Weddings: Cheaper Than You Think
THE NUMBERS GUY: Weddings Are Not The Budget Drains Some Surveys Suggest
Carl Bialik. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Aug 24, 2007. pg. B.1
The Knot takes steps to ensure that its respondents are representative in terms of geography and household income. But research manager Kristyn Clement acknowledges that The Knot's members may not be typical spenders. "Our market is brides who are planning an actual wedding and putting resources toward that event," Ms. Clement says. "Are there brides who are not spending money on their weddings? Potentially."
Rebecca Mead, staff writer at Conde Nast's New Yorker magazine, writes in her new book, "One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding," that the survey covered only brides who had made themselves known to the Bridal Group and thereby "already demonstrated an interest in having the kind of wedding that bridal magazines promote."
Ms. Mead, whose own wedding cost was "substantially below" the widely reported numbers, says in an interview that couples who hear the numbers may think, "There's no way around it; there's no alternative. That means, from the perspective of the wedding industry, you have this group of consumers who are resigned to spending a huge amount of money."
What the abstract doesn't address is the arithmetic fiction of these surveys.
The so-called average cost -- between $27,400 and $28,800, according to the latest iteration of these surveys -- is a mean. That's the kind of average you might remember from grade-school math: In this case, it's the sum of all the survey responses, divided by the number of people surveyed. The mean is especially susceptible to a single lavish exception: One $1 million wedding put into the mix with 54 weddings costing $10,000 each would boost the mean to $28,000, although among the 55 couples, $10,000 would seem a much better representation of the typical cost.
For the three surveys, the median wedding cost is closer to $15,000. The median is the middle figure when you line up a set of numbers in order of size. It is a popular choice for social statistics because it is unperturbed by very small or very large numbers.
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