The midlife weddings that break all the rules

Whether you are planning a gazebo-in-the-back-garden do or meticulously colour-coded Bridgerton-inspired tablescaping, 2022 is turning out to be a boom year for weddings. Never has there been more pent-up demand.

There are typically about 275,000 weddings in the UK annually, but figures from wedding industry representative body the UK Weddings Taskforce show that all those pandemic postponements have resulted in more than 330,000 taking place this year, with perhaps 880,000 in the pipeline for the next few years. Bring on those invitations, whether sent by snail mail, Paperless Post or humble WhatsApp group: we’re all craving some life-affirming joy right now.

Of course, much has changed in the past two years about how we can – and how we choose to – get married or civilly partnered. Lockdown may have been defined by Zoom ceremonies and micro-weddings, but in its aftermath a new mood has swept in, with the wedding planner’s traditional rule book being jettisoned and a less hidebound, more free-spirited, creative approach holding sway: think brides wearing bright colours or prints; catering comprising “grazing tables”, rather than fussy waiter service. 

And there is implicit permission to keep it small, if that’s what you want to do – lockdown’s strict rule of 30 seemingly having divested us of any embarrassment about numbers for evermore. (According to a national survey by the wedding website hitched.co.uk, pre-pandemic average numbers of invitees were 102, but this has now dipped to 72.)

Smaller, looser, cost-conscious weddings are the celebrations du jour: Google searches for “garden wedding” have seen a 284 per cent increase in 2022. And, happily, last year’s change in the licensing laws, permitting a wedding ceremony to take place entirely outdoors (originally a Covid thing, but so popular it has now been made permanent), means that having a do in a rustic fairy glen and getting the paperwork done in one fell swoop just got a whole lot easier.

Different people, different ages

Whether couples choose to celebrate inside or outside, this new spirit of in­for­m­ality is particularly suited to midlifers with the itch to get hitched, without having to do the full-blown, princess-perfect extravaganza (each to their own, of course, but wearing a giant meringue wide enough to flatten your average herbaceous border is probably not a priority for most older brides). But whatever your age, embracing more of an improvisational, DIY approach and aesthetic – something vintage, something upcycled, something made by a friend – feels absolutely on point in these economically-pinched times.

“We have evolved,” says Kate Beavis, who runs Magpie Wedding – an alternative bridal blog and ethical wedding fair business – and is someone who prides herself on bringing realness and a sassy, sisterly support network to her community of modern brides-to-be. She’s quite scathing about the kind of advice that was on offer when she was planning her first wedding in the 1990s (“bridal magazines telling you to lose weight, and all that jazz”). 

Beavis has seen a huge change in attitude: “There are a lot of different people of ­different ages getting married. These might be second or even third marriages, people getting married in their 60s … and they are doing what they want to do . We don’t just want to do what our grandmas and our mums did. We’re different, we care about other things now. We care about the planet, we care about our impact on the world.”

Many of the trends that Beavis is talking about began bubbling before Covid. On the age front, since the 1970s, there has been a gradual shift to couples getting married later (in line with changing ideas about sex outside marriage and delayed parenthood). Thinking sustainably has been increasingly gaining ground, particularly with fashion rental and resale platforms revolutionising the approach to bridal dressing for some time (indeed, Carrie Johnson famously hired her dreamy Christos Costarellos frock last year from My Wardrobe HQ).

Intimate and authentic

This year, alternative wedding site Rock My Wedding reported a 350 per cent increase in searches for brides looking to sell their wedding dresses and an 80 per cent increase in those looking to buy pre-loved. And what about the “artisan chic”, festival mood that is the laid-back look of the moment? 

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