Wedding Wednesday – How Much Money Spent Correlates To Longevity of Marriage

by admin on September 20, 2017

From the Emory Wheel:

Diamonds may be forever, but a bigger diamond doesn’t necessarily mean a longer marriage, according to study conducted by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, both associate professors of Economics at Emory.

The results of their study indicated that spending more money on weddings and engagement rings negatively correlated with marriage duration, meaning that people who spend more on their weddings tended to have shorter marriages. The study, titled “‘A Diamond Is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration,” was published in early September and has since been featured on CNN, the Atlanta Business Chronicle and 11 Alive.

In the study, they surveyed over 3,000 adults in the U.S. who either are married or have been married at some point in their lives.

The questionnaire gathered details such as marriage duration, length of time dating, honeymoon, engagement ring expenses, wedding attendance, total wedding expenses and age at marriage.

Francis and Mialon argue that the wedding industry is to blame for fueling the notion that spending large amounts on the engagement ring and the wedding leads to a successful, committed marriage.   To read the rest of the Emory Wheel article, click HERE.

Guys: Investing between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring means you’re 1.3 times more likely to get divorced compared with the more frugal fellows who only allocate between $500 and $2,000.

For both sexes, spending more than $20,000 on the wedding ups the odds of divorce by 3.5 times compared with couples who keep it between $5,000 and $10,000.

While the study results are correlational rather than causal, it’s still an interesting topic to discuss.

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Cleosia September 20, 2017 at 7:40 am

That explains why I just can’t seem to get rid of my husband. 🙂

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NoviceGardener September 20, 2017 at 1:38 pm

I wish I could read context better. I can’t figure out whether to extend sympathy, or chuckle appreciatively! Here’s hoping it’s the latter 😀

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Galatae September 20, 2017 at 7:48 am

I suspect much of this is going to be obsolete in a decade or two since with the slow decline in marriage and church attendance. There’s a cultural shift away from being married, I think in part due to so many decades of divorce.

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/marriage_divorce_tables.htm
http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

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Dee September 20, 2017 at 1:22 pm

I think it’s also due to young people having no qualms with cohabitating outside of marriage, casually and indefinitely. They don’t have to make any lifelong decisions re partners; they just keep the status quo until one day when one of them decides they want out. Having children doesn’t seem to affect this way of thinking much at all. If the couple doesn’t care for a big wedding, or doesn’t care to ever be officially married at all, then there’s little incentive to get formally hitched. If the couple (or, more likely the bride) won’t get married without a really big splash but finances never look hopeful then she is more likely to just wait for that “someday” that never comes.

They are in for a surprise when they find that long-term cohabitation without a formal marriage can be very difficult and expensive to dissolve, whereas some divorces are pretty straight-forward and cheap.

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Aleko September 21, 2017 at 2:43 am

But another factor is actually the cost and complexity of the average wedding these days. I have known couples who would have loved to get married but couldn’t afford to blow the eye-watering sums necessary to have the kind of wedding they felt was ‘proper’, and/or blenched at the organisation and tact necessary to put the whole production together and marshal temperamental relatives to cooperate!

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Dee September 21, 2017 at 12:48 pm

There is no production required to have a wedding. You need someone to officiate, and then a caterer and venue. You can go as cheap as you like, as long as you consider guests’ comfort first. One of my friends got married with a reception of just punch and fruit trays, with about an hour of speeches, stories and slide shows of the groom and bride as children. The bride’s dress was borrowed. There were no attendants. They had been given a choice, by the bride’s parents, of a big wedding or the down payment for a condo; being sensible, they chose the latter. They still had a wedding, though, and it was lovely, and they’ve been married about 30 years now.

So, no, weddings are not expensive. They are what you choose them to be. But complaining that they are too complex and costly is just an excuse for something else. And guests don’t want all the frills and don’t care if the bride’s dress cost $10,000 or $10. They are probably happier attending a simple affair than an overblown one, so they can’t be assigned any blame in this issue.

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EOM September 21, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Dee, I’m not sure where you live, but I can assure you that a reception of fruit trays and punch would be an extraordinarily rude hospitality failure where I am. Perhaps it’s because most people don’t live where they grew up so most weddings see the majority of guests travelling for at least one hour but usually more. If you’re going to ask that of your guests, you’d better feed them a proper meal. At least some sandwiches or pasta with desserts. I can’t imagine telling my family that I was going to serve all of my guests fruit and juice as the entire reception!

So, while you can rest easy knowing that you, personally, can get away with not feeding your guests a meal, you probably shouldn’t be casting general proclamations around that you can get a cheap wedding if you really try. It seems genuinely dismissive of the reality that many, many people face: That your version of a reception is just rude.

PJ September 22, 2017 at 1:20 pm

I see that Dee and EOM have two different backgrounds and, therefore, two different opinions. I come from a similar place as Dee, where having a wedding does not require feeding the masses, and while it is the norm, no guest would presume to expect it.

An affordable wedding is possible. Nobody should be demanding a full meal. If the happy couple can either afford a catering bill or regular living expenses, and the guests honestly wish the best for them, then they should have no problem accepting “only” what hospitality the couple can afford. If they do have a problem with that, maybe they should reconsider driving for two hours to the wedding, if punch and fruit isn’t enough compensation for their efforts.

Redblues October 12, 2017 at 1:20 am

Sorry, but that’s just an excuse, a lousy one. Anyone who “would love to get married” does. It costs almost nothing to get married. Staging a *wedding* is what *can* get expensive, but you don’t need a wedding to get married. Nor does a wedding have to be expensive. Get married or don’t. Who cares? But don’t blame your (generic you, not you personally Aleko) decision on other people.

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Adelaide September 20, 2017 at 8:11 am

I’d be more interested to see a study that gets into percent net worth that people spend on their wedding. The pure dollar amount isn’t the whole story-for some people $2,000 on a wedding ring isn’t much, but that’s more than other people have in the bank.

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Elena September 20, 2017 at 10:39 am

^^^^ This. As well as the comment below about where you’re getting married impacting the cost of the wedding. Absolutes are always hard.

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Calli Arcale September 20, 2017 at 10:40 am

That’s a really good point, and it made me think of a possible confounder — if most of the people who are spending less are doing so because they are less well off, they may also be less able to afford to divorce financially, which may make them more likely to stick it out in a tough marriage.

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DanaJ September 20, 2017 at 12:12 pm

I agree. $2,000 on a ring could be a fortune for one person, but a mere pittance for another.

71% of survey respondents had combined household incomes less than $75,000 (45% of respondents were under 50k). So OF COURSE a $20,000 wedding would create some crazy debt stress.

It would make more sense though to release the results by correlating wedding-debt to income. So for example if your wedding costs are higher than X% of your income, then things are more likely to go sour.

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Jazzgirl205 September 20, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Exactly. The definition of an expensive wedding is different for different people. I and my friends have noticed a correlation between a wedding that the family could not really afford and a wedding which caused no financial stress. Maybe it has to do with the attitude of the couple. Perhaps the expensive weddings are thrown by people who believe it is their special day and no one or nothing will ruin it for them. These are the people who don’t see “guests” but extras in their production. These are the people who get divorced. OTOH, couples who see their wedding reception as a party to thank their guests for being part of their lives probably have a better chance of lifelong happiness.

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Wild Irish Rose September 20, 2017 at 8:20 am

My biggest wedding expense was my gown, which cost me approximately $500 (including the veil). My cake was $130. The photos were costly, but I had a lot of help paying for them. It also helped my budget that my grandmother made my bridesmaids’ gowns and did all my flowers. I refused to go into the marriage in debt for the wedding–plenty of time for debt later on! We’ve been married 31 years.

When DH and I got engaged, we set a ring budget and shopped together. He didn’t want to stick me with a ring I may not like, so we picked them out together. First thing we told jewelers/salesmen was that our budget topped out at $xxx. One guy told DH to his face that he was cheap. I told that guy off and warned all my friends away from him. Money has ZERO to do with how good your wedding will be or how happy you’ll be together. I think the applicable criterion is how long a couple is together BEFORE they marry. We dated for four years, including a two-year engagement, before tying the knot. I realize some couples get married practically immediately after they meet, and I also realize some of them actually stay together, but I’m not convinced it’s wise or conducive to a good marriage. Just my opinion.

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NoviceGardener September 20, 2017 at 4:47 pm

I love your ring story. That salesman sure had a cheek though! Who says such a thing? My husband and I went to a workshop for our rings. It was brilliant – we got to learn all about the process, and were allowed to do a lot of it ourselves (pouring the molten metal into moulds, getting the size right by hammering them onto cones, giving them a rough polish on a spinning buffer…it was awesome). We also got champagne during the process and dinner afterwards. Plus engravings of our choice inside the rings, insurance certificates, a nice ring box to hold both of them, and individual ring-pouches.

The whole thing cost us about £900 (thirteen years ago). Since then, I’ve taken my ring on and off almost every day whenever I take a shower, worn it through thousands of loads of washing-up, and often twist it round my finger through habit. I can still read the inscription inside clear as day. That was some quality work we had done there. £900 was a great deal of money for us at the time (still not to be sniffed at, actually), but we got an unforgettable experience as well as our rings. Sorry for blathering on, but I got a kick out of your ring story, so felt it only fair to inflict you with mine!

The only thing I don’t agree with you on is the length of a relationship before marriage. I think it’s generally sensible to date, and preferably live together, for a couple of years before getting married, but it isn’t always the case. I know many successful couples who did just that, but I also know plenty who didn’t, and I also know couples who were in an exclusive relationship for years, got married, and then split up shortly thereafter. My husband and I were good friends for about two years, but had only been a couple for two and a half months before we got engaged. Fourteen months later we got married, and twelve years later I’m still certain I made the right choice. (Pretty sure my husband feels the same way – here’s hoping!)

At any rate, congratulations on 31 years of marriage! My husband and I sure have our arguments, but overall we much prefer being married to each other than not being married to each other. Here’s to many more happy years for us all 🙂

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Wild Irish Rose September 21, 2017 at 8:19 am

Your ring story is MUCH better than mine! What a great experience! And congratulations to you on 13 years of marriage! It’s not easy, but sometimes it’s a lot of fun.

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Cheryl September 22, 2017 at 1:30 am

DH and I were friends for about 5 years before I thought of him as anything else (turns out he had always had a crush on me). We got engaged 3 months after out first date and married 14 months later (I couldn’t figure out how to do the kind of wedding I wanted in only 2 months as I really wanted to get married in my birth month which was 2 months after we were engaged). We went to a wholesale place for my ring (we went in and said this is what we want too pay for a ring, tax included) and I got my dress on sale (half off). We took our tax refund and that was our wedding and reception money. We have been married 29 years. BTW, DH was all for eloping and I threatened it when my mom started talking like this was going to be a royal wedding with tons of attendants (lots of relatives between the two of us). That ended the royal wedding talk. Like Wild Irish Rose, I refused to go into debt for one day. If I could have rented the dress, I would have.

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dandj September 20, 2017 at 8:29 am

I have to agree that the cost of the ring and size of the stone, or even the type of stone does not lead to a happy marrage. My husband got me the best engagement ring ever. It’s a simple moonstone he found on a geology trip in college that he had set in a simple stainless steel ring while on that same trip. I now have it safely stored in my jewelry box since it won’t fit alongside my wedding ring, which had belonged to his maternal grandmother, but I quite happily brag about how thoughtful that ring is. As I’ve told him before that ring is more valuable to me than a $1,000+ diamond ring because every step he took in getting me that ring meant he was thinking of me and wanting me to be happy.

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Michelle September 20, 2017 at 8:43 am

I do agree that the wedding industry tries to promote the idea that bigger = better. I have watched some of the fairy tale weddings on TV, and they are beautiful, but when they show the behind-the-scenes stuff , boy can it get nasty in a hurry.

A 10k engagement ring and 100k+ wedding doesn’t mean they love you more or your marriage will last because so much money was thrown at it. It simply means they have more money. If they borrowed the money, after the wedding is over and that money has to be paid back, it causes stress and fights and the next thing you know, you end up in divorce court.

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Vicki September 20, 2017 at 9:18 am

My engagement ring was $99. My wedding band was $199. My husband wanted to spend more, but I said no. My sister made my wedding dress and all the bridesmaid dresses. We bought the fabric from a discount bin. My Mom catered the reception of about 250 people. A cousin did the photographs. Total spent was about $3000. Still feel like we’re on our honeymoon 29 years later 🙂

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Harry September 20, 2017 at 9:33 am

In my humble opinion, the more money spent on a wedding means the significance has shifted from wanting to celebrate the union of two people with their friends and family nearby, to a staged production meant to impress people. The less elaborate wedding keeps the focus on the true event, celebrating the union of two people.
My first wedding was a white fairy tale, my second wedding was in the back yard wearing a sundress and sandals, and immensely more fun and meaningful.

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Dee September 20, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Bingo, Harry. If the bride (and groom?) are so focussed on having the perfect wedding that they are willing to go into debt for it, to issue demands of attendants and guests that lead to, at best, hard feelings and, at worst, permanently fractured relationships, and have actual mental breakdowns when things are less than perfect, then we can safely assume that the main reason for the whole thing is to put on a show, not to spend the rest of their lives together.

If you can’t envision getting married without a fancy wedding then you aren’t really wanting to marry this person (or any person, perhaps). If anytime you choose to cater to “the show” than to the people you supposedly love and want in your life then there is little chance for a happy union after the wedding day. You can’t start your life with such selfishness and greed and then magically turn it off the day after the wedding.

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Kat September 20, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Yep, a wedding’s production value is certainly an indicator of what the couple values… whether or not those values are compatible with a healthy and stable relationship.

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JC September 20, 2017 at 9:39 am

Makes sense to me. I’ve heard that the main reason couples split up is fighting over money, and what better way to head down that path than to start off your wedded life stressed out over thousands and thousands of dollars in debt because the bride insisted on having a bigger diamond than her BFF, or the groom wanted to show his buddies what a big ol’ provider he is. Or that the couple simply had to have that damn champagne fountain with caviar blinis, a live band, and a horse-drawn carriage for an event that lasted all of one day.

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kgg September 20, 2017 at 9:52 am

Holy cow, my cousin spent $30,000 on his wife’s ring and their wedding (paid for by her parents) was over $100,000. What does that mean for them!?! (Just kidding, I think they’ll be fine.)

I think that spending a lot of money on a ring and wedding can be a symptom of something else: that a couple is inclined to overspend PERIOD. If they’re blowing money they don’t have on a wedding, then they’re more likely to do that on cars, houses, clothes, etc. Money is a huge source of arguments for couples.

I’m from New York City, and have been to MANY weddings in the area (including Connecticut and New Jersey). I don’t think anyone can get married here (besides a JOP wedding) without spending more than $20,000. There is literally no reasonably-priced place to get married in NYC (or the tri-state area) if you want to have even 50 people at your wedding.

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Devin September 20, 2017 at 1:56 pm

I tend to agree with you, a couple that needs to show off through and extravagant wedding may have other issues that will lead down the road to divorce, including overspending.
I’d be curious to read this study and see if they investigated who paid for the rings and weddings? Might be that correlation is directed by over generous parents shilling out for the 100k wedding, spoiled children become bad spouses? Or maybe that’s not the case at all.

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lakey September 20, 2017 at 5:56 pm

In my family, a long time ago when most of my cousins got married, most of them had a church wedding and the receptions were often in the church hall. They were nice enough buildings, especially when decorated with flowers, but nothing like the hotel ballrooms that people favor now.
Is it possible to do that in the New York area?

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WillyNilly September 21, 2017 at 8:56 am

Church and temple halls are certainly available in NYC… for a hefty fee, which after caterer and florist often equals or even exceeds a package deal at a [NYC] ballroom.
Parks also require hefty fees & permits and table & chair rentals. And many folks don’t have backyards.

On the other hand, incomes tend to also be higher. And there are restaurants and options for most budgets.

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lkb September 20, 2017 at 10:03 am

When I got married 30 years ago, I poo-poohed the notion that an engagement and/or wedding ring was supposed to cost a certain percentage of the groom’s salary. It was only this very week that I heard the reasononing behind that theory: Apparently the diamond (or whatever type of ring) was supposed to be a bit of financial security for the bride if something happened to the groom.

At least that theory makes sense to me. It may be outdated in today’s society but it makes sense.

I didn’t read the link provided in the original post but I do have to agree with it. We didn’t have a bare-bones wedding but it was definitely not the extravaganza promoted so widely today. Didn’t need it. Didn’t want it. But we are still happily married today. The couples in the shindigs portrayed on TV and in magazines don’t seem to be, judging by their expressions and their quotes.

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Calli Arcale September 20, 2017 at 10:45 am

Yep, the engagement ring is all that’s left in our society of the old custom of a dowry. Some parts of the world, particularly places where widows face massive stigma, the old custom is still very much alive. Jewelry given to the bride by her husband, her inlaws, or the wedding guests may be the only property she has.

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lakey September 20, 2017 at 5:58 pm

My suspicion is that that rule was cooked up by the jewelry industry.

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Aleko September 21, 2017 at 2:49 am

Certainly De Beers’ 1980s campaign slogan, ‘Isn’t two months’ salary a small price to pay….’ which was cited on the first page of that article, was piggybacking on the notion even if they didn’t outright invent it, and must have promoted it hugely.

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NostalgicGal September 21, 2017 at 3:24 am

Yes Lakey, it’s a cook up. Especially the diamond market, the value of a diamond is kept artificially high. You pay a lot to buy. Then you need to sell it, or pawn it or what have you, and the scrap-out price is what you’re going to get. (For example, a stone marketed as a one carat (100 points) can be legally .96-1.04 carats, or 96-104 points. You can bet you’ll be sold the .96 ct. Now when you go to sell the diamond suddenly becomes a 96 pointer and not worth as much as a true 100 pointer (1 full carat). That is just one way they get you). Often times and until just recently at least, to get what you paid for that diamond at the jeweler, takes about forty years. So yes, buy the diamond, hang onto the diamond, used to be by about forty years later he’d pass on and she had the diamond to sell, at the price he paid. I’m serious about if you really want to buy a diamond, go to a REPUTABLE pawn shop and buy one scrap and have it mounted. You’ll save. I used to do this. Some places, when they get stuff that isn’t repairable they’ll break it for scrap, pop the stones and sell them separately from the gold or platinum mounting if the stones are big enough to be worth it.

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Theweddingplanner September 20, 2017 at 10:25 am

I’ve been a wedding planner for many years. All of the couples I work with spend between $25,000-$100,000 on their wedding. (The average wedding in my city is $35k). I haven’t had a single couple divorce yet.

We spent $25k on our wedding 3 years ago and I would do it all over again. It was magical, beautiful and fun. People still talk about our wedding!

I think it’s more important to examine other factors involved vs. just the bottom line. For example, did you go into enormous debt to have the wedding? In the case of me and my husband, we paid for it ourselves and worked hard for a year to do so. We sacrificed and worked extra jobs and hours. We didn’t go into debt for it. If you start out your life together with $50,000 of wedding debt, there’s going to be more stress.

Also, look at the income ratio. The clients I have had that have thrown a $100,000 wedding could totally afford that. They were millionaires and $100k didn’t stress them in the slightest.

A wedding is an amazing time to bond the families together. It’s a time to present to the world your first party as a married couple. I wanted our wedding to represent us – fun, whimsical, beautiful, multi-cultural. It did just that and bonded our families forever. I would spend every dime to have it all over again if I could.

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Devil's Advocate September 22, 2017 at 10:20 am

THIS!!

We spend about the same on our wedding and most couples I know have done the same. Many are now been married one if not two decades.

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Daisy September 20, 2017 at 10:48 am

My wedding dress came from the sale rack at the department store, my bridesmaid wore a dress she already owned, I did all the flowers, and my DH and I catered everything, including the wedding cake. 40 years on, we’re currently on our retirement “honeymoon”. Money can’t buy you love!

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JD September 20, 2017 at 10:49 am

I read a letter to Miss Manners some years ago, published in her book on weddings (I think it’s called “On Weddings” in fact) and the writer, who I believe was a lawyer or pastor, said that in his experience, the more spent on a wedding, the shorter the marriage. And now these people say it’s so, as well.
I do know of a couple in a small, rural town, who managed to spend over $50,000 of their parents’ money on their wedding for a marriage that lasted 3 years. Perhaps some big weddings are indicative of the bridal couple’s inflated self-esteem, which brings about the downfall of the marriage later?

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flora September 20, 2017 at 10:50 am

While correlation does not equal causation, it does kinda make sense if you look at the underlying causes. I wonder if, aside from money and debt, how much of the underlying causes are how the couple deals with stress. Weddings are stressful events. And while I cared about keeping expenses reasonable, making sure the recption wasn’t too far from the church (at my parents request) and the food was good, the rest were details and I rolled with what came our way. For example, my mother wanted a seating chart, frankly I didn’t care but she thought it was important so I let her make one. My dad knew a guy who does invitations so he picked up a book of samples and asked me to pick one I liked. 14 years later, six moves, two career changes and a grad school diaster, I think we’re doing pretty darn good!

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MM September 20, 2017 at 11:10 am

To be honest stuff like this just seems like an excuse to tut-tut over aby decision that is different from your own. Or money shaming people who choose to spend how much they want on whatever they want

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kgg September 21, 2017 at 7:57 am

I totally agree.

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staceyizme September 23, 2017 at 11:30 pm

Of all the comments, MM, yours makes the most sense to me. Each of us has different notions of what is “proper” and we all tend to globalize our personal experiences, when in reality, our lives are all quite different. “Money shaming…”! Sums it up nicely.

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Anna September 20, 2017 at 12:51 pm

I’d be cautious to infer any kind of causation. Divorce costs money in most cases. People who spend $20,000 on a ring…aren’t poor. Of course, not everyone who can afford it spends money on these things, but if you don’t have $1,000 to spend on a ring, you probably would be slower to file for an expensive divorce than if you were a family for whom divorce is something you can afford.

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PJ September 21, 2017 at 9:12 am

I agree. This study nicely supports the Disney-ish narrative that someone spending six figures on their wedding is so shallow that they probably can’t maintain a healthy marriage, while the humble wedding represents a humble couple, and it must be true love forever for them because they care so little about the festivities of the wedding day.

I’ve seen the couples who fit those stereotypes, and I’ve seen the couples who break them. I’d be very interested in studies that get at causation or other factors– maybe cultural or family traditions, or (as others have mentioned) how large the expenditures as a percentage of the payer’s wealth.

I wish the link contained some data, rather than just a few concluding sentences!

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Kirsten September 20, 2017 at 1:13 pm

I’ve seen women say openly that they would never marry a man unwilling to spend under a certain (huge) amount on a ring, because he has to be earning good money and they think settling for a reasonably priced ring is less than they deserve. It baffles me.

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NoviceGardener September 20, 2017 at 1:15 pm

I think this will be an interesting topic of discussion for as long as people are getting married! There are so many viewpoints to come at it from. (Just a quick disclaimer – I never judge anyone for their wedding choices alone. Divorcees, for example, are just as entitled to a big wedding as anyone else is. It all comes down to character and behaviour in the end.)

Tons of people choose to have very low-key weddings, and do so for any number of reasons. Maybe they feel that a large celebration isn’t in keeping with their relationship. Maybe they want to keep costs to a minimum. Maybe a small, modest ceremony suits their personalities better.

Others spend years planning an extravaganza, again for many reasons. Perhaps they can easily afford a luxurious wedding and a huge party, and decide to go for it. Perhaps they both agree that they want to go all-out on their wedding day, and are prepared to spend everything they have on it.

Others still land somewhere in the middle.

The way I see it, the only truly important thing is whether both parties are going in knowing that the marriage is a million times more important than the wedding. Whether you have a devil-may-care attitude, or have planned everything down to the last detail, at least one thing will not go according to plan on your wedding day. I’m not for a minute trying to deny that mishaps are stressful, but if you’re truly delighted to be marrying your partner, most of it will probably just slide right off you, whatever the size or expense of your wedding.

All that being said, my personal experience is that the less expensive weddings I’ve been to have tended to be more enjoyable. Probably largely because they usually have a more relaxed and happy couple at the centre. I have, however, been to one very expensive wedding, and that couple has been going strong for almost two decades. Probably because they are both lovely, gracious people with generous, friendly spirits.

A wedding is a day, that’s all. Yes it’s an important day, but whatever follies or delights it contains, they will shortly be memories, while the commitment you’ve just made is your future. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more serene, happy and confident as when I looked at the man opposite me and said “I will.”

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saucygirl September 20, 2017 at 1:20 pm

I agree with the poster who said the net worth should be shown versus actual amount. It would also be interesting to see how the money is acquired. For example, my wedding was a little over $15000. However, my dad – who started saving at my birth for college and wedding – just told me what my budget was. So I went into planning that wedding based on that amount, and spent that amount. No one went into debt over it or argued over it. And my husband and I will be celebrating 18 years this year. I have a feeling that is the real difference in the length of the marriage – money already saved and earmarked for a wedding without sacrificing anything versus scraping, scrounging and getting into debt for a wedding. And as the post with the net worth mentioned, that could be as little as $2000 or as much as $200,000.

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DGS September 20, 2017 at 2:07 pm

My engagement and wedding ring are family heirlooms, are worth over 6 figures, and our wedding was quite lavish (got married in the Northeast, where like KGG had said, it’s not easy to have nuptials on the cheap), and my DH and I have been happily married for over a decade and continuing to go strong. Most of the people in both of our families have had all sorts of wedding jewelry, ranging from inexpensive to expensive and have remained married, rather contentedly. As we also know in sciences, correlation does not imply causation (e.g. murder rates are higher in the summer; we do not infer, based on that, that heat causes murder). Perhaps, the mitigating statistical factor here is whether the costly engagement ring is something that the bride-to-be demands, or something that the groom-to-be can or cannot actually afford. Perhaps, we cannot infer marital happiness from the size of a woman’s diamond or the cost of wedding jewelry; perhaps, we cannot generalize about the couple’s relationship based on their wedding jewelry at all?

There is a lot of research in marital therapy around factors that contribute to marital dissatisfaction and disparate views on money is one of the key factors. My spouse and I were on the same page about our spending and saving when we had made the choices regarding our wedding, and we were both employed, highly trained professionals. We continue to be on the same page regarding how we manage our money now. I suspect that this is the key issue behind the dissatisfaction rather than the actual cost of the wedding; whether the couple can afford the costs, are on the same page about them and are both desirous of allocating that money accordingly.

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Huh September 20, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Meh. I don’t know that it really matters, beyond if you sink yourself into a financial hole because of the wedding, you’ll be fighting about finances quickly.

My 1st marriage: Engaged 2 years, groom gave me family ring, spent maybe $4000 on wedding in total, including honeymoon. Married 11 years until X decides to run away with college student.
DH and I: Engaged 4 years, groom gave me family ring, spent maybe $1000 on wedding in total, including honeymoon.

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WillyNilly September 20, 2017 at 2:39 pm

This is going to vary a lot by region. And by income bracket. And timing. Budgets go further (or shorter) in certain areas, and a blanket number like $10,000 might be 25% of one couple’s entire annual income or it could be 1%, which changes the worth of that budget.

When I got married, my DH and I checked venues and caterers in 3 counties: the one we live in, one to the west, and one to the north. Our budget bought wildly different things in each area. Conveniently the county where we lived offered the best deal. But certainly guests who perhaps were only familiar with costs in their own areas might think we paid significantly more than we did. We also found pushing back our chosen date by 1 week took us out of “high season” and knocked each catering package down 10% in costs allowing us to get more for our budget.

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gigi September 20, 2017 at 2:57 pm

My wedding dress cost $8.00. (It was a white prom dress on clearance.) The marriage lasted 30 years, until my husband’s death.

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Amethyst Anne September 20, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Maybe going overboard with the BWW and all that surrounds it, sends out an expection that the couple’s life together will be over-the-top. When life gets boring with regular, everyday normality, what then?

DH&I got engaged and married in 1977. The engagement ring was about $325, his wedding band was about $65, and mine was about $35. Our $65 reception was held in the upstairs room of the restaurant I worked at. The cake and topper came from the ice cream chain store Carvel (total – $40?)

The cost of my $17 dress: liningfabric/buttons/thread/wide satin ribbon for the sash/thread to make the hand-crocheted lace edging. The Lacey fabric for the dress came from my mother’s stash. My sister was my bridesmaid and she wore the dress she had worn to the Spring 1977 school band&choir concert. DH sent away through the Sears Roebuck’s catalog for a blue leisure suit. His best man wore a suit he already had.

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EOM September 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm

$325 in 1977 is over $1300 in 2017. It’s a bit misleading to talk pricing from 40 years ago.

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Amethyst Anne September 22, 2017 at 9:12 pm

The cost of living was much lower in 1977.

The department stores in our area did not carry engagement rings. In our area, there were no national chain jewelry stores. And certainly no Walmart or K-Mart.

FWIW, there were many rings at the store more expensive than the one DH and I picked out. $325 was at the long end.

At the time of purchase, the jewelry store owner wrote on the receipt that one re-sizing was free. About 5 years ago, I took my ring & its receipt into the same store and Mr. Owner honored the free re-sizing.

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Amethyst Anne September 22, 2017 at 9:23 pm

I guess I got confused thinking that being married 40 years was a big deal.

If DH had known my ring size, it would have been a surprise and I wouldn’t have had a clue the cost of it.

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Dyan September 20, 2017 at 6:47 pm

we drove down to Virginia City Nevada from Vancouver…went to the court house and 25 years later still together…came home and had a big BBQ my mom paid for the food and family had it in their back yard, people still say it was the best they have ever been to.
You don’t need any fancy ring, any fancy crap …just good food and good music and it is a GREAT WEDDING

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Sally September 20, 2017 at 9:35 pm

We used a stone from a piece of his Mom’s jewelry for the engagement ring so we only paid for the setting. The wedding was about 70 people and cost about $10k including the rehearsal dinner. We’ll be celebrating our 19th anniversary next month. But then, we were a ‘mature’ couple – he was 44 and I was 42 at the time. 🙂

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Claire September 20, 2017 at 10:04 pm

I went to a wedding where the tenor of the loan (18 months) to pay for it lasted three times the length of the marriage (six months).

I’ve noticed that when the focus is all on the wedding, it moves away from the marriage (to be). And after the wedding day has been and gone, there’s not much to hang on to. I include those couples who insist that the honeymoon lives on and on and on. Again, focusing on the wrong thing – it should be on the marriage, not the wedding and honeymoon fantasies.

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NostalgicGal September 20, 2017 at 10:20 pm

My mother planned my wedding out when I was four. It was holiday themed and far from something someone crafty (well before pinterest) could pull off. 16 years later, her refusal to face real world costs and more (including a clash of religions, I was no longer theirs)meant even though my father was going to take a loan, she was off by a factor of FIFTEEN. The amount to be borrowed would not have bought my dress AND veil, or all the flowers needed.

In the end the amount spent was under $100, she didn’t talk to me for three months and I didn’t care, and over three decades later, we’re still married. Oh, the stone was a half carat CZ we won at a jewelry store promotion (pick out the CZ from two diamonds and the CZ-they used such crappy grade diamonds it threw everyone off. Fiance said THAT one when I ruled one out and there was fuzz on the little ringbox insert, when he won they rearranged them and I quickly picked the correct one). So it was $119 for solitaire to be mounted as well and the little wraparound that was soldered on after. It got knocked down the toilet a few years after we married, and I finally chose a plain platinum plated titanium band a few years ago to replace it. $15, when he said I could have anything I wanted, it took me over 30 years to pick the replacement.

Classmates and coworkers went into fantastic debts or made their parents do so and watching their marriages blow apart around a year, and certainly no more than four… I feel sorry for them.

Oh with the way the diamond market is priced, it takes an average of forty years for that diamond to e worth what you actually paid for it. Take your solitare into a reputable pawn shop and ask them what it’s worth. You’ll be surprised especially if the diamond is less than five years old, and things like a really big blotch that a prong is over makes it worth less than you thought…

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Ashley September 20, 2017 at 11:14 pm

I feel like it’s because too many people get sucked up into what the wedding industry throws out, and forget that there’s a whole marriage that comes after the wedding.

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Aleko September 21, 2017 at 7:57 am

Not only that, you only have to Google ‘post wedding blues’ or ‘post wedding depression’ to learn that it’s now a major issue. Women who have spent a year or more thinking of and doing virtually nothing except plan That All-Consuming Day, and had it pass (whether successfully or otherwise) in a flash, wake up wondering glumly where it all went and what they’re to do with themselves now. The bridal biz sites and magazines have cottoned on to this and are full of cheery advice on how to cope with this feeling; every possible means is suggested (apart, obviously, from ‘get real and don’t make such a fuss about it in the first place. Chillingly, the top tip in one magazine article I read was ‘Why not start planning your first anniversary party?’ If any depressed new bride was dumb enough to take *that* advice, I doubt there would be any need to plan a second anniversary party, possibly not even a first….

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Ashley September 23, 2017 at 7:18 pm

It’s sad that it’s an issue.

There’s SO MUCH hype around weddings. I just didn’t get it. I’m not trying to pretend I’m special or anything for not buying into the hype, but I really just don’t understand how some couples get so caught up in it. Ours cost $8000 total for EVERYTHING. We fed everyone, we had a good time, and then on the Monday after we were both honestly happy to be back at work where there was no hype to deal with.

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Joni September 21, 2017 at 5:31 am

DH spent $500 on my wedding ring – he only had to pay for the setting, the center stone came from the ring he bought for a previous fiancee. The whole wedding (excluding the honeymoon) was under $1000. We splurged on the honeymoon (financed by his parents but still only another $1000 or so including airfare.)

Seventeen years later, our marriage is profoundly unhappy, but we can’t afford a divorce. So I guess you just never know.

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Serryce September 21, 2017 at 6:43 am

The relevant question appears to be: Are the couples in it for the wedding, or are they in it for the marriage?

If they’re in it for the marriage, the wedding doesn’t need to be big; it might be, simply because they have a lot of people they want to share the start of their journey with, but they’d be happy with two witnesses and the registrar because it’s all the days after that count.

If they’re in it for the wedding, then once the Big Day is done, there’s a whole run of days of marriage that stretch endlessly into the distance…

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Julie September 21, 2017 at 9:59 am

When I got engaged, I just wanted to get married and move on with life. We didn’t spend too much on our wedding, I worked very hard to keep costs low. Now that we have kids, I kind of wish someone would do a study on baby shower costs/money spent on baby clothes or gear. Again, I tried to keep most of the costs low. Two to three times a year, we go to huge consignment sales and get a bunch of kids stuff at a fraction of retail costs. Our justification is that kids outgrow things fast so there’s no point in buying brand new clothes. This is how my husband and I were raised and we’re good at hunting for treasure at sales and thrift stores.

There are things you have to spend money on, like nutritious food, quality childcare, safe cars/car seats, etc. But for other things, a few frugal habits go a long way.

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EOM September 21, 2017 at 1:10 pm

As many others have said, I’m sure it has less to do with the absolute amount of money spent and way more on how much the couple can afford. If someone can afford to spend $100K on a wedding, it’s not going to cause the kind of marriage-breaking stress that a $50K wedding will cause a couple with unsteady income and a huge debt.

Honestly, the whole idea behind this and a lot of the posts on here are distasteful and judgmental. I spent $170 on my wedding dress. That doesn’t make me a better person than someone who spent $8000. But to read some of the posts here, it does.

Just because you did your wedding on the cheap doesn’t make you somehow superior to someone who had a lavish blow out. The amount of virtue signalling on this topic is offensive.

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Claire September 21, 2017 at 10:31 pm

“Offensive”. /rolleyes

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InTheEther September 21, 2017 at 7:56 pm

As others have said, it’s doubtful that wedding spending actually contributes to the divorce (outside of stress caused by debt), but I can see it being a symptom of other issues.

I can only speak from the female side of things (not personally, but for whatever reason a lot of class/work mates like sharing their personal life with me), but I think *why* they’re marrying has a lot to do with it. The two most common reasons for doomed relationships and marriages I’ve seen are because A) that’s what you do, and B) they’re on a schedule.

Anyone with female friends in high school probably knew someone who had their life already planned out, ex: “I’ll marry [boyfriend] at 22 when he/I graduate college and we’ll have our first kid a year later and the second two years after that, etc.” Maybe later after they break up with their boyfriend in college they’ll adjust the plan to being married by 27 and having the two kids by 32. It seems like some people wind up marrying just whoever, because holding out or taking time to be picky about who they marry will throw them off schedule. To tie it into the spending, if the person already had their life planned out they’re also likely the person who already decided that they’d have the Big White Wedding with the horse drawn carriage and everything long before they had any way of knowing what they’re income would be. And they will NOT deviate from the plan.

On the ‘that’s what you do’ side, I’ve known a lot of girls who don’t even really like their boyfriends, never mind love them. But they’re dating because there’s this cultural expectation that everyone will date and then after a while get married. So they find a single person of compatible orientation in their social group and hook up largely just so that they’ll have a boyfriend (though at least consciously they’ll come up with something to justify it) or worse start dating someone just because he’s a ‘nice guy’ (aka not objectively the scum of the earth) and it would be mean to reject him. Then after you’re dating for a year or two people will start asking when you’re going to marry, so they go along with it despite the relationship being somewhere around lukewarm or bad. And of course if you get married you drop $X on the ring and dress and etc. because that’s just what you do. And then 1-5 years later they realize that they’re stuck with this guy they aren’t compatible with.

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David September 22, 2017 at 1:05 pm

My wife and I eloped. We don’t have rings. There wasn’t a dress. We’ve been together for 18 years 8 months today and married for 8 years and one month. It’s spiffy.

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Kelly Taylor September 22, 2017 at 8:30 pm

Agreeing with everyone who’s mentioned things like net costs and percentages and debts and not making assumptions about causation and all that.

One of the things I’ve noticed that may be related to cost of a wedding and rings are the ages/maturity of the bride and groom. And what I’ve noticed related to that over the last several decades of observing multiple weddings, marriages, and divorces is that if the couple tends to go on *either* extreme with a wedding celebration, it often ends in divorce. The ones who go over the top with the reality tv-inspired BWW are a problem, but so are the ones who go majorly cheap and/or tacky in ways that downplay the seriousness of what a wedding and marriage is. (This does NOT mean I’m saying all weddings on a budget are cheap and tacky.) Maybe ideologies about what is and isn’t important can be signalled by either taking the wedding day too seriously, or not seriously enough?

Combine this with factors like teenaged couples, couples getting deeply into debt for a wedding, or parents who are overly involved in planning/paying for the wedding, and you can start to see, as others have mentioned, symptoms of much larger issues.

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ArtK September 27, 2017 at 3:49 pm

I’d love to see some additional statistics on this. Particularly if the expensive weddings were actually affordable or if the HC went into debt or depended on large amounts of parental money (who went into debt.) If it correlates the way I suspect (that the less affordable weddings were for the marriages that later failed), I think that the causal link is one of priorities. By prioritizing the event over future solvency, they show an interest in the here-and-now and not in the future.

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AnonToday September 28, 2017 at 3:18 pm

I’m not using my normal screen name cause I don’t like to share this info- ever. My wedding rings cost around $35,000. My wedding dress (that I didn’t even wear) was about $3,000. I had been planning a wedding that was going to run me tens of thousands of dollars. But the stress of having family overseas, some on the west coast, others on the east, and my husband and I on an island drove us to elope. We’ve been together almost q4 years now, married only 6 of those. But we’re happy and always have been. Marriage was the plan from early in the relationship but it was prudent to wait (I was only 19 when we met). The amount you spend on a ring or a wedding should not be considered an indicator of the success of your marriage.

I hear about these “studies” and I think for the most part they’re flawed. If you spend outside your means then yes, you’re likely to get divorced. The cost of the ring is irrelevant. We did not spend outside our means, and we continue to spend within our means. If we didn’t have the means to pay for my rings then I can’t imagine we’d still be together. Yes my husband is my perfect match. But the constant stress of money woes can destroy any relationship.

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Rinme September 22, 2017 at 1:57 am

I’ll just state thw obvious here… it’s completely possible to get marriwd without any “wedding production”.

Just get registered and be done with it. It’s hard to say this option is unaffordable.

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