While millennials are often identified as spontaneous and impetuous, WeddingWire’s new Millennial Engagement Survey finds that young couples are planning more intently and farther ahead compared to generations who were married 10 years ago.

Couples dedicate hours researching vendors online, with 87 percent reading reviews when searching, to ultimately hiring a total of 13 professionals on average.

Communicating with those wedding pros is key, as 40 percent expect at least weekly correspondence and 57 percent follow their vendors on social media after they’ve booked their services to confirm their quality of work and get inspiration.

In 2016 and 2017, 80 percent of couples wanted a layer cake at their wedding and 57 percent wanted at least three layers, according to Thumbtack.com. Tall cakes are more complex and more popular.

Most bakers price wedding cakes by the slice. The number of guests invited to the wedding — or the number of cake servings — directly affects the cost. Bake My Day Baking in Dallas charges $2.50 to $8 per slice, based on the complexity, size and design of the cake.

Millennial engagements are more unique, elaborate and emotional, and the generation is also keen on discussing “hard topics” before approaching marriage, including finances, if they want children, managing household chores and how they will spend the holidays.

“It’s refreshing to see millennial couples prioritizing the planning process for their proposals, ensuring these big, memorable life moments are unique to them and oftentimes involve family and friends to make the day extra special,” says Anne Chertoff, WeddingWire trends expert. “This thoughtful proposal planning translates directly into their wedding planning process, which is now starting earlier than ever before, showcasing how important it is to have the right team of vendors for their big day.”

When it comes to planning a wedding, millennial couples are getting started earlier than ever. Millennials are more likely than Gen X (no specification on marriage date) to: check the availability/cost of a venue (29 percent vs. 17 percent); research wedding vendors (25 percent vs. 13 percent); and create a Pinterest board with wedding inspiration (25 percent vs. 13 percent).

Further, couples are becoming experts in combining time-honored traditions with highly personalized elements to ensure their weddings feel like a reflection of themselves. Most couples share a slice of something sweet with a cake-cutting ceremony (84 percent), while 50 percent incorporate a theme into their celebration decor.

Seventy-one percent of couples get married between May and October, with fall becoming an increasingly popular time for ceremonies.

On average, couples in the United States spend nearly $30,000 on wedding ceremony and reception costs, and yet determining how to budget for the various vendors and services involved often feels like an overwhelming challenge.

By providing realistic costs for everything from the photographer to the wedding cake, as well as information on sometimes unforeseen or not-included costs that can impact a budget, WeddingWire offers financial insight and education to couples as they start making decisions about their big day. With this new resource, couples and their families can feel more confident and validated in vendor choices that may impact their bottom line. Once couples are armed with more knowledge, they can easily search and filter by price point in WeddingWire’s comprehensive vendor directory which features over 200,000 local wedding professionals across the U.S.

WeddingWire also presents engaged couples with an additional resource by bringing to light wedding date data on the most popular dates, as well as important events and holidays.

Guest expectations

The group’s most recent Wedding Guest Survey reveals what matters most to wedding guests, how much they spend to attend wedding celebrations, their biggest pet peeves and more. The survey asked more than 900 people of varying ages and relationship statuses from across the U.S. about their recent experiences as a wedding guest.

On average, guests spend between $665 and $1,065 to attend a wedding, with additional gifts for the bridal shower or engagement party costing an extra $230. “While weddings should always reflect the couple’s personality and desires, the guest experience is certainly worthy of consideration,” Chertoff says. “These survey results show us that guests do indeed have opinions about both the ceremony and reception, have a keen eye for details, and want to have a great time celebrating with good food, drinks and music.”

Guests are excited about a wide array of things at weddings, from celebrating the happy couple (68 percent) and catching up with family and friends (63 percent), to free food (50 percent) and dancing (41 percent).

When it comes down to what guests are paying the most attention to, decor is marked at the top of the list by more than one-third of wedding guests at both the ceremony and the reception, confirming the importance of aesthetics at wedding celebrations. Additionally, guests pay the most attention to the bride’s dress during the ceremony (60 percent) and food at the reception (64 percent).

With the cost of weddings increasing year over year, WeddingWire analyzed what areas engaged couples can skip when it comes to their big day. Guests care the least about escort cards (2 percent), extra amenities (6 percent) and wedding favors (9 percent).

Couples are also being judged on the details of their special day. Almost half of married couples say they judge the wedding they’re attending against their own, which showcases the importance of leveraging wedding vendors to create a cohesive theme and great guest experience.