When people think about getting married, one of the main obstacles is financial, since a wedding with a huge party for many guests can cost more than buying a house. And interestingly, the size of the financial investment in marriage doesn’t necessarily correspond to the couple’s happiness.
Of those interviewed who had weddings that cost more than £20,000 (about $26,600 US), 10% of them got divorced in less than three years. In other words, they focused so much on throwing an expensive party that they forgot that they would have the rest of their lives together. Sara Davison told the Daily Mail:
With some weddings it becomes more about having the wedding than about anything else. So the wedding day, the big dress, the beautiful country manor house, all of those things can overshadow the real reason for getting married. Then when the wedding day is over, you’re sitting there looking across the table at the person you’ve married and you’re thinking, “Well the wedding day was fun but this isn’t really matching up.”
Also, Harry Benson, the research director of the pro-marriage think-tank, said, “The data echoes previous research from the US suggesting expensive weddings can be bad for marriages because of the risk of debt.”
As for those who had ceremonies for 10 guests or fewer, 34% divorced within a decade (which is nearly double the average divorce rate of the total sample). The study suggests that having more guests is good because those present “affirm the choice to commit to one person and rule out all other choices.”
These results are very similar to the outcome of an earlier study in the USA reported by CNN. “Overall, our findings provide little evidence to support the validity of the wedding industry’s general message that connects expensive weddings with positive marital outcomes,” researcher Andrew M. Francis told the American news outlet.
Commenting on the correlation of more guests with a lower divorce rate, he said, “This could be evidence of a community effect, i.e., having more support from friends and family may help the couple to get through the challenges of marriage. Or this could be that the type of couples who have a lot of friends and family are also the type that tend not to divorce as much.”
Having the right motives
A lavish party costing hundreds of thousands of dollars isn’t what makes a marriage work. What makes a couple stay together over many years is the love between the spouses, the desire to maintain a family, mutual respect, intimacy, partnership, affinity, understanding, companionship, shared projects and plans to build a life together, and their commitment before God. Financial considerations (beyond the basics of living well) do not—or at least should not—enter into this equation.
Ultimately it’s very important to get married for the right reasons. Unfortunately, some people get married for reasons that are foreign to the true purpose of marriage: financial interest, to leave their parents’ house, to fulfill a child’s dream of having a wedding day like a prince or princess, or some other reason of convenience. Marriage can be a source of great happiness, but it requires care, work, and constant maintenance.
We shouldn’t get married for any other reason than our love for the person we’re going to marry, and the marriage itself as a life-long sacramental bond in which the spouses support and complement each other. And when this choice is right, the size of the ceremony and the number of guests are the least important factors.