The average cost of a wedding — excluding the honeymoon — has now soared to $31,213, according to the wedding planning website TheKnot. And experts cite the "images of celebrity wedding extravagance," a la last year's $12 million "Kimye" nuptials in Florence, Italy, as at least one factor influencing couples' spending choices.
Obviously, no one's saying you have to shell out that much. But with this being prime time for popping the question — 39 percent of all marriage proposals occur between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day — there is one trend that's become both almost a must and a potential money-saving opportunity.
"Personalization," TheKnot reports, "is on the rise."
Here's what you need to know:
* The wedding venue. Scenic farms with barns are big with brides and grooms. "I think it has a lot to do with photography," Lorin Holmes, co-founder of VermontWeddings.com, told USA Today. "When couples get married, they're really looking for interesting, unusual details." And hey, when you consider the $50,000 tab to hold a reception at the New York Public Library — anything cultural or historic is also hot — the average venue booking fee of $14,000 starts to look pretty good.
* The reception. The big news flash here is that spending on cocktail hours jumped 7 percent. So think signature cocktails — TheKnot's spiked chocolate milkshake recipe sounds yummy — rather than an open bar.
* The engagement ring. If you've been reading the glossies, you know the splash celebs like Elizabeth Hurley and Jessica Simpson made sporting ones with colored gemstones. And while it needn't be her birthstone — Simpson's is ruby, but Hurley's sapphire jibes with the month her then-fiance was born — the right romantic touch can make for the ultimate in personalization.
"It can also be the month a couple met or her favorite color," says Jason Kordvani, president of product development at Davani (DavaniJewelry.com), a family-owned company specializing in colored gemstones that has a nearly 50-year rep for creating some of the most gorgeous engagement rings around.
And here's the kicker: Whether sapphire, emerald, ruby or some other stone, as Kordvani notes, couples are also often pleasantly surprised to discover they can get "a larger, more important-looking ring at much less cost than a diamond." The firm itself offers styles ranging from the more affordable Davani Bridal to the show-stopping Luxury Collection.
As if thinking of those Kimye nuptials, he adds: "People want big rings like the ones celebrities wear."