Weddings and the Sharing Economy

Would you be willing to rent your wedding dress from a stranger? Would you consider using someone else's flowers for your centerpiece? Would you pay for your wedding photography with free legal advice?
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If you're between the ages of 18 and 31 (in other words, a millennial) you most likely participate in the sharing economy. Maybe you use Air BnB to find a place to stay on vacation, maybe you take Lyft or Uber instead of a taxi, and maybe you do your yoga teacher's social media instead of paying for classes.

But would you be willing to rent your wedding dress from a stranger? Would you consider using someone else's flowers for your centerpiece? Would you pay for your wedding photography with free legal advice? More and more often the answers to those wedding planning questions are yes.

At we recently surveyed over 2,000 couples with weddings from the early 2000s through 2014 (and a few scheduled in 2015). We found that the vast majority of those with 2014 or later weddings were interested in, and planning on, finding ways to buy used items, or share items, for their wedding, including wedding dresses.

Not only were couples who got married between 2000-2012 less likely to be interested in buying used items, or sharing items for their wedding, they lacked the technology that would have made doing so easy, and if they did use pre-owned items, they had a sense of embarrassment about the idea.

Andrea Lown of SmartBride Boutique agrees with these results. Lown started Smartbride in 2008. Back then, a lot of her clients were nervous and somewhat secretive about using someone else's wedding dress. They often hid the information from friends and family. Today though, Lown says that with the rise of the sharing economy outside of the wedding world, more and more brides are becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of buying a used dress, and selling their dress later. Lown points to the rise her company has seen in resale of dresses costing over $2,000 as evidence that this trend isn't just for the broke, and isn't in fact just about saving money.

Jennifer Soffen, founder of Rebloom, agrees that the rise in selling and buying used wedding items isn't just about money. Soffen started Rebloom earlier this year after noticing how many weddings had flower arrangements that went to waste after the big day. With Rebloom, couples can arrange to have their flowers picked up after the wedding. The arrangements are then resold at a 70-90 percent discount to other events.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale goes to a charity of the couple's choosing and many couples simply donate the entire amount of the sale. Of course, couples can also purchase the flowers from other events. Soffen believes that the millenial generation's well-known tendency towards both altruism and DIY is helping to erase the stigma of "used" items for weddings.

According to GigMasters' research, most couples are equally willing to use general resale outlets such as Ebay or Craig's List as they are more wedding specific sites such as SmartBride or Rebloom. Interestingly though, as much as today's couples love doing things online, and as big a part as technology has played in the sharing economy, engaged couples greatly prefer working with friends or local businesses for their used wedding items.

One area where the sharing economy has not found its way in to weddings is when it comes to paying for wedding professionals. Although almost 70% of couples were interested in finding ways other than money to pay for wedding services, only 4% had actually found a way to do so. Those numbers remain largely unchanged between couples who got married before 2012 and those who got married after 2012. This is most likely because most wedding vendors prefer cash!

Weddings are often referred to as a "recession proof" business, meaning that no matter how bad the economy gets, people will always get married and always need wedding vendors. While that might be true, the rise of the sharing economy and its place in the wedding world shows that weddings are not immune to all market forces.

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