A recent study conducted by two Emory University economics professors provides more evidence, documented by formal research, that money can’t buy happiness, or to be more precise, that spending a lot of money on a lavish wedding doesn’t make a couple’s future prospects for happiness any more likely than spending less. In fact, according the findings of Professors Hugo Mialon and Andrew Francis, a couple that spends over $20,000 on their wedding is significantly less likely to have a happy future together than a couple who spends between $5000-$10,000 on their big day. What they found in their study of over 3000 individuals was that those couples that opted for the higher-cost weddings were 1.6 times more likely to divorce then those who paid under $10,000 for their weddings.
According to Mialon and Francis, theirs is the first academic study to examine the correlation between wedding expenses and the length of marriages. The wedding website TheKnot.com, stated that a recent survey of 13,000 couples in the United States revealed that the average amount spent per wedding in 2013 was $29,858. Nearly15% of couples spent more than $40,000 on their wedding and related events, not including the honeymoon. Other big-ticket items that contribute to the expense include engagement rings (at an average of $5,598), reception bands ($3,469), flowers and other decor ($2,069) and wedding photos ($2,440).
In offering an explanation for so many couples’ willingness to spend so much on weddings, Professor Francis stated, “The wedding industry has long associated lavish weddings with longer-lasting marriages. Industry advertising has fueled norms that create the impression that spending large amounts on the wedding is a signal of commitment or is necessary for a marriage to be successful.” He went on to claim that their findings “provide little evidence to support the validity of the wedding industry’s general message that connects expensive weddings with positive marital outcomes”.
The study did however, find a correlation between the number of people who attended the wedding and the divorce rate which indicated that the greater the number of attendees, the lower the rate of divorce.
Lest readers be too hasty to conclude that the way to divorce-proof your marriage is to spend as little as possible on your wedding and to invite as many people as possible to it, two seemingly contradictory suggestions, let us remind you that there are other ways to minimize the possibility of divorce and maximize the likelihood of a happy marriage. That, however, is a subject too extensive to justice to in one blog or newsletter. Check out our archives to find some useful ideas.
Here’s the abbreviated answer to the question of how that goal can be attained more effectively:
Start with the end that you have in mind and begin by focusing on the kind of marriage that you want your wedding to lead up to.
See if you can identify the kinds of qualities that you will want to strengthen and develop in yourself in order to be able to bring about the outcome that you desire. Give some thought to the kind of behaviors and practices that will support the development of these qualities.
If you think that your relationships can’t possibly be any better than it currently is, check in with your partner to see what he or she thinks either or both of you could do that could might further enhance the quality of your partnership.
Many couples make the decision to marry while they are still in the throes of infatuation, which can be a time in which it seems literally inconceivable that either one of us could ever feel anything but love and adoration to the other. In the long run, this turns out to be rarely the case, very rarely.
If you think that the idea of embodying practices that will make you a better, more loving, and trustworthy person, is easier said than done, you’re probably right. But putting your attention on becoming the person of your dreams rather than hoping that a financial investment in your wedding will produce the real payoff that you desire is far more likely to bring about your desired outcome.
The Emory University study didn’t offer any definitive reasons as to exactly why well-attended weddings correlated to fewer divorces, or why more expensive weddings did not correlate with more successful marriages. They simply noted the outcomes without asserting any definitive causality. Feel free to draw your own conclusions. We’re in the relationship-enhancement business, not the wedding business and we don’t see them as being mutually exclusive. But as the saying goes, the most important factor in determining what develops in your life has more to do with what you most value and where you put your attention and energies. Weddings are a one-day event. Marriage is a life-long process. Hopefully.