Your Fabulous Wedding, Your Fabulous Divorce

In Depth

Hot on the heels of news that the average cost of an American wedding is as high as ever comes a finger-wagging reminder: The more you spend on your wedding, the more likely your marriage will end in a miserable pile of divorce papers.

A study out of Emory University entitled “A Diamond is Forever and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration,” crunched some numbers:

In this paper, we evaluate the association between wedding spending and marriage duration using data from a survey of over 3,000 ever-married persons in the United States. Controlling for a number of demographic and relationship characteristics, we find evidence that marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony.

Hot take: Spending money on your wedding sets you up for failure. Serves you right, what with that J. Mendel gown and Armani tux. You were overcompensating from the start, hiding the empty shell of your relationship just so you could get a Kitchenmaid mixer from your registry. If you were really meant to be together, you wouldn’t have needed those gorgeous hydrangea centerpieces. True love is a mason jar filled with wildflowers you picked yourself.

Yeah, that’s utter nonsense. An expensive wedding really suggests only one of two things: Either you’re well off, or you’ve gone into debt just to fund your party. Both scenarios have more to do with divorce than the wedding itself.

If you had an expensive wedding because you’ve got cash money, you’re obviously financially secure. An abundance of money tends not to cause divorces, but unhappiness does. And those couples who get divorced can actually afford to do so. The same cannot be said of the poorest Americans; they’re more likely to stay in unhappy marriages because of financial concerns, particularly if children are involved. Poor people tend not to have expensive weddings.

Then there’s the debt scenario. From the Emory study:

Spending between $2,000 and $4,000 on the engagement ring is associated with 2 to 3 times the odds of reporting that debt resulting from wedding expenses caused stress in their marriage relative to spending between $500 and $2,000.

Okay, so you didn’t buy an inexpensive ring—you probably aren’t going to want a budget wedding, either. And now you’re in debt. Money is a massive source of marital stress and debt is debt, whether it’s because you went overboard with your ring and reception, or because you took out a second mortgage on the house. Couples who are financially stressed are likely to argue about money, and such arguments early in a marriage (like, say, right after your expensive-ass wedding) are a top predictor of divorce.

Ultimately, yes, the success of a relationship depends far more on the everyday things—thoughtful interactions, not being a dick—than wedding day glories. But just because you threw an epic bash doesn’t mean you’re headed for divorce. You’re headed for divorce because your marriage sucks, and that has nothing to do with whether or not dinner was served on bone china.

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Image via Shutterstock.

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