The Decline of Weddings * Is It Time For Panic?

There was a post in the DJ Idea Sharing Facebook forum complaining that weddings are on the decline for 2024. The group member posted that when speaking with numerous wedding professionals they had all admitted that wedding bookings were down for 2024. This seemed to be confirmed by hundreds of DJs who replied to the thread stating that weddings were certainly down!

This is where it got interesting as all of the DJs gave their expert opinions as to why and predictions of doom and gloom ran wild all over DJIS. Some blamed the economy. Others blamed the presidential election year. Others blamed Millennials! Is it time to panic?……………….. Nope. Here’s why.

To understand the wedding market one must first understand the people who are currently getting married. That would be the 25-45 year old age bracket. The Millennial and Gen Z generations are now the ones tying the knot and deciding whether or not to have a small. medium, or large wedding. How about none of the above? Small venue, Large opulent venue, outdoor reception, barn, beach or backyard. Basically all of these options are in play. More now than ever before. Let’s use music as a way to explain how people have evolved and why DJs 45 and over just don’t understand them or want to understand them!

Back when I started out in the 80s things were loud. Colors were bright and designs were flamboyant. Music was dynamic, arrangements long and lyrics deep! We were still on a hangover from the 70’s disco era and songs could be 7, 8 or even 9 minutes long. Lots of repetition and complexity! As we entered the 90’s the house music scene exploded and dance remixes were loaded with tons of tacky samples and redundant measures. Hell, I used to joke that my record could skip for 5 minutes and the dance floor would stay packed! On the wedding and private event side it was the golden age of interaction, line dances and excess. You couldn’t just be a DJ at a wedding in the 90s, you needed to be a show person and entertainer. At the end of a 5 hour reception your feet hurt so bad you would limp home.

Weddings were mostly at fancy venues. 3-4 course dinners were in and Venetian desert stations were all the rage! Tables had tons of flower centerpieces and cakes would often feed 300 with a colored water fountain in the center. It was also the time where DJs became the main preferred choice for wedding entertainment over bands and the work was plentiful. I remember doing what we called “doubles” all the time. That’s two weddings in one day and it was not for the faint of heart. We worked our tails off. For many multi-operations this was the golden era to grow and make tons of money!

As we entered into a new Millennium the attacks of 9-11 followed by the economic crash of 2007 left DJs wishing for the “Old Days”. Weddings did slow down and people elected to cut down on the glitz. What would be common in 1995 like a wedding of 300 guests now was reduced to 100 guests on the average. But even more so just like the disco hangover in the 80s music was now becoming more conservative with many wedding couples banning songs like the Macarena, Electric Slide and Chicken Dance as they had been tortured with these dances as kids growing up. For the first time in my career I saw DO NOT PLAY lists that were bigger than the actual play list itself. It seemed like with the emergence of the Millennial generation came a paradox of wedding trends where everything old was really old and had no place at a modern wedding.

As we got into the 2010s wedding business seemed to be gaining steam back but with new trends dominating the scene like architectural up-lighting and photo booths. Certainly DJs were becoming more than just DJs. They were becoming event designers opening up a whole new level entrepreneurship! Flowers were being replaced by lighting and instead of wedding favors the photo booth became a overnight success. It was a different type of excess where color exploded and the bride and groom had their name in lights right on the dance floor. DJs went from being a entertainer to a technician.

Couples started to embrace the “old tyme” look in a simpler time of country living. This opened up receptions to be held in backyards, barns and farms. I doubt all those fancy wedding venues from the 80s and 90s with fog effects, venetian tables and gold wallpaper ever saw this happening? But we were at the age of conservative thinking and the “LESS IS MORE” concept was about to explode.

The wedding business was robust and certain days were in heavy demand as we had a play on. numbers. 17-17, 18-18, and the BIG one 10-10-20! 2020 was setting up to be a record breaking business year. If 2020 actually happened 10-10-20 would have broken record after record for weddings, no doubt! BUT…. it didn’t happen. And now, with all that history in mind here is where things in 2024 will make sense….

Couples in the marrying age of 25-45 today have lived through the 2000 Millennial, 9-11, the great recession, a crazy political cycle and a world wide pandemic! The question is: Why are weddings down? The answer is as follows: We are taking a breather. No one had weddings in 2020. Then there was a slow build back in 2021. 2022 saw a snap back and 2023 was a very busy year. It is a natural business cycle to see a pull back after a over-abundant 2023. Additionally, couples 25-45 have been through the ringer and just want SIMPLE things! They are also under financial pressure from the absurd inflation pattern, high interest rates choking them out of affording a home or new car! Food prices and gas have made things truly difficult for Main Street while Wall Street celebrates tons of profit.

Example: My wedding in 1993 was $55 a plate. A Wedding in 2024 averages $150 per plate! Couples simply can’t afford as much as the Baby Boomer or Gen X Generations and so many are pulling back. Finding creative ways to have a wedding but be conservative.

As mentioned previously, music in the 90s was long and complicated. Tacky samples and plenty of redundancy. Music today is not only simple, but short. The TikTok effect has people unable to keep attention or have interest in anything over 2 minutes. You can literally blame the Iphone and technology for changing generations and altering trends. And this has bled into the wedding market. Where a wedding in 1995 would have a DJ with lighting, a fancy venue with chair covers, desert stations, photographer, video and flowers everywhere…..

A wedding today might be in the parents backyard barn, lawn games and a BBQ truck. Don’t forget the “Friend Of A Friend” running that bluetooth speaker. That’s just the way it is. Couples today not only are simple but just don’t have high expectations. This is the biggest difference between the Baby Boomers / Gen X kids vs Millennials and Gen Z. Couples want short and sweet and cheap! Blame them all you want but you can’t swim against the current. Just learn to go with it.

So, I would argue that people are still getting married. They are still spending money, even if it’s a limited budget and to my colleagues I would suggest the following. “Don’t panic! Simply Adopt” Find new ways to caterer to today’s wedding couples because there will always be one constant in life and that’s LOVE.

And as long as there is love there will be weddings.

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