Linda Lewis Griffith

How a pricey wedding can contribute to marital problems

Charlotte Observer/TNS

Love may be free. But getting married can drain the bank account.

According to The Wedding Report, the average price of a wedding in San Luis Obispo County is $33,290. That’s a lot of taffeta and birdseed.

The wedding industry has long encouraged couples to spend more on their nuptials. In 1959, Brides magazine recommended couples allow two months to plan their weddings and included a checklist of 22 items for them to complete. By the 1990s, the magazine advised 12 months of preparation with a 44-item to-do list.

In the late 1930s, the De Beers diamond company created the slogan “a diamond is forever,” indelibly linking diamonds with the hope of a long-lasting marriage.

But the amount spent on the ceremony doesn’t necessarily portend marital bliss. In fact, the opposite may be true.

Research from Emory University and published online at the Social Science Research Network looked at the amount couples spent getting married and the duration of their marriages. The survey was conducted in July and August 2014 and tabulated data from 3,151 adults in the United States.

Results showed that men who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring had a 1.3 times greater risk of divorce than those who spent between $500 and $2,000 for the rings.

Women who spent more than $20,000 on their weddings were at a 3.5 times greater risk of eventually divorcing than those who spent between $5,000 and $10,000. Couples spending less than $1,000 were at the lowest risk of splitting up.

Could stress about wedding expenses contribute to marital problems? The data seem to say “we do.” Women reported being two to three times more stressed about their weddings when engagement rings cost between $2,000 and $4,000 than when they cost $500 to $2,000. And spending less than $1,000 for the entire event is associated with an 82 percent to 93 percent decrease in wedding-related stress.

Of course, wedding price tags aren’t the only predictors of success. The survey found that having lots of guests in attendance and going on a honeymoon also contributed to a happier marriage.

The takeaway message is clear: Go ahead and celebrate your marriage. Surround yourself with family and friends. Keep expectations, expenses and stress levels in check. Your future depends on it.

Linda Lewis Griffith’s column in special to the Tribune. She is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com.

How to decrease wedding stress

  • Make a list of three priorities. These are your absolute-must-haves. Everything else can be negotiated or left out.
  • Work within a budget. Talk to professionals who can help you get what you want without maxing out your credit cards. Let love carry the day. Friends are coming to witness and celebrate your love. Allow that emotion to be front and center.
  • Call the shots. You’re in charge. Listen to input from friends and family members. But sweetly remind them this day belongs to you and your fiancé.
  • Engage in lots of self-care. Exercise regularly. Laugh often. Eat healthy meals.
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