In sickness and in health ... but not in debt

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Weddings: What Are the Hidden Costs

Before and after, there's the bachelor/bachelorette party, the rehearsal dinner and the day-after brunch. There's the photo booth, which is a definite necessity these days. And what couple doesn't have a website designed to share with the world the first time they laid eyes on each other?

The sane person will certainly agree with sociologist and sexologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz when she says, "The whole thing has gotten way out of hand." The whole thing being the never-ending list of costly accompaniments that now come along with planning a wedding.



Yet until Emory University economics professors Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon decided to organize a study last year, no one had paused to question whether this out-of-control spending was having an impact on, well, the actual marriage. Spoiler alert, it does. And it's not a positive one. Francis and Mialon surveyed more than 3,000 people — all of whom have been married just once — and found that across income levels the more you dish out on the Big Day, the shorter the marriage. Now, that's a raw deal.

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In sickness and in health ... but not in debt
NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 16: Musician Solange Knowles (wearing a pre-ceremony ensemble by Stephane Rolland) and her fiance, music video director Alan Ferguson, ride bicycles on the streets of the French Quarter en route to their wedding ceremony at the Marigny Opera House on November 16, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Josh Brasted/WireImage)
RHINEBECK, NY - JULY 31: In this handout image provided by Barbara Kinney, Marc Mezvinsky (L) and Chelsea Clinton pose during their wedding at the Astor Courts Estate on July 31, 2010 in Rhinebeck, New York. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, married Marc Mezvinsky today in an interfaith ceremony at the estate built by John Jacob Astor on the Hudson River about two hours north of New York City. (Photo by Barbara Kinney via FilmMagic)
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West married on May 24, 2014
Here it is! My debut as Mrs. John Molner from Saturday!
I’m proud to share exciting news with everyone: http://t.co/Q9S2eUNsNW http://t.co/kK31pimqeT
I am thankful for so many things... family, good health, career... the obvious things... but on this day I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful to love and be loved and to be open to embrace folks that are different than me and respect their uniqueness and not see them as a threat to my existence. So my prayer on this Thanksgiving... to embrace the FACT that we ALL matter. We ALL have value. We ALL deserve to love and be loved... as we are all worthy. Rp @dwyanewade
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got married on August 23, 2014
SOUTHROP, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 01: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Jamie Hince and Kate Moss kiss as they leave St. Peter's Church after their wedding on July 1, 2011 in Southrop, England. (Photo by Indigo/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 27: Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon during their wedding vows renewal ceremony, photocall on April 27, 2012 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (front), leave the 1902 State Landau as they arrive at Buckingham Palace, after their wedding in Westminster Abbey, in central London April 29, 2011. Prince William married his fiancee, Kate Middleton, in Westminster Abbey on Friday (AP Photo/ANDREW WINNING, Pool)
George Clooney, flanked by his wife Amal Alamuddin, waves from a water-taxi after leaving the city hall in Venice, Italy, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. George Clooney married human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Saturday, the actor's representative said, out of sight of pursuing paparazzi and adoring crowds. (AP Photo/Luigi Costantini)
A view of a marquee tent in front of Danesfield House, in Marlow, England, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. It is believed that Danesfield House will be the venue for the post wedding party of Hollywood actor George Clooney and his new bride Amal Clooney on Saturday Oct. 25, 2014. (Photo by Grant Pollard/Invision/AP)
BRACCIANO, ITALY - NOVEMBER 18: In this handout photo provided by Robert Evans, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes pose together at Castello Odescalchi on their wedding day November 18, 2006 in Bracciano, near Rome, Italy. (Photo by Robert Evans/Handout via Getty Images)
Odescalchi Castle, Venue for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Wedding at the Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano, Italy. (Photo by Harry Hewitt/WireImage)
LONG ISLAND, NY - JULY 04: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Billy Joel and Alexis Roderick tied the knot at a surprise wedding on Saturday, July 4, 2015 at their estate in Long Island. The couple surprised guests at their annual July 4th party by exchanging vows in front of their family and close friends.The intimate ceremony, which was held at Joel's estate on Long Island, was presided over by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, 57, a longtime friend. (Photo by Myrna Suarez/WireImage)
Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, 34, married Gwen Stefani, 32, of the band No Doubt at a St Paul's Cathedral in Covent Garden in London on Saturday, September 14, 2002. (Photo by Thomas Rabsch/WireImage)
BEL AIR , CA - SEPTEMBER 28: An aerial view is shown of the house where musicians Gwen Stefani and Gavin McGregor Rossdale held a wedding reception September 28, 2002 in Bel Air, California. The couple recently married in London, England. (Photo by Mel Bouzad/Getty Images)
FILE - In this May 7, 2012, file photo, Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala benefit, celebrating Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada in New York. The couple released a statement Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, to People magazine confirming their wedding. They said the ceremony was beautiful and it was special to be surrounded by our family and friends. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File)
This picture shows a general view of the Bagno Egnazia resort in Fasano, in the southern Italian region of Puglia, where actors Justin Timberlake and fiance Jessica Biel will stay during their wedding on October 19, 2012. Timberlake and Biel will get married over the weekend on October 20 and 21. AFP PHOTO / DONATO FASANO (Photo credit should read DONATO FASANO/AFP/Getty Images)
covered my butt this time around
BEDMINSTER, NJ - OCTOBER, 25: In this handout image provided by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump (R) and Jared Kushner (L) attend their wedding at Trump National Golf Club on October 25, 2009 in Bedminster, New Jersey. (Photo Brian Marcus/Fred Marcus Photography via Getty Images)
I'm officially Mrs. Blackstock :) We got married yesterday at Blackberry Farms in TN, the most beautiful place ever! http://t.co/vYYqopBAcr
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According to the media company XO Group, the average wedding budget has soared to an all-time high of almost $30,000 (that's not including the honeymoon), with 1 in 8 couples spending more than $40,000. As a whole, research firm IBISWorld calculates, the industry generates $55 billion a year. "Advertising has fueled the norm that spending large amounts on the engagement ring and wedding is an indication of commitment or is helpful for a marriage to be successful," the researchers wrote in an email.

  • Guys: Investing between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring means you're 1.3 times more likely to get divorced compared with the more frugal fellows who only allocate between $500 and $2,000.
  • For both sexes, spending more than $20,000 on the wedding ups the odds of divorce by 3.5 times compared with couples who keep it between $5,000 and $10,000.
  • For the best odds, though, keep the festivities to less than $1,000.

Francis and Mialon say one possible explanation is that post-wedding debt stokes marital tensions. But, as Schwartz is quick to point out, correlation is not the same as causation. She says part of the problem may be that "the wedding has become the highlight rather than the beginning of something." After almost three decades of planning weddings, Kim Horn, whom bridal geeks might recognize from her cameos on the WE network's My Fair Wedding, agrees: "The focus is not on the relationship and the long-term commitment." Since the 1980s, when Horn first started her career, the industry has become much more hyped, she says. Between bridal magazines and reality TV shows, couples are inundated with advertising, so she says it's not surprising that average spending has doubled since 1990.

Now this next finding may seem contradictory: While excessive nuptial spending is a hazard to lasting love, a hefty guest list has the opposite effect. So instead of opting for a smaller wedding to save money, simply spend less per person. Rather than renting a photo booth, pick up a couple Polaroid cameras. Or save the $1,000 a DJ charges and try this novel idea: make your own playlist.

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