I do however want to ignite a revolution. What sent me down the path to revolution? Google. In 2011 while planning my wedding, I’d Google wedding dresses, shoes, venues, books, and so forth under the categories of (among others), “Older brides” and “Mid-Life Brides.” The results were pitiful. My brick & mortar searches were equally non-productive. Google’s empty results revved up my desire to inspire change within this overlooked, under-served category.
When I started writing my book, Unveiled Wisdom: Wedding Planning for the Mid-Life Bride, it was to bring support and ‘how to’ savvy to mid-life brides and grooms. That mission has grown to include revolutionizing the wedding industry. My desire is to see them acknowledge mid-life brides by offering products and services that fit the age, status, and lifestyle of this woman. Let’s be clear we’re talking stylish not frumpy and not something designed for the mother of the bride. While a mother of the bride dress is fine when our child gets married it is not what we want to wear when we get married.
In a recent Huffington Post article, Rebecca Perkins life coach, speaker and author of Best Knickers Always: 50 Lessons for Midlife says, “I long for the day when you type ‘midlife’ into Google and it comes up with something other than ‘crisis’ I want to see words like ‘heroes’, ‘mentor’, ‘inspirational women’, ‘careers’ … ” Yes, Rebecca! I’d also like to see wedding gowns, dresses, shoes, books etc. AND when you click the links, actually have the products be tastefully designed, specifically with this woman in mind, for her body, age, beauty and wisdom.
My revolutionary cry is for these women to have more options and choices available while planning their wedding and to eliminate the social stigma attached to being a mid-life bride.
Because my goal is to inspire changes within an already successful industry, providing compelling data is essential. I get it, strong economics are necessary for a significant change to happen and there has to be a viable customer base. Thankfully, I love research and am goal oriented.
Here’s the data: According to the 2015 Wedding Report there were roughly 2.2 million weddings in the U.S. last year. In raw economic terms it’s a $57 Billion dollar industry. Out of that 2.2 million, there were over 564,000 mid-life brides last year alone (up from previous years). That means 26% of all U.S. brides are over the age of 40, and represent nearly $15 Billion dollars in annual sales. That’s more than the state of California which represents approximately 15% of the entire wedding market with $8.3 Billion dollars in sales. I’d say that’s a viable niche.
With limited products available to them in the current marketplace, many mid-life brides get frustrated with being under-served. Frustration isn’t the only emotion these brides face. They’re also embarrassed and intimidated, partly by the youth focused market, but also by judgmental, dismissive attitudes from store personnel. The experience of being ignored as a mid-life bride (whether a first time bride or third time bride) is all too common.
Turns out, Midlifers frequently experience this “cloak of invisibility.” In 1989 the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development (MIDMAC), started doing research, “to study a little known period in the lifespan – middle age.” Midlife, according to MIDMAC are the years between 30 and 70 with the core years between 40 and 60.
Fact: Americans are living 30 years longer than their ancestors did just four generations ago. The 2010 U.S. Census reflects this with the ‘Senior Group’ being the largest percent of the population. Yes, you read that right. Seniors. Our culture says we’re a senior at age 62 (technically that’s still midlife).
It seems my original revolutionary call for mid-life brides needs to expand even further; bringing more products and services (and an attitudinal shift) to the general marketplace for all Midlifers.
Just who are these Midlifers? Currently they’re a combination of Baby Boomers and GenXer’s, with almost twice as many Boomers (76 Million) as there are Xer’s (40 Million). Baby Boomers still account for 42% of all after-tax income in the U.S. (Consumer Expenditure Survey). They also out spend the average consumer in most categories and account for nearly 55% ($400 billion) of all consumer packaged goods sales (Nielsen). Boomers love shopping online and 75% of female boomers follow brands through social media. The Internet is their friend.
Gen X has an annual spending power of over $200 billion. As a group they are brand conscious, have a high taste level and are stylish. A “wired” generation, they are shrewd online shoppers, chronically researching and comparing products extensively.
In a 2011 article about growing strong in middle age, clinical psychologist Mindy Greenstein PhD referred to mid-life as “Life’s Long, Lovely, Afternoon.” A fitting analogy since we spend more time (4 decades) in mid-life than any other life phase. I’ve got a secret for you; midlife is a glorious life stage that feels like a sweet reward for surviving youth.
I’d like to think by recognizing the value of Midlifers and utilizing the positive impacts they have on our world and economies, we will create stronger intergenerational connections, and reap the benefits of this ‘generative’ demographic.
It’s time for Midlifers (especially Mid-life Brides) to throw off the cloak of invisibility and stand proud. Unlike “Che” I would invite a little ‘capitalist exploitation’. It’s time to revolutionize the marketplace! Midlifers are 116 Million strong and we’re ready to do business. Are you with me?