Planning a Lavish Wedding?

Think twice about it if you want a successful marriage

marriage finance advice

George Clooney spent $13 million on his wedding in 2014, according to media reports. But before you spend lavishly on your wedding, give it more thought.

A new study finds a disturbing correlation between expensive weddings and successful marriages. Indeed, the more lavish the event, the shorter the marriage.

“We find evidence that marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and the wedding ceremony,” wrote Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, two Emory University economics professors in a paper they titled “‘A Diamond Is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration.”

The study was based on the wedding budgets and marriage track records of more than 3,000 U.S. adults. The authors found that women whose weddings had cost more than $20,000 were 3.5 times more likely to end up divorced than women who spent $5,000 to $10,000. And men who spent $2,000 to $4,000 on engagement rings were 1.3 times more likely to end up divorced than men who spent $500 to $2,000 on rings.

The authors admit that the results of their single study aren’t definitive. After all, correlation and causation are two different things. The fact that expensive weddings are shown to be inversely proportional to marriage duration doesn’t prove they cause divorce. Perhaps costly weddings simply attract immature people who are less likely to succeed in marriage.

But there could indeed be a causal factor. After all, an expensive wedding can lead to expectations of a certain lifestyle, and if that can’t be sustained, financial strain might ensue. After all, it’s well-known that quarreling over money is a leading cause of divorce.

The average U.S. wedding last year cost $29,858 — about 60% of the median household’s income. And one in 10 weddings costs between $50,000 and $100,000, according to a survey by The Knot, a wedding industry magazine and website. That’s an 11% increase since 2010. Meanwhile, hourly wages have risen only 2%, according to the Labor Department.

If you’re thinking of getting married, consider this: If it’s all about the ring or the party, there might be a problem with the relationship. Remember, the wedding lasts only four hours; the marriage is supposed to last a lifetime.

Originally published in Inside Personal Finance June 2015

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