Here Comes the Bride's Checkbook

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Pre-wedding spending among brides-to-be extends far beyond dresses and flower centerpieces.

It begins almost immediately after word gets out that a woman is engaged. Advertisements for dresses, jewelry, flowers, bands, and DJs magically fill up her e-mail inbox, mailbox, and even her answering machine. Marketers assume that she's got “bride� on the brain, and nothing else, until she walks down the aisle 12 to 16 months later. But that's not necessarily true, according to a study by Roper Starch Worldwide and Modern Bride magazine. In fact, engaged women are not only thinking about their lives beyond the vows, they're spending serious money to ensure that their new life is as comfortable, and decorated, as possible.

Seventy-eight percent of engaged women expect their household income to increase substantially over the next year and 56 percent expect their spending to increase during that period as well, according to the study, entitled “Your New $100 Billion Customer … The Engaged Woman.�

“The bridal industry has used the figure of $50 billion as its market cap,� says Ilene Rapkin, Modern Bride's publisher. (Modern Bride and American Demographics share the same parent company, Primedia.) The $50 billion figure includes gowns, reception, registry, etc., Rapkin notes. “But now, with our proprietary data, we know where an additional $50 billion is being spent during the ‘engaged life-stage.’� Rapkin says. “She is buying cars, homes, furniture, and more.�

Previous studies looked more at home and life purchasing habits of newlyweds during the first six months of marriage. But this study delves instead into the attitudes and spending patterns of women between the ages of 20 and 29 during their engagement period — since this is a time when they are making across-the-board purchasing decisions that could potentially shape their brand loyalty for years to come. Roper's study compares buying trends among engaged women with those of single, non-engaged women of the same age. The revelation: Donning a ring does in fact alter spending priorities.

“Engaged women display the buying habits of affluent fortysomethings,� according to the report. In fact, 80 percent of engaged women agree that, with marriage on the horizon, they are more concerned with how their homes look. For example, having a coordinated look for their bedroom is important to 59 percent of engaged women, but is only of interest to 34 percent of singles. Engaged women are also more likely than their single counterparts to say that “some brands are different, and worth paying more for,� especially when it comes to flatware/silverware (42 percent vs. 34 percent) and home electronics (60 percent vs. 53 percent). And almost three times as many engaged women as singles say they shop for top-of-the-line kitchenware brands (16 percent vs. 6 percent). Seventy-eight percent say that even though they and their fiancés each already have furniture, they plan to replace and/or add some in the coming months. Engaged women are also more likely to buy all sorts of home electronics — for instance, 20 percent have bought a computer or laptop in the past year, compared with 12 percent of singles.

The automotive industry may also want to take note. More than three times as many engaged women (41 percent) as single ladies (13 percent) purchased or leased a new vehicle in the past year. And when it comes to making purchasing decisions about the new family wheels, engaged women show their men who's really in the driver's seat: Of those women whose fiancés purchased a vehicle in the past year, 64 percent say they were very involved or somewhat involved in influencing his final automotive choice.

Engaged twentysomethings are also two to three times more likely to be thinking about ensuring their financial security than their single friends. In the past 12 months, 20 percent of engaged women have purchased life insurance, 33 percent have bought home or apartment insurance, and 19 percent have invested in stocks other than in a 401(k), compared with 7 percent, 9 percent, and 8 percent of their single counterparts, respectively.

Of course, brides-to-be are still spending money and time on physically preparing for married life. In the past year, engaged women were more likely than their single counterparts to have started a new exercise routine (61 percent vs. 47 percent), attended a tanning session (32 percent vs. 19 percent), and purchased more expensive cosmetics (26 percent vs. 16 percent). A full 80 percent of engaged women, compared with 64 percent of singles, have purchased lingerie in the past 12 months. As we said, these women are thinking ahead.

For more information, contact Modern Bride at (212) 462-3673.

Otherwise Engaged

Twenty-eight percent of brides-to-be, aged 20 to 29, have redecorated their home or apartment in the past year, compared with 18 percent of their single counterparts, and almost three times as many have had their home completely remodeled.

Purchased or changed any type of insurance 43% 31%
Moved 42% 30%
Purchased/leased a new car 41% 13%
Got a new job 37% 40%
Opened a new bank account 36% 20%
Redecorated home or apartment 28% 18%
Changed long-distance carrier 25% 22%
Changed cell phone 24% 14%
Purchased a primary home or apartment 20% 7%
Purchased stocks or bonds 20% 12%
Traveled outside the continental U.S. 16% 14%
Remodeled home or apartment 11% 4%
Source: Roper Starch Worldwide, Inc.
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