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).

    • Several of these sentiments vary from a generational standpoint:
      • Millennials are less inclined than their elders to believe a bride’s father should give her away (75% Millennials, 85% Gen Xers, 90% Baby Boomers, 88% Matures) but more likely to agree with the tradition of spending big on the ring (43%, 34%, 32% and 21%, respectively).
      • Meanwhile, Baby Boomers and Matures are more prone than their younger counterparts to support the traditional billing practices, being more likely to agree that the groom’s family should pay for the rehearsal dinner (56% Millennials, 60% Gen Xers, 71% Baby Boomers, 73% Matures) and the bride’s should pay for the wedding (46%, 49%, 58% and 62%, respectively). They’re also more likely to favor the ceremony being held in a place of worship (40%, 41%, 50% and 56%, respectively).
      • As to the question of waiting? Matures (63%) are the only generation with a clear majority in favor; about half of all others agree (47% Millennials, 48% Gen Xers, 52% Baby Boomers).
    • Perhaps not surprisingly, men are more likely than women to support bridal showers for the ladies only (78% men, 70% women) and the bride’s family footing the bill for the wedding (58% and 48%, respectively) while women are more likely to support the two spending the night before their wedding apart (76% women, 65% men) and the tradition of asking the bride’s father/parents for permission (73% and 67%, respectively). Men and women do, however, agree on the matter of the ring, with 35% of men and 34% of women voicing opposition to spending on an expensive engagement ring.

    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:

    • Twenty-two percent of Americans (26% of Millennials) show an interest in watching a recording of a wedding they couldn’t attend online or through an app, while 17% (29% among Millennials) would be interested in streaming it live.
    • Fifteen percent (25% of Millennials) say they’d be interested in recording a video message for the couple, while 8% (16% of Millennials) would be interested in live streaming a message to the couple during the reception.

    To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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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.