Exclusive: How Gen Z Views Marriage and Weddings—Surprise, Nearly 90 Percent Plan to Wed Someday

gen zAccording to The Knot’s survey of respondents between the ages 14 to 23, weddings and marriages are still very much top-of-mind for the up-and-coming generation. Read on for more details. (Photo by Ronny Sison on Unsplash)

Invitations in the form of memes? Registering for an AR honeymoon in Antarctica? The possibilities for the weddings of tomorrow appear to be a never-ending stream of innovation and experiential wonder. And while society continues to ask what weddings will look like in the future, The Knot, instead, recently asked the all-important question: What exactly are weddings to the future?

“To me, a wedding is two things,” says Jennifer Boyd, 18, of Hull, Massachusetts. “It’s a ceremony and it’s a celebration.”

Boyd is a member of Generation Z, a demographic cohort of anyone born between the years of 1996 to 2015, trailing Millennials, those currently at the forefront of hyper-personalized weddings. For our study, The Knot surveyed respondents between the ages of 14 to 23 (17 being the average age). Forty-two percent of those surveyed are currently attending college and, yes: most are marriage-minded.

“The ceremony makes the marriage official,” Boyd explains. “The wedding shows the world that two people vow to be life partners and teammates, and that they are ready to spend the rest of their lives with one another.”

Nearly 90 Percent See Themselves Getting Married

About 9 out of every 10 of the Gen Zers surveyed told us that they saw themselves getting married in the future, and not for ephemeral reasons. In fact, the data predicts a generation that is increasingly socially conscious, financially responsible (92 percent said being fiscally stable was important before marriage), and richly diverse in perspective.

“Marriage is a promise to be with your significant other for as long as you are alive,” says Noorie Dhingra. The 15-year-old native of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, identifies as Punjabi and Sikhi in religious belief.

“My personal values are influenced by my religion,” she adds. “This places a heavy emphasis on ‘seva,’ or service to the community. I would most likely encourage wedding guests to start a community project, like teaching teens financial literacy or buying books for a local library.”

The dichotomy between Millennials and Gen Zers is nuanced in some ways—both live in the tech age, for example, and many values overlap between the two cohorts—but the concept of tradition in weddings will shift in the decade to come.

87 Percent Will Somehow Make Their Own Traditions

“Tradition means passing down the customs of people who came before me,” Boyd says. “This may mean practicing a faith, learning a family recipe, taking care of family property, or wearing an heirloom. Traditions add value and significance to our everyday lives when we practice them. Traditions connect generations.”

Nearly 87 percent of respondents saw themselves making their own traditions with their weddings, whether it be putting a twist on family or religious practices or merging multiple cultural customs. In fact, nearly 24 percent of those surveyed saw themselves creating new and completely unique traditions for their future nuptials.

For her own future wedding, Boyd will put an “individual spin” on the entire sequence of events. Tangibly, the college student says she’d add a twist to the first dance by writing her own love song for her future husband to dance to at their reception. She’d also ask her own first questions between the ceremony and the party.

Nichole Cline/KevinChole Photography

“I’d like to have 10 minutes alone with my husband before the reception,” she explains. “We can ask each other questions like, ‘Were you nervous?’ ‘How are you feeling now?’ ‘What are you looking forward to next?’”

Forty-two percent of respondents say they would like to take an existing wedding tradition and put a twist on it. “I want my wedding to reflect my husband’s and my own individuality,” Boyd explains. “We have our own talents, backgrounds, and passions. Music has always been a big part of my life. To me, the act of creating music with someone is as intimate as it gets. I want my wedding to be about the marriage, not the ‘show.’ So, I think it’s important that my husband and I have time during the wedding to ourselves. I want to comfort him if he is nervous and remind him that I love him. I want him to know that I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him.”

Culture and Religion Will Impact Future Wedding Traditions

About 44 percent of respondents saw themselves merging traditions from more than one culture. (Among those surveyed, nearly 42 percent of respondents were self-identified as Asian, another 34 percent as white, 9 percent as black and 6 percent as Hispanic. Nearly 10 percent described themselves as other, meaning mixed in backgrounds and cultures or Arab.)

Indian Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra (L) and US musician Nick Jonas, who were recently married, pose for a picture during a reception in Mumbai, western India, on December 19, 2018. – Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra and American singer Nick Jonas hosted an extravagant concert on December 2, 2019, for their star-studded wedding guests as the couple tied the knot at a lavish Indian palace. (Photo by Sujit Jaiswal / AFP) (Photo credit should read SUJIT JAISWAL/AFP/Getty Images)

About 75 percent said they had a religious background, while a quarter of respondents said they had no affiliation. Eighteen percent of respondents opted to observe tradition in the conventional sense.

“As an Orthodox Jew, tradition will probably play a huge role in my wedding,” says Zachary Gold. “My religion will strictly dictate what I can and can’t do at my wedding, leaving little room for me to infuse my own unique traditions into my wedding.”

The 16-year-old from White Plains, New York, however, says Judaism’s wedding practices are “for the best”—personally speaking. “For me, an extravagant wedding will take away from the intimacy,” he muses. “Making it an entertainment event is something I don’t want my wedding to be.”

That’s not to say his wedding will lack livelihood. “I’ve actually considered further embracing the Jewish wedding tradition of guests putting on skits for the bride and groom,” he notes. “I think it makes the wedding really fun.”

Charity Registries Will Rise

For Dhingra, the inclusion of a charity registry naturally integrates into her religious beliefs and her generation’s desire for social impact. “Some causes I would help promote are nonprofits that get people back into the workforce after jail,” she adds. “This is important because families need a source of income, and the more they struggle in search of one, the more significant the impact on their lives. I want my wedding to have a positive impact.”

Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they are likely to include a charity registry in their weddings. “It’s an unconventional-yet-altruistic alternative to wedding gifts,” Boyd says, adding that she would create one for her future nuptials. “I would help promote the following causes: scholarship funds, child abuse prevention, human trafficking prevention and veteran care.”

The vast majority of respondents (nearly 3 out of every 4) saw themselves getting married between the ages of 20 to 30. About 15 percent saw themselves getting married in their thirties.

“To me, marriage means promise,” Boyd concludes. “Marriage is a sacred commitment. It’s a commitment to share your life with someone extremely special to you. A life partner is someone you honor, love, and cherish. They are worth making sacrifices for. They occupy a role that no one else can ever have… Marriage means being part of something bigger than yourself.”

“It’s hard to define in just one paragraph, Gold concludes. “In my mind, an ideal marriage is between two people who really love each other.”

Start your wedding registry here.

About the Author

Esther Lee
Esther Lee
Esther is the Senior News Editor at The Knot. A self-proclaimed pop culture enthusiast, she appreciates a good celebrity interview just as much as she adores Nancy Meyers movies. You can find her kicking off her mornings with barre and a green juice, traveling and exploring new cultures, and rapidly scrolling her feed for the latest and greatest news. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @theestherlee.