NEW YORK — SherryLynne Heller-Wells always wanted a fairytale wedding.
So when she tied the knot last year, she spared no detail. Ten flower-toting bridesmaids and seven groomsmen were in the wedding party. And after the ceremony, 100 guests dined on beef tenderloin, clams casino and a three-tier vanilla cake.
The cost, including a fireworks show during the reception, was $45,000.
Heller-Wells wasn’t some blushing new bride, though. When the retired registered nurse, 64, wed her husband, Clyde, a small-business owner who is 65, it was her second time at the altar.
“I met my Prince Charming. He swept me off my feet,” says the Clearwater, Fla., widow whose first husband died in 2003. “We’re hoping this will be the last marriage. Why not celebrate?”
Only a few years ago, it was considered in poor taste for a bride over age 55, particularly if she had been previously married, to do things like wear a fancy wedding gown, rock out to a DJ at the reception or have the groom slip a lacy garter belt off of her leg. But those days are gone: Older couples no longer are tying the knot in subtle ways.
The trend in part is being driven by a desire to emulate the lavish weddings of celebrities of all ages. But it’s also one of the results of a new “everything goes” approach that does away with long-held traditions and cookie-cutter ceremonies in favor of doing things such as replacing the first husband-and-wife dance with a group re-enactment of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. That’s left older couples feeling less self-conscious about shelling out serious cash to party like their younger peers.
“The rules are out the window … whether it’s what you’re wearing or the cake you’re serving,” says Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings, a wedding magazine. “Sixty is the new 40 and that is reflected in the wedding.”
Couples age 55 and older made up just 8 percent of last year’s $53 billion wedding business. But that number has doubled since 2002, according to Shane McMurray, CEO of The Wedding Report, which tracks spending trends in the wedding industry.
Older couples dish out about 10 percent to 15 percent more than the cost of the average wedding, which was $25,656 last year, down from the pre-recession peak in 2007 of $28,732, according to The Wedding Report.