Engagement season is here. It’s the time of year between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day when more than a third of couples pledge to wed. Many of the loved-up couples will discover to their dismay that money is a perennial source of pre-wedding tension. After the doves have been released and the rose petals strewn, three-quarters of couples will find that they’ve gone over their wedding budget. A quarter of newlyweds who go into debt immediately regret their free-spending celebration, according a survey conducted in Britain.
What entices couples into spending more than they can afford on the happy day? Sociologists say weddings have become more of a symbol of “having arrived” in adult life than a demonstration of a couple’s commitment to a shared future. That leads many to plan a production rivaling a Broadway show.
Adding more fuel to the desire for an Instagram spectacle is the wedding industry.
“The wedding industry has grown substantially throughout the 20th century in part due to the rise of consumerism and industry efforts to commodify love and romance,” according to a study conducted by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta. Their report said bridal magazines market “the necessity of a lavish wedding for a fairy tale marriage.”
The opposite turns out to be true.
Spending more on the wedding ceremony indicates the likelihood of a shorter marriage, said Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon. The two professors in the Emory Department of Economics surveyed more than 3,000 U.S. newlyweds to find the correlation between length of marriage and wedding spending.
They also linked spending more on an engagement ring to shorter marriages. According to recent surveys, the actual average cost for an engagement ring is over $6,000. Most American couples expect to spend between $1,000 to $5,000 on an engagement ring.
The Emory report found that couples who spend between $10,000 and $20,000 on their wedding are 29 percent more likely than average to get divorced. The risk climbs to 46 percent higher than average when couples spend $20,000 on their wedding. And that doesn’t include the cost of the engagement ring. Spending between $1,000 and $5,000 indicates the couple are 18 percent less likely than average to get divorced. Spend less than $1,000 and the risk of divorce drops to 53 percent less likely than average to divorce.
It’s the bride who is most vulnerable in this scenario of divorce after spending on an expensive wedding. Brides who spent $20,000 or more on their wedding are 3.5 times more likely to end up divorced than brides who spent less than $10,000.
The Emory researchers suggest a huge and costly wedding may indicate the bridge and groom are marrying for the wrong reasons. Marry for the wrong reason and the financial stress that follows a lavish, expensive wedding ultimately wrecks the marriage, the report suggests.
A man is 1.5 times more likely to end up divorced when he chooses a bride for her looks. A woman is 1.6 times more likely to end up divorced when her husband’s wealth is the most important thing to her.
Read More: ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales and What Makes for a Stable Marriage