Picture this: you and your fiancé are about to start wedding planning, and first up is determining a budget. This can certainly be stressful in itself — but imagine knowing that that whatever amount you choose to spend could factor into how long the two of you stay together.
That’s what new research from economics professors Andrew Francis-Tan and Hugo M Mialon shows. The two conducted a study with the goal of connecting how much a couple spends on an engagement ring and their wedding with the longevity of their marriage.
“Wedding industry advertising has fueled the norm that spending large amounts on the engagement ring and wedding is an indication of commitment or is helpful for a marriage to be successful,” Mialon said. “In either case, the general message is that wedding spending and marriage duration are positively correlated.”
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However, the professors’ study showed otherwise. After looking at the weddings and marriages of more than 3,000 people in the United States, they ultimately discovered that the more you spend on your wedding, the more likely you are to get divorced.
One example of this deals specifically with engagement rings. Mialon and Francis-Tan discovered that men who spent around $2,000 to $4,000 had a higher rate of divorce — 1.3 times — than men who spent between $500 and $2,000. If you think this also applies to anything under $500, you’d be wrong. Spending any less than this was also found to be associated with higher divorce rates.
The same applies to weddings, as those that cost less than $1,000 show a significant decrease in the likelihood of divorce. Weddings that cost more than $20,000, however, increase the likelihood by 1.6 times in the study’s sample of women.
If you’re freaked out, don’t be. Even the researchers cautioned against using this study as a guide to your wedding spending, as it “does not prove that high expenses on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony cause divorce, only that high expenses on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony are positively correlated with divorce, holding constant a number of demographic and relationship characteristics, including income,” said Tan-Francis.
Both he and Mialon had a few possible theories for the study’s results. “What could explain the observed negative association between wedding expenses and marriage duration? Perhaps those couples who tend to have lavish weddings are simply those couples who tend not to be the best match for each other,” Mialon said.
He continued, “On the other hand, it is also possible that having an expensive wedding burdens couples financially (conditioning on their income) in a way that may later strain their marriage. In the paper, we present some evidence that those who spent a lot on their wedding were more likely to report that debt resulting from wedding expenses caused stress in their marriage, and there is sizable literature in economics and sociology linking economic stress and marital dissolution.”
You shouldn’t let research like this directly affect the way you plan your wedding, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind!