Did You Have A Cheap Wedding? We Have Excellent News For You


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Correlation isn't necessarily causation. b-hide the scene/Shutterstock

It’s that time of year again: A study, published back in 2014 – and heavily reported on at the time – has cropped up, this time courtesy of The Independent. It’s titled “‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration”, and every single year, it gets reported on – presumably because people are always getting married, and, well, you know.

Conducted by the National University of Singapore and Emory University, it used data taken from a survey of around 3,000 ever-married people in the US. Attempting to control for a range of relationship and demographic aspects, they uncovered a few correlations – the standout of which is that marriage duration is negatively associated with the amount spent on the engagement ring and the wedding ceremony.


More specifically, they found that expenditure on the wedding ring is inversely associated with marriage duration among male respondents. Conversely, it’s expenditure on the wedding itself that’s the negative correlation with female respondents. At the same time, low spending on the wedding is positively correlated with duration among both respondents.

Now, before we go any further, have you heard of a website known as Spurious Correlations? It’s great. It shows how you can match up any two factors that are genuinely unrelated in every way, and you can sometimes get a very strong positive correlation.

Here’s an example: The number of people who drowned after falling out of a fishing boat correlated very well with the marriage rate in Kentucky. There’s also a solid correlation between the number of people who died falling out of their bed and lawyer numbers in Puerto Rico.

Spurious Correlations; CC BY 4.0

The point of the website is to amusingly demonstrate that correlation isn’t necessarily causation. You can probably see where I’m going with this: No, you can’t take this otherwise fine study looking at correlations in the matrimony realm – say, money spent on weddings and divorce rates – and say that there’s a direct link there. It’s just an interesting correlation.


The study does make for an interesting read. Its most broadcast finding is a commentary on how expensive weddings are almost encouraged these days. Indeed, the authors note that “the industry message that associates wedding expenditures with longer-lasting marriages has never been statistically evaluated.”

Encouraging people to spend a shit-ton on weddings and engagements is a clearly manipulative move. Remember that, although the concept of using a diamond ring to propose dates back to the Imperial Court of Vienna in the 15th century, it was catapulted to the mainstream by a 1940s ad campaign driven by De Beers, a diamond company. Convenient, eh?

Weddings don’t have to be crazy expensive. Or they can be – it’s your choice. It’s very likely that there are plenty of other lifestyle, romantic, and situational factors that affect the longevity of a marriage that also vary with disposable income. Money isn’t the be-all and end-all factor.

As The Atlantic points out, a strong marriage is an intentional one, not a frivolous decision made after a brief dating period – another of the study’s correlations.


Another positive correlation? Going on a honeymoon and longer lasting marriages. Travel’s more fun than tradition anyway, surely. The authors of the study also suggest that spending more equals more debt, more future stress, and more cracks in the relationship.

The TL;DR is that you should do whatever wedding you like. Just don’t feel like you have to break the bank. Or, as the authors summarize: “Overall, our findings provide little evidence to support the validity of the wedding industry’s message connecting expensive weddings with positive marital outcome.”


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