The average cost of a wedding today is $30,000, and lavish engagement parties are increasingly popular, said Katherine Jellison, author of "It's Our Day: America's Love Affair with the White Wedding, 1945-2005."
Elaborate weddings are a recent phenomenon, Jellison said. It wasn't until after World War II that Americans had enough disposable income to marry in such a formal fashion.
People are now struggling amid rising food and gas prices and a worrisome economy, but the $50-billion industry based on decadence continues to boom.
Still, there is a growing movement toward fiscally responsible and environmentally friendly weddings.
"People are starting to hold giveback weddings, where guests are urged to donate to a charity instead of buying them silverware," said Jellison, an associate history professor at Ohio University.