You may already know that I’m not a big fan of materialistic wedding expenses. More specifically, I think that the average cost of a wedding is stupidly high ($32,641 last year) and the average engagement ring cost (at $5,598) is equally sickening. And if you want to pay it forward and put your groomsmen or bridesmaids in debt, you deserve whatever bad marriage karma you’ve got coming your way.
For the record, my wife and I had an inexpensive wedding, totaling just $2,500, and we asked our maid of honor and best man to spend nothing. Adversely, I didn’t realize until years after my marriage proposal that I had fallen for industry-backed spending “tradition” and spent too much on an engagement ring.
Given past interest in these topics and how top of mind they are for those in their twenties and thirties, I felt like we all hit the jackpot with a recently published study from two economics researches from Emory Univeristy called ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration.
The objective of the study was to determine if there was an association between wedding spending and marriage duration. The sample was 3,000 married (or previously married) individuals in the United States.
Among other interesting findings, they concluded “marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony“. In other words, not only is it a bad idea financially to spend a lot on these things, but higher spending on materialism for show = greater likelihood of divorce. I think now might be a good time to say: TAKE THAT, HATERS!
The paper goes on to detail how wedding and diamond industry advertising and propaganda has manufactured this fairy-tale concept and misinformation. Sound familiar? It should – I’ve been preaching it for years. These guys are like brothers from another mother.
Here are some of the more interesting findings:
- In the sample of men, spending between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring is associated with a 1.3 times greater hazard of divorce as compared to spending between $500 and $2,000.
- Spending between $2,000 and $4,000 on the engagement ring is associated with 2 to 3 times the odds of reporting being stressed about wedding-related debt relative to spending between $500 and $2,000.
- Spending $1,000 or less on the wedding is significantly associated with a decrease in the hazard of divorce in the sample of all persons.
- Spending less than $1,000 on the wedding is associated with an 82% to 93% decrease in the odds of reporting being stressed about wedding-related debt relative to spending between $5,000 and $10,000.
- Spending $20,000 or more on the wedding is associated with an increase in the hazard of divorce in the sample of women.
- Compared with spending between $5,000 and $10,000 on the wedding, spending less than $1,000 is associated with half the hazard of divorce in the sample of men, and spending $20,000 or more is associated with 1.6 times the hazard of divorce in the sample of women.
- Relatively high household income, regularly attending religious services, having a child with one’s partner, relatively high wedding attendance, and
going on a honeymoon (regardless of cost) are all significantly associated with a lower hazard of divorce. All of these make a lot of sense to me, except for high wedding attendance. I guess the takeaway is to invite a lot of people to your wedding, but don’t feed or entertain them!
The data tables in the research paper would only be appreciated by a researcher. Thankfully, a data scientist, Randal Olson, made some pretty graphs that are much more user friendly. Unfortunately, no graph was made for the engagement ring data.
Income Level and Marriage Success:
Lets start off with the bad news (if you don’t make much money):
While this is kind of depressing, it makes sense. Financial arguments are the #1 reason for divorce, and if you make less money, you are going to stress more over money and it could cause turmoil in the marriage.
Should You Take that Honeymoon?
Hell, yes. Take that honeymoon! Just don’t spend a lot on it.
How Much Should you Spend on your Wedding?
The less you spend on your wedding, the better (if you want it to succeed, that is).
Wedding Expenses and Marriage Success Conclusion
My conclusion from all of this fantastic data is that while money is important (less stress, more experiences) in marriage and life, it’s not important in a materialistic sense (fancy expensive ring, flashy stereotypical wedding for show, a bunch of shit you don’t need). In fact, just the opposite was found. Money has great value, but only if used for the right reasons.
What’s your take?