To many, getting married is one of the most important things in life. Some people — and men more than women, surprisingly — fantasize about the occasion long before it happens. But while marriage is, theoretically, a deeply romantic affair, it also means big business. In the United States alone, in 2014, the wedding industry reported revenue exceeding $50 billion with the average wedding costing around $30,000. Fueled by rising consumeristic habits and aggressive marketing, the cost of a wedding has gone up considerably throughout the 20th century and the trend is only expected to grow.
Is it really necessary to spend that much on a wedding, though? That’s up to you, but here’s at least one reason not to: one study published by a duo at Emory University, Atlanta, found that spending on the occasion was inversely correlated with the risk of divorce. The more money couples spent on engagement rings and wedding ceremonies, the higher the divorce rate, the two researchers concluded after surveying more than 3,000 ever-married persons residing in the United States.
“Relatively high spending on a wedding is inversely associated with marriage duration among female respondents, and low spending on the wedding is positively associated with duration among
male and female respondents. Additionally, we find that having high wedding attendance and having a honeymoon (regardless of how much it costs) are generally positively associated with marriage duration,” the authors wrote in the journal Economic Inquiry.
Some other key findings from the first study to examine the potential link between wedding expenses and marriage duration include:
- Spending between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring is significantly associated with an increase in the hazard of divorce among the sample of men while spending less than $500 is associated with an increase in the hazard of divorce in the sample of women.
- Specifically, 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 with spending between $500 and $2,000.
- Furthermore, 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 and in the sample of men, and spending $20,000 or more on the wedding is associated with an increase in the hazard of divorce in the sample of women.
- However, spending less than $500 is associated with an increase in the hazard of divorce in the sample of women.
- As 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 risk of divorce in women.
- In particular, in the sample of women, the hazard of divorce associated with spending more than $20,000 on the wedding is 3.5 times higher than the hazard of divorce associated with spending between $5,000 and $10,000.
- Across both men and women, spending less than $1,000 on the wedding is associated with an 82% – 93% decrease in the odds of reporting wedding-related debt stress compared with spending between $5,000 and $10,000.
This is a noncausal study, meaning spending a lot of money on a wedding doesn’t necessarily put you at risk of a divorce later in life. The authors have a couple of explanations, however. It may be that the couples who spend less on a wedding are a better match and therefore stay married for longer than those who spend more. One causal mechanism might be that spending more on a wedding often comes with post-wedding debt that can cause strains in married life.
Whatever is causing these results, if there’s any causal mechanism in the first place, what’s sure is that the wedding industry is wrong. For decades, companies involved with wedding products and services have asserted in their advertising that spending more on a wedding is a sign of commitment and makes marriages more successful. If anything, the contrary is true.