Americans Still Think a Bride's Father Should Give Her Away - But They're Split on Whether He Should be Stuck with the Bill

A new Harris Poll looks at wedding attitudes and the emerging role of new technologies

12:00 AM EDT Jun 4, 2014 Rating
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Americans Still Think a Bride's Father Should Give Her Away - But They're Split on Whether He Should be Stuck with the Bill

NEW YORK , N.Y. - June 4, 2014 - First comes love. Then - at least according to the schoolyard rhyme - comes marriage (as a recent Harris Poll explored), but before wedded bliss comes the wedding. Looking at both the road to the wedding and the big day itself, do Americans still feel the hopefully-happy couple should hold to the traditions and big to-do's associated with saying I do? As it turns out, many traditions still curry strong favor among U.S. adults. Americans are more split on others, with one tradition in particular meeting with opposition.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,300 adults surveyed online between April 16 and 21, 2014.

A wedding is not house-keeping. - Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Our culture has undergone countless shifts over the years, but Americans still resoundingly support the idea of a bride's father giving her away, with the vast majority (84%) agreeing with this tradition - 44% strongly so.

Strong majorities also agree with the traditions of having a women-only bridal shower (74%), the bride and groom spending the night before their wedding apart (71%), asking a bride's father/parents for permission before popping the question (70%) and the groom's family paying for the rehearsal dinner (65%).

Americans are more split on some other wedding mainstays, including the expectation that the bride wear a white dress (54% agree with this, while 46% disagree), the bride's family paying for the wedding (53% and 47%, respectively) and, ahem, waiting for the wedding night (51% and 49%, respectively).

And what's the odd tradition out? Two-thirds of Americans (66%) disagree with the practice of spending on an expensive engagement ring.

Looking more broadly at feelings toward weddings, there are elements of thrift and restraint at work. Strong majorities indicate that they prefer small, intimate weddings and that spending money on an elaborate wedding is a waste (83% each), while seven in ten (71%) believe that if it's not a first marriage for either half of the happy couple, the wedding should be more subdued. Fewer than half, meanwhile, believe a wedding ceremony should be held in a place of religious worship and that they prefer adults only weddings (46% each).

I don't mind going to weddings... long as they're not my own. - Tom Waits, Nighthawks at the Diner

Ah, the R.S.V.P. Who's a yes? Who's a no? And who's MIA entirely? Of course, there will always be invitees who can't make it. But what are the top impediments? About half of Americans (49%) indicate having ever chosen not to attend a wedding, and among those the top obstacle by far is that they couldn't afford to (44%). Other noteworthy barriers include avoiding drama, such as family drama (11%), having another wedding to attend the same weekend (8%), and disapproving of the person their friend or family member was marrying (6%); among those in households with children, not being able to bring the kids has been a factor to 13%.

This isn't the only time cost came into play in the survey; when asked about destination weddings, nearly nine in ten Americans (88%) agreed that these put an unfair financial burden on guests.

Is there an app for that?

A vast majority of Americans (84%) feel technology has made it easier to plan a wedding - but what's the adoption rate thus far for some of the more cutting edge options?

Looking at those who have ever been married (68%) or are currently in the midst of planning their wedding (2%), 5% of these Americans have used an app in planning a wedding - roughly the same percentage as say they've used a professional wedding planner (4%) - and 2% have used electronic/email invitations. Looking more specifically at those married within the past five years or planning their wedding now, app usage grows to two in ten (19%), with wedding photo sharing apps (13%) and planning/scheduling apps (10%) the most commonly used. Among these same recent or impending brides and grooms, 11% have used electronic/email invitation.

Four percent designed or are planning to design a website for their wedding; among those married in the past five years or planning a wedding now, this again grows to two in ten (20%)

But what of those who couldn't make it? Might there be interest in sharing the wedding day experience to at least some degree, abetted by technology? Four in ten Americans (39%) and a majority of Millennials (54%), would be interested in taking advantage of at least one of the technological proxies tested. More specifically:

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TABLE 1

EVER BEEN MARRIED

By Generation & Gender

Have you ever been married, and if so how recently? If you have been married more than once, please think only about your most recent marriage.

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Ever married (NET)

68

38

69

85

91

64

72

Within the past year

2

3

1

1

 

2

1

Married 1-2 years ago

3

5

5

1

--

2

4

Married 3-5 years ago

4

6

6

1

2

3

4

Married 6-10 years ago

8

14

9

5

3

8

8

Married over 10 years ago

52

10

48

77

86

49

55

Currently planning my wedding

2

6

2

 

--

2

2

I have never been married

28

55

27

13

5

32

24

Prefer not to answer

2

1

2

2

3

2

2

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding; indicates a selection rate of <0.5%; -- indicates no selections for this option

 

TABLE 2

USED/INTEND TO USE IN PLANNING WEDDING

By Generation, Gender & Married in past 5 years/Planning wedding now

Thinking about the planning of your wedding, which of the following, if any, did you use/are you using or planning to use? If you have been married more than once, please think only about your most recent marriage. Please select all that apply.

Base: Adults who have been married or are currently planning their wedding

Total

Married in past 5 years/ Planning wedding now

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Used any of these (NET)

48

57

61

55

46

31

49

47

Hard copy/mailed invitations

44

46

53

50

43

30

44

44

Used an app (SUB-NET)

5

19

14

7

3

-

7

4

A wedding photo sharing app

3

13

8

4

1

-

4

2

A wedding planning/ scheduling app

3

10

8

3

3

-

3

3

An app to help choose a wedding gown

1

2

3

2

1

-

2

 

A professional wedding planner

4

8

8

6

2

3

6

2

Electronic/email invitations

2

11

8

3

 

1

3

2

None of these

52

43

39

45

54

69

51

53

Note: Multiple responses allowed; indicates a selection rate of <0.5%; -- indicates no selections for this option


TABLE 3

DESIGNED/PLANNING TO DESIGN A WEBSITE FOR WEDDING

By Generation, Gender & Married in past 5 years/Planning wedding now

Did you/Have you, or are you planning to, design a website for this wedding?

Base: Adults who have been married or are currently planning their wedding

Total

Married in past 5 years/ Planning wedding now

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Yes

4

20

16

4

-

-

4

4

No

95

77

80

95

100

100

94

96

Not at all sure

1

3

3

1

 

 

2

1

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding; indicates a selection rate of <0.5%; -- indicates no selections for this option

 

TABLE 4

INTEREST IN STREAMING OPTIONS

By Generation & Gender

If you were invited to a wedding but could not attend, which of the following, if any, would you be interested in participating in?

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Any of these (NET)

39

54

34

33

24

37

40

Watching a recording of a wedding online or through an app

22

26

19

22

17

17

27

Watching a live stream of the wedding online or through an app

17

29

16

11

8

16

18

Recording a video message for the couple

15

25

16

11

3

17

13

Live streaming a message to the couple during the reception

8

16

8

4

1

8

8

None of these

61

46

66

67

76

63

60

Note: Multiple responses allowed; indicates a selection rate of <0.5%; -- indicates no selections for this option

 

TABLE 5a

REASONS HAVE EVER NOT ATTENDED A WEDDING

By Generation & Gender

For which of the following reasons, if any, have you not attended a wedding?

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Any reason (NET)

49

52

51

49

35

49

48

I couldn't afford to (e.g., travel, clothing or gift cost)

21

22

26

20

17

19

24

To avoid drama (e.g., family drama)

6

5

8

6

1

6

5

I had another wedding to attend that weekend

4

8

1

2

4

5

4

I didn't approve of the person my friend/family member was marrying

3

4

2

2

1

3

2

I'd already been to one or more of the bride or groom's weddings

3

2

4

2

2

3

2

I couldn't bring my children

[among those living in households with children]

2

[7]

3

4

1

 

2

2

I couldn't find someone to go with

2

4

1

1

1

3

1

I was weddinged out (i.e., had used up all the time or money I could on other recent weddings)

2

3

3

1

1

3

1

I didn't want to run into an ex at the reception

1

1

2

2

 

2

1

I don't believe in weddings

1

2

3

1

 

2

1

I would not have been permitted to bring a guest/date

1

2

1

 

 

1

1

Something else

21

20

22

22

16

21

20

None of these

51

48

49

51

65

51

52

Note: Multiple responses allowed; indicates a selection rate of <0.5%; -- indicates no selections for this option


TABLE 5b

REASONS HAVE EVER NOT ATTENDED A WEDDING

By Generation & Gender

[Among those who have ever not attended a wedding they were invited to]

For which of the following reasons, if any, have you not attended a wedding?

Base: Adults who have ever not attended a wedding they were invited to

Total

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

I couldn't afford to (e.g., travel, clothing or gift cost)

44

43

51

40

48

38

49

To avoid drama (e.g., family drama)

11

10

16

12

4

12

11

I had another wedding to attend that weekend

8

15

2

5

12

9

7

I didn't approve of the person my friend/family member was marrying

6

8

4

5

2

6

5

I'd already been to one or more of the bride or groom's weddings

5

4

7

5

5

6

4

I couldn't bring my children

[among those living in households with children]

4

[13]

6

7

2

1

3

5

I couldn't find someone to go with

4

8

3

2

2

5

3

I was weddinged out (i.e., had used up all the time or money I could on other recent weddings)

4

5

5

3

1

6

2

I didn't want to run into an ex at the reception

3

2

4

4

1

3

3

I don't believe in weddings

3

3

6

2

 

4

2

I would not have been permitted to bring a guest/date

2

4

2

1

1

2

2

Something else

42

38

42

45

46

43

41

Note: Multiple responses allowed; indicates a selection rate of <0.5%; -- indicates no selections for this option


TABLE 6a

WEDDING TRADITIONS

How much do you agree or disagree with the following wedding 'traditions?'

Base: All adults

AGREE (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

%

%

%

%

%

%

The bride's father giving her away

84

44

40

16

11

5

Having a bridal shower for women only

74

26

48

26

19

7

The bride and groom spending the night before their wedding apart

71

29

42

29

19

10

Asking the bride's father/parents for permission before proposing

70

28

42

30

19

10

The groom's family paying for the rehearsal dinner

65

16

48

35

23

12

The bride being expected to wear a white dress

54

13

41

46

32

14

The bride's family paying for the wedding

53

13

40

47

33

14

Waiting for the wedding night

51

24

27

49

26

23

Spending on an expensive engagement ring

34

7

27

66

39

27

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 6b

WEDDING TRADITIONS

by Generation & Gender

How much do you agree or disagree with the following wedding 'traditions?'

Percent saying Strongly/Somewhat Agree

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The bride's father giving her away

84

75

85

90

88

84

84

Having a bridal shower for women only

74

70

74

76

77

78

70

The bride and groom spending the night before their wedding apart

71

70

67

74

72

65

76

Asking the bride's father/parents for permission before proposing

70

69

70

72

69

67

73

The groom's family paying for the rehearsal dinner

65

56

60

71

73

63

66

The bride being expected to wear a white dress

54

56

58

52

50

56

52

The bride's family paying for the wedding

53

46

49

58

62

58

48

Waiting for the wedding night

51

47

48

52

63

48

54

Spending on an expensive engagement ring

34

43

34

32

21

35

34


TABLE 7a

ATTITUDES ON WEDDINGS

How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Base: All adults

AGREE (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

%

%

%

%

%

%

Destination weddings put an unfair financial burden on guests.

88

50

38

12

8

4

Technology has made it easier to plan a wedding.

84

27

58

16

12

4

I prefer small, intimate weddings.

83

36

47

17

13

3

Spending money on an elaborate wedding is a waste.

83

44

39

17

13

4

If it's not the first marriage for the bride and/or groom, the wedding should be more subdued.

71

29

43

29

19

9

A wedding ceremony should be held in a place of religious worship.

46

16

30

54

32

22

I prefer adults only weddings.

46

17

29

54

32

22

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 7b

ATTITUDES ON WEDDINGS

by Generation & Gender

How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Percent saying Strongly/Somewhat Agree

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Millennials (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Destination weddings put an unfair financial burden on guests.

88

82

86

91

97

88

87

Technology has made it easier to plan a wedding.

84

83

85

86

82

83

85

I prefer small, intimate weddings.

83

80

86

83

89

84

83

Spending money on an elaborate wedding is a waste.

83

76

84

87

87

82

84

If it's not the first marriage for the bride and/or groom, the wedding should be more subdued.

71

58

71

77

87

68

74

A wedding ceremony should be held in a place of religious worship.

46

40

41

50

56

46

46

I prefer adults only weddings.

46

44

40

49

48

42

49


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,300 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll #54, June 4, 2014

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Manager, Harris Poll Content

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.

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