When it comes to shopping, every purchase is -- to some extent -- a statement of values. Whether your concern is how the chickens you eat are farmed or where the shirt you wear is made, the high cost of fish or the suspiciously low cost of clothes at Walmart, we all vote with our wallets. And, as with any other vote, we tend to follow trends.
And when it comes to events that occasion careful purchases -- and following trends, for that matter -- it's hard to beat weddings. Coming after years of childhood dreams and careful plans, your wedding day is the one when you most want to be on top -- and to be there in style.
Recently, WeddingCrunchers.com offered a fresh tool for checking out the rise and fall of America's hottest trends. A compilation of all of the New York Times' engagement announcements and wedding write-ups from 1981 to the present, the site makes it possible to see how the popularity of certain jobs, colleges, retailers, food trends, and other factors have risen and fallen over time. For example, you can see how, in the 1990s, the traditional triumvirate of top jobs -- doctor, lawyer, and dentist -- were overwhelmed by real estate brokers:
Or, if you're interested in Wall Street, you can see how the prestige of a fiance at Lehman plummeted in the late-2000s, while JPMorgan and Bank of America soared:
Interested in retailers? Check out the shifting fortunes of JC Penney, Barney's, Bloomingdale's and Macy's, presumably in registries:
What do you think about sodas? Coke and Pepsi have switched top spots for years, only to be shunted aside recently by the rise of...Juice!
And where's the hot place to volunteer when you finish college? It used to be the Peace Corps, but Teach For America is definitely coming up. Americorps is not quite as popular...
Remember when everyone was going low-carb? How about when vegetarianism was the big thing? Nowadays, vegan seems to be the way to go:
And what about your entree? For years, salmon has been the go-to fish of choice, neatly eclipsing other trendy fish like snapper. But recently, lobsters seem to be making a run for it:
This is only the beginning -- the rise and fall of wedding trends is full of surprises (for example, in the battle between chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, the dark horse victor will probably blow your mind). If you want to see how fads come and go -- and maybe even get a peek at the trends you're currently following -- definitely give it a shot!
Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.