However a new study from US economists Andrew Francis and Hugh Mialon throws cold water on any idea that the more extravagant the wedding, the better the marriage.
In their survey of over 3,000 ever married people, they looked at a whole range of factors that might influence the chances of the happy couple staying together.
- Among the less surprising factors were income and religion. Earning anywhere over £15,000 per year knocked a third to a half off the odds of divorce, much the same as regular church attendance.
- Dating for more than three years before the proposal was an especially good sign for men. But a focus on the importance of good looks was a less promising sign.
- Husbands and wives with more differences, whether by age, race, or education, also faced an increased risk of divorce.
Their finding on costs was rather less clear than the headlines might suggest. But the general principle was that spending a lot of money on either ring or wedding was not the recipe for marital bliss that the wedding industry would have you believe.
- Couples were most likely to split up – especially in the early years – if they spent between £1,200 and £2,400 on a ring. Spending outside this range, whether less or more, reduced the risk.
- For wedding costs, couples who spent the least – less than £600 – did much better and those who spent the most – more than £12,500 – did much worse.
A focus on an extravagant wedding day – rather than on the marriage to come – suggests a reason why we found in our own research that celebrities have twice the divorce rate of the rest of us.
Those of us who got married some years ago will have noticed the tendency towards over-the-top weddings and over-the-top expectations of a wedding day. This is a trend that has been going on for some while. As the study authors point out:
In 1959, Bride’s recommended that couples set aside 2 months to prepare for their wedding and published a checklist with 22 tasks for them to complete. By the 1990s, the magazine recommended 12 months of wedding preparation and published a checklist with 44 tasks to complete
The final, and perhaps most clearcut finding, was that having more guests at the wedding was linked to more stable marriages. This mirrors a similar recent finding from Galena Rhoades and Scott Stanley. They suggest that having more people watch a couple make their vows provides both affirmation of the decision to marry and encouragement to remain consistent to the vows.
The message from both these studies ends up being a statement of the obvious, even if our darling daughters may not necessarily want to hear it!
- If you want a happy marriage, get married in front of lots of friends and family. But close your ears to the wedding industry’s demands that you ‘have to have this’ and ‘can’t do without that’. You can and should. Keep your costs to what you can afford. Remember that its the marriage that counts.