline Alley at Heritage Park


Earlier in July, I went home to celebrate and support my cousin marring a wonderful lady. Weddings are an especially big social event back home rural Saskatchewan. I’d like to say it’s because of the beautiful commitment the couple is making, but I think just putting something on the calendar plays a large factor. Regardless of motive or my personal pessimism, it’s a night out and it is usually a goodif not greattime.

For me, weddings are all about celebrating the couple, enjoying the party after the dreaded speeches and, big surprise, putting together an outfit. When styling a wedding guest-look for myself, I usually try to use existing pieces of my wardrobe with the occasional new shoes, bag or costume jewelry splashed into the mix. I enjoy the challenge of whipping up something suitable for the venue and couple. It’s a fun project.

I have had the pleasure of helping clients put together a look for the day and I use a similar approach. I am sure to style for the individual client, the wedding venue / dress code and the client’s relationship to the couple. Another factor I like to ask my clients is, “How much you will be dancing?” For me, dancing occurs most of the night aside from the break to enjoy the midnight lunch (often comprised of bun-whiches and pickles). Some wedding traditions, I’d argue, deserve to stick around.

Now that I am in the swing of my annual nuptial season (three down, two to go) I was curious as to what people spend on wedding fashion. Not only what the couple and their wedding party will spend, but the guests too. As I have no first-hand bridal experience, I went digging.

Recently, Canadian Living reports the average wedding cost is in the range of $20,000 to $30,000. This range is confirmed in a Huffington Post article stating the Canadian average in 2013 was $23,048, cited from a Wedding Bells reader poll. And, keep in mind the writer noted that the average is slighted higher due to higher costs in urban dwellings. Regardless of where you live or host your wedding, overall, the average cost is on the rise. I took special note that the average does not include engagement rings or honeymoon costs. 

In the same Wedding Bells reader poll it outlined the expected costs for typical items: the gown ($1,975), jewelry, not including wedding bands ($525), shoes ($255) and lingerie ($140). That’s a total of $2,895.00. This does not include the couples wedding party outfits. I would argue this total would be one of the most expensive expenditures on a single outfit in their lifetime. No wonder there is a lot of pressure finding the perfect, (note: argh!!), wedding gown. Putting my personal opinions about that word aside, at the very least, the outfit is special, and deservedly so. When you only wear an outfit once, it’s hard for it to NOT be special.

Against all my better judgment as a marketing professional, I conducted my own, non-peer reviewed, “research” with my family at our dinner table (what I like to call Granny Research*). Between buffet bites and clinking glasses I found the average spent on their wedding-guest outfit was $60-$70 per person for the summer season (many mentioned they may wear it again at another wedding). I double-checked this again at another wedding of dear friends of mine this past weekend. The average was nearly $100. Again, many were reusing their look but they did buy it this season with this wedding in mind.

This expenditure excites me. When people decide to spend money on clothing I feel it is an opportunity for that person to look good, maybe even great. I encourage others: if they are spending money on something new, make sure it flatters you and you feel good in it. Make that hard-earned money work hard for you.

Changing gears, the average gift expenditure, as detailed on The Knotranges from $50-$200+ depending on the relationship and what the gift-giver’s can afford. In some cases, a typical Canadian can spend nearly as much as the outfit for the wedding as the couple’s wedding gift. This spending adds up.

Retailers have obviously noticed these spending habits too. For instance, articles in magazines and online prompting wedding party and guest outfit suggestions run rampant come spring (and run through fall). If you don’t believe me, quickly searching “wedding guest outfit” on Pinterest will make you a believer. It’s part of the retail industry’s seasonal push to encourage consumers to buy. And buy they do!

Getting back to wedding’s of a loved one, tempered with some rational budgeting of course: what is better than getting gussied up to celebrate a couple’s commitment to each other? Treat yourself to a new dress, pair of slacks or crisp shirt, should you be inclined. It is truly a lovely thing. If nothing else, my shoes, new this season (of course!) deserve to dance.

What do you typically spend on a wedding guest outfit or gift?

 

*Not recommended for those needing statistically reliable, unbiased numbers to base implications or strategies. But when this shortcoming is expressly stated, it can work in a pinch. Just ask my Grandma.