Is Bling a Bad Thing for a Marriage? One Group of Researchers Seems To Think So

In a world where divorce rates are skyrocketing and a growing number of young adults are waiting longer to get married — if they even choose to get married at all — there’s one question that we can’t help but ask an older, happily married couple: what’s your secret?

A group of researchers at Emory University were wondering this question too, and they looked at a common correlation that people (often jokingly) make about a marriage’s success: the bigger the diamond on the engagement ring, the more love two people have for each other (and the longer the marriage will last). But the Emory University study produced some unexpected results, and it seems like Americans aren’t entirely sure how to feel about it.

After studying 3,151 married American couples, the researchers found that a cheaper wedding (the price of the engagement ring included here) yields a longer marriage. Or, as Brandon Griggs writes for CNN, “if you’re serving burgers and Bud Light at your backyard wedding, don’t worry. You and your spouse may have the last laugh.”

Specifically, the study showed that couples paying more than $20,000 for a wedding are 1.6 times more likely to get a divorce than couples who pay between $5,000 and $10,000 for their wedding. Couples paying between $2,000 and $4,000 for a wedding are about 1.3 more likely to divorce, when compared to couples who spend $500 to $1,000 on their wedding costs.

To put it simply, no one seems to know how to interpret these statistics. Some people are a bit worried, considering that the average price tag for a wedding in 2013 was $29,858. Others are finding some consolation in knowing that their DIY wedding wasn’t a waste of time. A lot of men are (perhaps jokingly?) expressing relief that there’s now a scientific study to support their decision to buy a cheaper ring.

But many people simply think that the study merely proves that a conventional correlation — one that has long been considered ludicrous — isn’t true. As one of the researchers states, “our findings provide little evidence to support the validity of the wedding industry’s general message that connects expensive weddings with positive marital outcomes.”

In other words, an expensive wedding won’t guarantee a longer marriage. The problem is, the study still fails to prove that a cheaper wedding will guarantee a longer marriage. Numerous other factors come into play when determining the longevity of a marriage — communication skills, shared values, careers, family — and none of these factors were analyzed by researchers.

While it may be unwise, if not impossible, to spend the average $30,000 for a wedding, relationships experts aren’t likely to encourage “burgers and Bud Light” as a quick-fix for a broken relationship. In the meantime, the wedding industry might benefit from emphasizing that meaningful investments are worth the cost, and that a marriage depends on much more than the price of the wedding bands.

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