The average cost of a wedding today is $30,000, and lavish engagement parties are increasingly popular, according to Katherine Jellison, author of "It's Our Day: America's Love Affair with the White Wedding, 1945-2005."

The average cost of a wedding today is $30,000, and lavish engagement parties are increasingly popular, according to 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 a formal fashion.

American consumers are pinching their pockets amid rising food costs, gas prices and a worrisome economy, but the $50 billion wedding industry continues to boom.

"There is a message out there that this is how it ought to be," said Jellison. "While there are some that look at the lavish wedding as socially irresponsible, in general most see it as a sign of social status. Everyone wants to prove that they are more than just middle class."

Still, there is a growing movement toward fiscally and environmentally friendly weddings and indie brides.

"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. "Some are steering away from big budget weddings, seeing them as all about consumer excess."