Business and Operations
The Modern Bride
By Michelle Brisebois
By Michelle Brisebois
Michelle Brisebois draws a profile of today’s bride.
You’ve come a long way baby. This famous slogan was coined in the late ’80s as part of a Virginia Slims campaign. The ad was designed to illustrate how empowered women had become during the 20th century. I’m not sure that a life-threatening addiction is actually progress, however the tag line certainly caught on. When we consider that it was roughly 85 years ago that women got the right to vote in Canada yet we’ve already had a female prime minister (brief though it was), one can begin to see how fast the progress has really been. It’s clear that today’s young woman is a very different breed than her grandmother. For those of us in the wedding industry, this metamorphosis has significant implications. The high colour on the cheeks of today’s blushing bride is more likely caused by adrenaline as she rushes from an executive presentation to her yoga class than from bashfulness. If we were to draw a profile of today’s typical bride, it would look something like this:
A later vintage
Our modern bride is older than her predecessors. According to Statistics Canada as of 2002, the average age for first marriages is rising every year for both brides and grooms. In 2000, women were on average 32 years old at the time of their first marriage, while grooms took their first marriage vows at an average age of 34. It was only in the ’80s that brides and grooms were 26 and 28 years old, respectively, at time of first marriage. Greater economic opportunities (education and career) for women have possibly contributed to this delay. A woman in her early 30s with a career will have a stronger sense of what she wants, make more of the decisions herself (rather than her parents) and will desire more customization. If you do custom cakes and bakery items, promote this actively in your materials.
Today’s bride has more disposable income than brides of yesteryear. In 1980, women 15 years of age and over made 52 cents for every $1 earned by men. By the year 2000, this ratio stood at 64 cents for women to every $1 earned by men.
Traditionally, things like education level and work experience factored into this. Many women entered the workforce after raising a family – now they go for the brass ring before the teething ring. Because woman have competed in the business world aggressively early in their careers, their wages have made strides. Salaries have been stagnant for men, increasing in 2000 for the first time since 1980. In contrast, earnings have increased steadily in each decade for women. According to Stats Canada, male earnings fell by about $200 between 1980 and 1990. Salaries then increased by $2,000 or 5.6 per cent over the next decade. For women, earnings rose 13.9 per cent between 1980 and 1990, and a further 12.9 per cent between 1990 and 2000. Take a look at the premium end of your offering. The bride of today has a strong sense of individuality and the bankroll to fund it. You may discover that there’s an opportunity for your business to meet a need.
Since many brides aren’t interested in having lots of kids, Canada’s growth is coming from immigration – primarily Asia. Asian food used to mean Chinese food but now it also refers to Thai, Szechwan, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Korean. As Canadian culture is more influenced by Asian culture, we will start to see it affect wedding trends and meld with established Canadian tradition. Statistics Canada also reports that since 1991, mixed unions have increased 35 per cent (according to the 2001 census). Just over three per cent of all existing Canadian marriages or common-law unions are mixed. Though Chinese are one of the largest immigrant groups in Canada, they have the second lowest rate of mixed marriages at 16 per cent of the married population. It’s surmised that subsequent generations will be more likely to intermarry with other Canadian ethnic groups. When we are new immigrants, we tend to marry our own culture. Brush up on Asian wedding traditions – sooner or later, it’s bound to be important to your business.
According to Statistics Canada, many of your bridal customers may have a bit of “wedding experience” under their garter belts already. Stats Can numbers from 2003 indicate that the number of Canadians getting divorced more than once is on the rise. They discovered that the number of marriage breakups involving wives who have been divorced at least once tripled in three decades. In 2003, 15.7 per cent of wives getting divorced had at least one previous divorce, while in 1973, the rate was 5.4 per cent. Similarly, divorces involving husbands who had previously been divorced rose from 5.2 per cent in 1973 to 16.2 per cent in 2003. A second (or third) time bride can be planning her wedding at any stage of life and may have more unusual requests. Second marriages often are lower key affairs and therefore there's more latitude to personalize the cake. One trend being reported in Calgary is “spoofing” on top of wedding cakes where a couple will have an image of something like “American Gothic” air-brushed with their faces superimposed.
The bride is a groom/the groom is a bride
Canada was the third country in the world to legalize same sex marriages. The recent change in government has caused many to wonder if this type of union will continue to exist. However, for the moment, it is an alternate form of marriage. Many in the wedding industry have discovered that providing a wedding service for same sex unions can be a good business decision. Some of your competitors may choose not to target or service this group for personal reasons. If you think it’s a market you could serve, consider advertising in the appropriate publications. Same sex couples tend to be older, more affluent and well travelled. There often aren’t children in the picture to tax the disposable income. Statistics show that at least 50 per cent of the same sex marriages performed in Ontario and B.C. are between two U.S. citizens who’ve travelled here to be legally wed.
It’s clear that our image of the blond Dresden doll on the top of the wedding cake no longer represents the typical Canadian bride. In fact, there is no typical Canadian bride anymore. It’s a fusion of age, culture, experience and even gender. Throw out all the outdated rules for weddings and look for your brides in unconventional places. Today’s bride relies more on prepared food than ever before so this may be a relationship with long-term potential. If you get the wedding right, you and the new “Missus” could have a long and happy union.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in helping companies grow their brands. Michelle can be reached at OnTrend Strategies by e-mail at: email@example.com