The New Nuptial Attitude
How Generation Y is Shaping the Wedding Industry
In recent years, as all those born between 1981 and 1996 have found themselves in full-blown adulthood, the prevalence of teasing commentary about the lifestyles of millennials (aka members of Generation Y) has reached new heights.
An example: They live off of their parents and hope the new iPhone will come in “millennial pink” instead of just rose gold. While there may be some hard facts behind these jokes, the generation is full of conscientious change-makers. A 2014 U.S. Trust study cited by The Washington Post found that millennials are more likely than their elders to see investment choices as means by which to act on “social, political or environmental values.”
One microcosm through which to observe this mindful approach to investing is in Gen Y weddings, where choices aren’t only about which companies to support, but also the messages couples wish to convey. I talked to some locals who have made firsthand observations on new nuptial attitudes.
Pamela Older of Pam Older Designs in Newburyport says diamonds are still in high demand, but her young clients now ask for assurances that they have been ethically sourced. Some of Older’s custom rings possess a nontraditional whimsy, starring the likes of moonstone and sapphire, but she’s also seeing shifts within the classic category.
“I see a resurgence of yellow gold and simple solitaire styles with personal details like engraving,” she says.
Joanna Hall, owner of The Flower Mill in Lowell, says, “We also see lots of couples trying to support local vendors, which is so fantastic for us brick-and-mortar shops. … We often have people who are familiar with our style and unique items, and leave me the availability to create something one of a kind.” These arrangements include the nontraditional, such as huge king protea flowers or clippings from evergreens.
A similar rustic aesthetic is fundamental to much of what Maddie Goodnuff makes by hand at Sugarhouse Stationery in Manchester, N.H. Goodnuff has designed invitations, envelopes and menus for young couples looking to focus on the beauty of the natural spaces they choose for their weddings, often by incorporating her watercolor landscapes. The embrace of outdoor venues is another growing trend.
Rachel Chandler, co-founder of Red Antler Apothecary in Lowell, has perspectives on current trends informed by her family’s experience. Her mother worked as a wedding consultant for almost 50 years before premarital cohabitation became more common in the ’90s. She set up registries requesting everything but the kitchen sink — and sometimes even that was needed.
Reflecting on preparations for her own 2001 wedding, Chandler notes, “In a [store] with 500 dresses, two or three of them you could get with a colored sash.” The rest were pure white. These days, Chandler observes alternative colors from local designers like Jack Attackk Clothing on Western Avenue in Lowell. Today, many feel free to cut ties with color symbology without being whispered about by aunts.
In her own business, which she co-owns with her husband, Rick Stec, Chandler delights in talking to young couples ordering wedding favors. The most important thing she observes, backed up by her mother’s knowledge: “Rather than hanging their hat on etiquette, which is what it used to be, it’s much more about the experience of their guests, and being reflective of their values.” In Chandler’s view, the successful fight for the same-sex marriage has increased the general ethical consciousness surrounding weddings.
She notes how many young couples put natural, fair trade and environmentally sustainable front and center in their planning. These are all values that bring them to Red Antler. Many of the store’s home and body products are made with all-natural ingredients sourced with fair wages and geographical proximity in mind (the owners and staff grow and forage many of their offerings).
The soaps sold by the store as favors come in compostable muslin bags or beeswax wraps from the owners’ own bees, which also provide the honey samples some couples choose for their guests. “Millennials know what wax wraps are,” she says. I do, at least.