When Taking Vows, Vow to Spend Less

Talk to anyone 19 to 90, and they’re likely to have very clear memories of their first experience going steady. Mine came at the decidedly ancient age of 17, and I can recall that star-crossed life chapter like it happened last week.

My perky, mahogany-haired, 16-year-old inamorata and I didn’t have much in common other than a passion for hours-long sessions in lover’s lane. When we stopped long enough for a conversation, I became aware that her hopes for the future centered on a single day — her wedding day.

It didn’t matter that we had no money. It didn’t matter that I was headed to my freshman year of college and she still needed to matriculate from high school. It didn’t matter that there was no way in hell to support ourselves as newlyweds.

All those niggling nuisances were subordinate in her fevered mind to the big gala she foresaw unfolding the day she cantered down the aisle dressed all in white.

About the time it dawned on me that I was an easily replaceable cog in her dreams of that day, I was gone like last spring’s prom decorations. Ever since, I’ve harbored a deep distrust of those whose views of marriage centered not on the life they would build for themselves after the wedding, but on the wedding itself (and not just on the day itself, but how much would be spent on the day).

Lessons in Love

That’s why I lapped up the recent take by the Wall Street Journal on the George Clooney-Amal Alamuddin multimillion dollar nuptials in Venice like a parched Mojave nomad at a punch fountain. Titled “Mega-Weddings: Why You Should Say ‘I Don’t, ‘” the October 3rd piece by Brett Ahrends confirmed all the suspicions about weddings I’d harbored for decades, but had never been fully able to articulate.

Not only is a costly and extravagant wedding no predictor of a successful marriage, it is actually a harbinger of trouble in paradise, followed by the retention of his-and-hers divorce attorneys. Citing a recent Emory University paper titled “A Diamond is Forever and Other Fairy Tales” by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, Ahrends asserted there’s an inverse relationship between levels of big spending on wedding ceremonies and a couple’s duration as blissfully wedded partners.

I tracked down the report the Journal cited, and pounced on some intriguing factoids that should hearten any couple planning a wedding reception at Denny’s.

“Spending $1, 000 or less on the wedding is significantly associated with a decrease in the hazard of divorce in the sample of all persons and in the sample of men, and spending $20, 000 or more on the wedding is associated with an increase in the hazard of divorce in the sample of women, ” it reported.

Predictably, it wasn’t just the spending on the wedding, but all the collateral expenditures that also foreshadowed an appearance in divorce court.

“Spending between $2, 000 and $4, 000 on an engagement ring is significantly associated with an increase in the hazard of divorce in the sample of men, ” the authors reported. “Specifically, in the sample of men, spending between $2, 000 and $4, 000 on an engagement ring is associated with a 1.3 times greater hazard of divorce, as compared to spending between $500 and $2, 000.”

There it was in black and white, proof positive that blowing wads of cash on lavish weddings and Hope Diamond-like wedding rings was more closely linked to love on the rocks than a more fiscally conservative approach. It quickly made me wonder why a study was even necessary to reach that conclusion.

Wouldn’t it make sense that two people renting out the Giza Plateau for a wedding in the shadow of the sphinx might be less focused on one another, and staying married, than a couple eloping on a Megabus to suburban Buffalo?

It does to me.

From That Day Forward

Just think, if a guy and gal recognize even before they’re even married that free-flowing wedding spending doesn’t necessarily translate to happiness, they may embrace the reverse in other situations throughout their life together. And that could stave off arguments over lack of money, which is known to be a huge factor in divorces.

Big New Year’s Eve celebrations? They’re often a lot less fun than the simple, cozy evening spent at home away from staggering drunks. Spending big on costumes at Halloween might not yield as great a get-up as shopping for odds and ends at Goodwill, and fashioning your own one-of-a-kind guise.

Braving the crowds at the Cineplex for this seasons’ blockbuster could yield less enjoyment than taking in a little-known independent flick at the local art house. And the major league cost of parking and those $13.50 chicken nuggets plates at a big league baseball stadium? It could make you decide you had a better time rooting for up-and-coming phenoms at a Class A Rookie League game.

Yup, there are lessons galore to be learned from a less-expensive wedding. From homes to cars to vacations and more, it’s not impossible to get more by spending less.

Are you among those making the mistake of spending a lot on a wedding? It may not be too late to have your walk to the altar altered.

One Response to “When Taking Vows, Vow to Spend Less”

  1. Anonymous

    At the end of the day, the answer might be as simple as 1-2-3 as to why people who spend more on a wedding get divorced at a higher rate. Resentment in the expectation of experience inflation. Let me explain.

    1) Let us say you have your big wedding, or a big ring, etc. This sets the bar pretty high. Most men don’t care about the wedding (or the ring for that matter) and care more about the act than the actual props. Women typically are 100% the opposite as they have dreamed about the day they were proposed to, their wedding, their anniversaries, etc. Of course it is not “Mom and dad at IHOP”, but something big and expensive. This causes resentment when two partners are so far off on expectations. As for weddings and rings, most guys just “do it” to make her happy. As for her, typically she views it now as the baseline standard of her “dreams”.

    2) As you have inflation of dreams, you have inflation in your dreams. In #1 you have the level being set, now to “wow” her, you have to go above and beyond that to reach it. So again this will cause friction as he spent all that money to appease her the first time, and now, is expected to spend more the second time around. This is where your conflict occurs.

    3) What is the #1 reason for divorce? Money problems or different money expectations.

    Now let me be clear as this is not 100% accurate as there are lots of people out there who do not fall along typical gender lines when it comes to attitudes about money. I am just saying that the majority (> 50%) will fall into those classic molds (which hey – we have a > 50% chance of getting divorced). So the more you spend on the wedding and ring, the more he can resent you if you don’t realize it was one day and back off the expectations. This falls well in line with the evidence the study authors found.

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