Mark Zuckerberg just married his longtime girlfriend Priscilla Chan a day after Facebook's epic debut on the NASDAQ. But most people aren't lucky enough to pocket a few billion the same week they tie the knot. For the majority of Americans, weddings remain a major expense.
Americans spent an average of $27,021 on their weddings in 2011, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by The Knot, a wedding website. (Hat tip to CNN.) That's the first time that cost has gone up since 2008. Wedding spending was on the decline in 2009 and 2010, two years that spanned much of the Great Recession. But the price tag is creeping back up now, though it has yet to reach the 2008 level of $29,334.
Last year's reported spending increase on weddings matches up with the small jump in overall consumer spending that took place at the same time. Notably, even though spending went up last year, incomes have been steadily dropping.
Yet despite the shaky economy, Americans remain willing to spend a significant amount on their weddings -- in many cases, spending more than what an ordinary worker earns in a year. The average wedding budget in 2010 was $26,984, while the median annual paycheck was reported as $26,364 for that year.
Many couples, however, have been bypassing wedding costs in other ways -- like not marrying at all. Marriage rates have been on the decline for decades now, with a growing number of people settling into other arrangements like unmarried cohabitation, according to a Pew Research Center report from December. But in recent years, it's been suggested that the poor economy may be helping to keep marriage rates down, as young adults are taking longer to get on a solid financial footing. Between 2009 and 2010 alone, the number of new marriages dropped by 5 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.
And that's all part of a larger story -- that thanks to a poor job market, it's taking young adults longer to hit the same milestones as their parents' generation. With young men and women experiencing the worst unemployment rate in decades, more and more people between the age of 25 and 34 -- unable to afford the cost of living alone -- are moving back to their parents' homes after giving it an unsuccessful go in the real world.