This article originally appeared in Attn: on May 17, 2017
Millennials want to do weddings differently.
Wedding industry experts are seeing a new trend, with young couples now looking for "woke" weddings, or — for those challenged by popular vernacular — socially conscious weddings.
"This is definitely a trend that I have been watching. In consultations with new clients, especially if they're 30 or younger, they want to have more intentional or meaningful weddings," Jordan A. Maney, owner and founder of All the Days Event Company in San Antonio, Texas, told ATTN: "They don't want to do the traditional version of events just because they're mother did it it, or wear a certain type of dress just because they saw it in a magazine."
Liz Susong, editor of the online publication Catalyst Wedding Company, said millennials are making their weddings more socially conscious in a variety of ways.
"I think couples are making greater efforts to update how they address invitations to respect the identities of their guests. They are focusing less on gender as an organizing principle to determine who walks down the aisle with whom, who pays, who speaks, who wears a suit," she told ATTN: via email. "They are working to support small business owners who are women and people of color, and they are trying to be conscientious about their consumerism in terms of the dress, rings, flowers, and food they purchase because they know their money has an impact."
Whether altering the ceremony, using vendors with avowedly shared values, or offering ways for guest to give back to charity, millennials aren't getting hitched like older generations did.
Susong said socially conscious couples will often make a point to share their political values with their guests.
"They are willing to challenge traditions and expectations to have a wedding that is more reflective of the couple, and for a lot of people, this can have political undertones," she said. "During their ceremony, they may make a more concerted effort to educate their guests on their values, and while they make vows to each other, they may also make a vow to their community and the world regarding the contributions they intend to make together."
Some couples will avoid using gender as a way to organize the bridal party, and make sure their wedding vows do not include statements about marriage that could exclude LGBT couples. As ATTN: previously reported, the mainstream wedding industry lacks diversity in terms of race, sexual orientation, and body size, and some couples are pushing back by using vendors that cater to minority groups.
Hotels for Hope is a company that offers hotel bookings for different events. Rooms booked through the company allot $2 per room, per night, to organizations that help children — and the company makes sure couples include that in the information they send out to guests.
"Our social mission as a company is to impact the lives of children through hotels," Nicole Watson, director of marketing and giving for Hotels for Hope, told ATTN: "The way we do that is through wedding blocks and large consumer events, whatever the case may be, where all of our clients get to pick what non profits they want it to go back towards."
Couples can give back either by booking blocks of rooms for their guests or offering the Hotels for Hope wedding portal for their guests to pick their own hotel.
Hotels For Hope's Hotel brokerage director Veronica Lee said wedding planners are reaching out to her because their clients like the social justice mission.
"I think that's why a lot of planners have been sending me a lot of their clients," she said. "The charitable organization gets a donation and we help them getting the rooms for couples. It's really a win-win for them to be able to give back to charity."
Wedding dress company Celia Grace sells custom dresses it calls "fair trade."
"Fair trade means we ensure safe and empowering work conditions and a fair wage so that our dressmakers can take their kids to the doctor and send their girls to school," owner Lisa Kaehler told ATTN:. "We work with women-owned cooperatives in India and Thailand, and our mission is to make sure that women are empowering women, especially on such an important day of their lives."
Kaehler believes young people are more interested in socially conscious wedding products.
"I love when they are excited about our product because they were looking for a product that exemplifies their values," she said. "By working with local florists and sustainable caterers, weddings can be an incredible opportunity to help a community. The idea that weddings are all about bigger, better, over the top productions is fading away."
Some people believe buying a "conflict free" diamond is a guaranteed socially conscious choice, but it's not that simple. Although the Kimberley Process, named for a diamond-rich region in South Africa, aims to reduce the global flow of conflict diamonds by certifying them as "conflict-free," smugglers are still moving these diamonds and mislabeling them to hide their origin.
Conflict diamonds (or "blood diamonds") are used to finance wars in different parts of the world. A 2013 report by Jason Miklian for Foreign Policy said that Kimberley Process-certified diamonds are "about as easy to fake as an old driver’s license."
Susong said that Canadian, lab-grown, and recycled diamonds are the best options if you want a ring with the stone. And making custom rings out of recycled metals is growing in popularity for conscious couples.
Some couples use wedding registry sites that allow guests to donate to charity in lieu of a gift. Thankful Registry lets couples mix traditional gifts with donations, while SoKind Registry bills itself as an "alternative gift registry that encourages donations, homemade gifts, and volunteered time as gifts."
Maney, from All the Days Event Company, said this trend in socially conscious weddings is "transformative" for the wedding industry.
"In the Netherlands, if you spend over $10,000 on a wedding, people are looking at you like you've lost your entire mind, and here a lot of people will stare at you like, 'that's it? why aren't you spending more?'" she said. "I always tell my clients that meaning costs nothing — and that is more impactful than having the most decked-out, glamorous event. You want something that's going to reflect who you are."