Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 1st 2013 Contents B31
September 1, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
NEW YORK---SherryLynne Heller-
Wells always wanted a fairytale
So when she tied the knot last
year, she spared no detail. She walked
down the aisle in a flowing ivory
gown with a long veil and lacey
bolero jacket. 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
Heller-Wells wasn't some blushing
new bride, though. When the retired
registered nurse, 64, wed her hus-
band, 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, Florida, 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 con-
sidered 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
favour of doing things like replacing
the first husband-and-wife dance
with a group reenactment of Michael
Jackson's Thriller video. That's left
older couples feeling less self-con-
scious 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 mag-
azine. "Sixty is the new 40 and that
is reflected in the wedding."
Couples age 55 and older made
up just eight per cent 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
It's in part because more couples
are marrying in their golden years.
In 2011, women ages 55 and over
accounted for 5.2 per cent and men
in that age range made up 7.9 per
cent of the more than 2.1 million
marriages performed in that year in
the US, according to Bowling Green
State University's National Center
for Family and Marriage Research,
based on analysis of census figures.
That's up from 2001 when 2.6 per
cent of new marriages performed
were among women in that age
group; for men, it was 6.6 per cent.
And those older couples spend
more. That's because they're usually
empty nesters who don't have the
same worries as their younger coun-
terparts: They aren't saving for their
first home, for instance, and they
aren't burdened by huge student
loan debts they must worry about
As a result, older couples dish out
about ten per cent to 15 per cent
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.
That's meant big business for
companies that cater to brides and
grooms-to-be. Zaven Ghanimian,
CEO of Simon G Jewelry, which sells
engagement rings and other jewelry
to about 900 small stores across the
country, says men in their late 50s
and older have been investing more
on engagement rings. A few years
ago, they were spending $1,500 to
$2,000; now, they're shelling out
$4,000 to $8,000.
And at David's Bridal, the nation's
largest bridal chain with 300 loca-
tions across the US, business from
older couples has doubled in the
past two years, compared with mod-
est growth for the younger age group,
says Brian Beitler, the chain's chief
marketing officer. And while older
customers represent only two to
three per cent of overall sales, the
company expects that figure to keep
And they're a lucrative bunch.
David's Bridal, which is based in
Consohocken, Pennsylvania, says
older brides spend about $700 to
$800 on gowns, including acces-
sories like necklaces. That's higher
than the $500 to $600 that cus-
tomers in their twenties and early
thirties typically spend.
But older brides aren't just spend-
ing more, they're spending differ-
ently. For instance, in the past, older
brides tended to stick with special-
occasion dresses, but now they want
more traditional wedding gowns.
"She's our dream bride," says
Catalina Maddox, fashion director
at David's Bridal. "She wants every-
thing that the 25-year-old bride
wants, but more."
The trend is so prevalent that
David's Bridal is looking at ways to
better connect with the older wed-
ding crowd. In fact, its store in Dan-
bury, Connecticut recently held a
bridal fashion show at a nearby nurs-
ing and rehabilitation facility; the
event was a hit with the residents,
the store says.
"It really sparked something," said
Jenna McNamara, the assistant store
manager at David's Bridal in Dan-
bury, Connecticut, which has noticed
residents in nearby retirement homes
as customers for either weddings or
commitment ceremonies. "We
realised this was something huge."
Terry Hall, fashion director at Kle-
infeld's, the New York City bridal
salon that has America's biggest
selection of designer bridal wear
under one roof with more than 1,000
designs, also has seen a change in
attitude in the last year or so among
the older set. He said business from
that group has doubled.
Hall says Kleinfeld's older clients
are spending $4,000 to $7,000 for
a gown. That compares with the
average purchase of $3,500 for the
"They used to be subtle," Hall
says. "Now, they're saying, 'Who
cares? It's my day.' They want the
That's especially true for older
At 64, Yolanda Royal, who lives
in Irvington, New Jersey, is preparing
for her first wedding next July. After
living with her partner for 20 years,
he popped the question in May. The
couple plans to spend about $11,000
on the reception for about 100 peo-
ple, but for Royal, it's all about the
dress. After that's secured, the other
details will fall in place, she says.
Royal, a nursing attendant, was
at David's Bridal in the Manhattan
borough of New York City with her
41-year-old niece on a recent Friday,
trying on white wedding gowns that
had small trains. Royal, who says
she wants something "sexy," tried
everything from off-the-shoulder
to strapless designs.
"For my wedding, for my day, I
want the dress I want," says Royal,
who did not want to give details
about the gown she settled on
because she wants to surprise her
"I really don't think about age. I
think age is something that people
shouldn't think about. It's all about
your life and the way you feel. I feel
good about myself and my life."
That's not to say that some brides
planning big weddings aren't getting
any pushback from their friends or
For instance, Joan Hunter, a 76-
year-old widow for 33 years, is plan-
ning a big wedding with her fiance
Guido Campanile, an 87-year-old
widower, for October.
The couple is spending $10,000
on the reception, which will be held
at a wedding hall. They are planning
to have 10 people in the wedding
party, including her two grown sons,
ages 56 and 54, who will be giving
her away, and her 5-year-old great
grandson who will serve as the ring
bearer. The couple also hired a DJ
and a florist who is creating a floral
But when Hunter first told her
sons of her plans, they thought she
was "crazy." They wondered why
she wasn't just eloping to Las Vegas.
"I told my kids that this may well
be my last big party," says Hunter,
who lives in Rosemead, California.
"I'm really young at heart. I just
wanted to do something that every-
one would remember."
Still, the older bride has limits.
She plans to throw a bouquet and
is considering wearing a garter belt,
but she will not be wearing white.
Instead, she's planning to don a taupe
gown she purchased at David's
"I felt white wasn't appropriate
for me," says Hunter, who will be
wearing a chiffon gown with a fitted
bodice and layers of ruffles cascading
from the waist.
Apparently, the groom has limits,
too. He proposed by giving Hunter
a 5 1/2 carat diamond ring. But he
stopped short of getting down on
"He did not get on his knees.
That's for sure," Hunter laughed.
"He may not have gotten back up
Older brides go all out
...for a fairytale wedding
Sara Musillo, assistant store manager at David's Bridal in New York, left, assists Yolanda Royal, 64, centre, as she
tries on wedding dresses. Her niece Angelic Lavine looks on. AP PHOTO
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