When Did Weddings Become Marathons?

Chelsea Jones spent more money as a bridesmaid than it would’ve cost a single guest to attend her own Jamaican destination wedding for 10 days. Over the course of countless bridal showers, multi-day international bachelorette parties, and dress fittings, Jones, an occupational therapist and photographer in Alberta, Canada, estimates she spent around $10,000 on gifts and ancillary wedding events. Throughout her 20s and early 30s, Jones, 34, noticed the scope of weddings grew to encompass celebrations beyond the ceremony and reception. (A trend she’s now clocked among pregnancy and baby-related parties, too.) The amount of time and money she felt obligated to spend on weddings—weddings she was genuinely excited for, mind you—grew to a point where she wondered if there was a limit to what people would celebrate.

“I’m not the fun police, I love parties, but at the same time […] you’re feeling obligated to do these things and you can’t really say no, even if you’re not in a financial position to say yes,” Jones says. “It hurts that they’re not thinking about inclusion and accessibility for the people that they’re supposed to care about. Again, it’s not my day, but at the same time, people have to make up lies and excuses to get out of it.”

While multi-day celebrations are common for traditional Indian weddings, western ceremonies are growing to include events extending beyond the ceremony and reception. According to a 2018 Brides study, 31 percent of couples hosted multi-day weddings, up from 20 percent in 2017, including ancillary events such as post-reception after parties and day-after brunch.

These extended celebrations are gaining traction thanks to high-profile brides. Before her 2018 wedding to Nick Jonas, Priyanka Chopra celebrated her bachelorette party in international style with a weekend in Amsterdam. Peloton instructor Ally Love recently tied the knot during a five-day destination wedding, complete with a Trinidadian Carnival beach party and an all-white dinner. Paris Hilton will purportedly celebrate her nuptials over the course of three days. From bachelorette weeks to welcome receptions, the celebration of matrimony is no longer a one-day affair.

This expansion of wedding celebrations began in the late 1990s when bigger events began to gain favor. The pomp and circumstance associated with the royal wedding of Diana and Charles combined with the rise of individualism in the 1980s led to families believing lavish weddings were something a couple deserved, says Beth Montemurro, a professor of sociology at Penn State University, Abington and the author of Something Old, Something Bold: Bridal Showers and Bachelorette Parties. Also during the ’90s, Montemurro says, bachelorette parties solidified their place within the bridal zeitgeist, with destinations like Nashville, and activities like a spa day followed by a night at the bars, becoming popular.

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