Wedding Expense and Divorce

Wedding Expense and Risk of Divorce

I believe with all my heart that we are individuals. We are not just statistics. We can defy the norm.

However, Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, on September 15, 2014 published a study ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration, and the statistics it reveals are worth considering.

Francis and Mialon of Emory University studied 3,000 married couples in the U.S. to determine the factors that predicted divorce.

According to the study, spending large amounts on an engagement ring and the wedding can be significantly associated with the risk of divorce. Their analysis also showed that the risk of divorce decreases with length of time of dating before the proposal.

As a wedding officiant, I would like to draw your attention to one statistic that I think is worth reviewing. Specifically, as the number of guests at your ceremony increases the risk of divorce decreases.

Number of GuestsRisk of Divorce
Couple OnlyBasis/Reference Point
1-10 Guests35% less likely
11-5056% less likely
51-10069% less likely
101-20084% less likely
201 and more92% less likely

I would conclude that this can result from two important factors. One is external originating from your guests. The other is more internal and originates from you.

First, the more people that support you on your wedding day should result in more people supporting and encouraging you throughout your marriage. Challenging your guests to hold you accountable to your marriage and goals can have a positive impact.

Secondly, the more people that you make a commitment to a goal in front of the more likely you are to succeed in that goal. Although goal setting and success is a very challenging part of life, conventional wisdom encourages us to make our goals public.

Consider if you plan to lose weight, quit smoking, get more physically fit, network more, read more, play the piano, or any goal. Publicly sharing that goal and enlisting the help of others to help you succeed is huge. The more help you get the better.

With the data from this study, I would challenge brides and grooms to consider how important the ceremony is. Trends to invite only family to the ceremony and hundreds to the reception, might be questioned. Flowers, decorations, attire, venue and food expense can contribute up to 70% of your wedding expense, and as wedding expenses increase, the risk of divorce increases. While ceremony expenses like musicians and officiants contribute much less, they are a part of what is positively associated with marriage success.

People are more important than things, and what is said and done at your wedding is what makes memories. Consider the most popular wedding videos on Youtube or ask someone what they remember about their wedding. Most are not about the beautiful things, but rather the moments that touch the soul of life.

Olga Khazan, a staff writer at The Atlantic, made these observations about the study, “Have a huge wedding, but make sure it’s cheap. And whatever you do, don’t skip the honeymoon.”

Data scientist Randal Olson visualized some of the findings from the study. Here are the highlights, displayed with Olson’s visualizations:


Time Spent Dating Before Proposal

Couples who dated for at least three years before their engagement were 39 percent less likely to get divorced than couples who dated less than a year before getting engaged.


Annual Household Income

Couples who make more than $125,000 a year (combined) cut their divorce risk in half.


Religious Attendance

Regular churchgoers also cut their divorce risk in half.


Size of the Wedding

Have a big wedding…


Cost of Wedding

…but make sure it’s cheap. “The more you spend on your wedding,” Olson notes, “the more likely you’ll end up divorced.”


Went on a Honeymoon?

Go ahead and take that trip to Bali. Honeymoons decrease the chances of divorce by 41 percent.


Do the Partner’s Wealth or Looks Matter?

Men are 50 percent more likely to end up divorced when they said their partner’s looks were important in their decision to get married, and women are 60 percent more likely to end up divorced when they cared about their partner’s wealth, compared to people who said they cared about neither.


Study by: Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon. Visualizations by Randal Olson

‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration