Research Reveals the Surprising Impact of Wedding Planning on Permanence
A marriage is a covenant relationship designed to last "till death do us part."
Accordingly, a couple planning a wedding is carefully designing a celebration of what is intended to be a healthy, happy, life together. And unless they plan to elope to Las Vegas to tie the knot with Elvis in a chapel on the strip, wedding preparations include careful attention to everything from the ring, to the venue, to the guest list.
Some modern weddings even include a virtual guest list. I have "attended" several weddings over the last several years as an electronic invitee, watching a ceremony that was livestreamed, sometimes because the actual ceremony took place in an exotic, cost prohibitive location.
In terms of "the big date," in a previous Psychology Today column, I discussed how the selection of a wedding date impacts marital success. Popular or unusual dates are tempting options for couples seeking to have a wedding that is both memorable and easy to remember — in terms of remembering their anniversary.
But because anniversaries only occur within the duration of the marriage, here is the most important question for partners to be: with the wide range of wedding options, which ones increase the likelihood of a successful marriage? The answer might surprise you.
Money Can´t Buy Love
Many couples rack up the bills selecting the perfect wedding ring and planning an elaborate wedding, considering the financial investment to be an outward expression of love and commitment. But will spending more money ensure a more successful marriage? According to research, the answer is no. Expensive weddings do not ensure quality marriages.
Andrew M. Francis and Hugo M. Mialon in "A Diamond Is Forever and Other Fairy Tales," in 2014, used survey data from 3,000 people in the U.S. who had been married, to compare the association between the amount of money spent on a wedding and the duration of the marriages. Sadly, they found evidence that the length of a marriage was inversely proportional to the money spent on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony.
They found that male respondents reported high priced wedding rings to be associated with shorter marriages, and female respondents reported relatively high spending on the wedding linked with shorter marriages.
On the other hand, they found that both men and women reported weddings with lower price tags were associated with longer marriages. In terms of numbers, they found that couples spending less than $1,000 on a wedding was linked with an 82 percent to 93 percent decrease in the chances of experiencing "wedding-related debt stress" as compared with couples who spent between $5,000 and $10,000. Perhaps this should not be surprising, as the researchers note that prior literature has linked economic stress with divorce.
Quantity Equals Quality — Wedding Attendance Predicts Success
Apparently, couples should watch the numbers when it comes to the list of expenditures, but not the list of guests. Because in terms of attendees, the recipe for success appears to be the more the merrier. Francis and Mialon additionally found that weddings less likely to lead to divorce were relatively inexpensive but highly attended.
Research by Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades, from 2014, also found higher wedding attendance was linked with marital success. They opined that this result might be explained by a combination of factors, including high social capital — in terms of family and friends, preferences for number of attendees, as well as the impact of making a public commitment in front of a large number of witnesses on resolve to follow through.
Avoid Flash Over Substance
Research appears to reflect the reality that in some cases, a lavish, expensive wedding may be more of a status statement than a reflection of relational strength. There is nothing wrong with a beautiful ceremony, as long as the focus is on the couple to be married.
The same rationale applies to the wedding ring. Some couples choose to spare expense and tie the knot with an heirloom passed down through generations; others select inexpensive but meaningful wedding rings where sentimental value outweighs cost. Nonetheless, there is nothing wrong with an expensive ring if it is an affordable investment in the marriage itself.
The most important part of marriage remains the recognition of the union as a covenant, where the focus is on permanence, not the price tag. Because true love is priceless.
A version of this article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 3,00 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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