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

PR Newswire

NEW YORK, June 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- 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.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,300 adults surveyed online between April 16 and 21, 2014. (Full results, including data tables, available here)

"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 Website - 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.

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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. (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

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