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Is A Lavish Wedding a Prelude to Divorce?

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The alarming statistics–maybe you should say “no” to the dress

The number of wedding guests also correlates with duration of marriage. As the number of wedding guests increase, up to 200, the hazard of divorce steadily and substantially decreases, until a slight uptick occurs with over 200 guests.

To summarize: An expensive ring ($8,000 and up) is associated with the lowest hazard of divorce for both men and women. Wedding expenses under $1,000 are associated with the lowest hazard of divorce for men (0.49) and women (0.7), while wedding expenses exceeding $20,000 are associated with the highest hazard of divorce for men (1.12) and women (1.6). Lastly, more wedding guests means lower hazards of divorce.

These findings actually make sense in light of what we know about successful marriages.

For example, a large number of wedding guests tells us that the couple has many friends and family members with whom they want to share the happiness of their wedding day. They already know how to sustain friendships with others. They care about others. They know how to give and receive love. They have a large community of family and friends to turn to for advice and support. Compare their emotional maturity and stability to that of impulsive couples who run off to elope (perhaps not knowing each other well) or couples who are estranged from their families and have no close friends.

Why does splurging on an engagement ring bode well for the couple’s marriage but splurging on the wedding itself spell trouble? An engagement ring is meant to be "forever" and has become a token of how highly a future groom values his future bride. Besotted young men are willing to spend far more than they can reasonably afford to demonstrate the depth of their love. The bride receives this extravagant token with joy and gratitude for this permanent expression of his love (and perhaps appreciates the added benefit of being able to show her friends what an excellent catch she’s made). Through the rough patches of married life, she can look at that ring as a reminder of his loving commitment to her.

In contrast, the hundreds of details of the dream wedding itself and the festivities that follow have almost nothing to do with the marriage or their commitment to each other and almost everything to do with her girlish dream to be a princess bride for a day. Other than selecting groomsmen, the husband-to-be seems to leave decisions about the dress, flowers, venue and menu to his bride and her mother. There’s nothing wrong with a bride wanting to look great and have all the details perfect for her wedding day, but when all the focus is on the personal fantasy starring you and costing upwards of $30,000, the groom may be relegated to a minor supporting role. And if he’s not completely on board with the excesses, they’re starting off with a conflict.

More importantly, lavish fantasy weddings may suggest that a bride is self-absorbed and may have an unrealistic view of marriage. The poet Robert Browning has been quoted as saying: "Success in marriage is more than finding the right person. It is being the right person." Let’s take the worst case example of Bridezilla who dreams of starring in her own wedding extravaganza, making all the decisions about the day based on emotions without regard to cost. How do her attitude and actions match up to some of the qualities necessary for a successful marriage:  

(1) Does she value her relationship with her husband above all? No longer he and I, but we?
(2) Is she wiling to make joint decisions with him?
(3) Is she willing to be accountable to him, as he to her?
(4) Is she financially prudent?
(5) Does she have realistic expectations about marriage or does she think it’s all about her happiness? 
(6) Does she have the maturity to compromise, to overlook, to forgive readily or is she someone who wants to get her own way?

The answers are obvious and may go a long way toward explaining why princess brides who insist on having extravagant weddings are at higher risk of divorce.

Susan Wills is a senior writer for Aleteia’s English language edition.

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