Weddings vs. Marriages: Increasing costs and decreasing risks

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“So here is a related question for your blog: Why are the prices of modern weddings extravagant, as divorce and cohabitation also become so much more common? Why do the externals of marriage become more elaborate as its true meaning disappears?”

A good friend of mine posed this question and I’d like to mull on it now.

Why ARE the prices of modern weddings so extravagant? Especially in light of the increase of divorce and cohabitation? And my favorite part of the question, “Why do the externals of marriage become more elaborate as its true meaning disappears?” That really is a good question, segway-ing into my somewhat-un-researched take on it.

I think this question can be broken down into two parts; the increase of the price of the modern wedding versus the increase of divorce and cohabitation.


A quick google search prompts this estimate from

“On average, US couples spend $24,066 for their wedding. However, the majority of couples spend between $18,050 and $30,083. This does not include cost for a honeymoon or engagement ring. “

That’s a down payment on a house.  A very nice house.

A second quick google search prompts this estimate on the divorce rate: still hovering around 50%.  It fluctuates above and below, but always around 50%.

An insightful quote from Jim, a character on the NBC hit-TV show “The Office”:

“Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, so… it was her parents or my parents…”

And one more quick google search on Cohabitation:

“Among women aged 18-19, cohabitation was more common than marriage as a union form, with 11% of these women cohabitating and 5% married.  For women aged 25-44, marriage was the dominant union type, with 62% currently married and 8% currently cohabitating…. Among men aged 25-44, 59% were currently married while only 10% were currently cohabitating.”(1)

Those are high numbers.

And what do they mean?


A large part of me wants to look at this and interpret the increasing exhorbitance in wedding spending as a facade people want to believe in.  As a way for the wedding’s total dollar amount to measure up to a mathematical formula which means “Well, we spent XXX on the wedding, which means we are going to stay together for at least XX years …”

Then again, there is the idea that people truly want to believe that they are only going to get married once, so they might as well “do it right”.  The best and the brightest for their one and only wedding day.  I feel as if this self-selected group is not as large as they think they are … I would venture a guess that of most people getting married, most do not PLAN on getting divorced, but rather think they are of the small percentage that will remain married for what is truly “’til death do us part”.  I fear however that most couples worry more about the wedding itself rather than about preparing for the marriage that is to come …. (digression. Sorry.)

And yet again, there is the thought process of forced attention: everyone is going to what may now best be termed as an “event” for YOU, and to celebrate YOU, and to look at YOU, and you want to prove to them that you are ______ (fill in the blank.) Wealthy, prosperous, healthy, skinny, extravagant, happy, etc., etc., etc.  In that case I’d argue that the focus of the wedding is extremely lost ….. And yet I feel this option somehow fits best.

The value of marriage is constantly decreasing.  (I speak societally, not individiually; I trust there are many individuals who value the sanctity of marriage as one-man-one-woman-til-death-do-we-part, but that is not the popular opinion these days).  The prevalent idea is that we get married “for now”.  We get married when we find someone we think we are in love with, not fully understanding what love truly is or what personal sacrifices we will be called to make that come with the territory, and we do this all with the knowledge that in 5-7 years if it doesn’t work out, we are free to move on and find the next husband, or the next wife.  A new person for a new phase of life.  A new person like a new haircut.  That USA Network TV show “The Starter Wife” shocked me in a way it shouldn’t have: I didn’t realize people actually thought like that.

As this value of marriage decreases, I find it interesting that as my friend pointed out, the cost of marrying is itself skyrocketing to an unprecedented high.  As I stated before, this really could indicate any number of things …. but I most strongly hold that it indicates a hole.  A void.  That somewhere in the lives of the engaged couple (or their parents!), there is some void in need of filling in the most American way possible; Retail Therapy.  When in doubt, buy it.  When depressed, buy it.  When you can’t afford it, buy it.  What better way to show how healthy you are!

Let’s get it all!

And this is where the rubber meets the road.  What does that mean, for us?  What does that mean for the small fraction of Americans who believe that marriage is for keeps, that it’s for all the marbles, that a man and a woman are deciding to love each other until death, real death, meaning that they will continue to love with actions and words through sickness and in health, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, UNTIL DEATH DO WE PART?

Keep living it.  That’s what it means.  Just keep living your values, hold fast to your beliefs, keep setting an example, find marriages worthy of imitating and imitate them.  So many of us come from broken homes and broken marriages and we are products of that selfish desire for personal gratification …. but when will that cycle end?  When we take control of ourselves and come to understand what love truly is, and begin to live it ourselves on a daily basis, regardless of whether we are in a relationship or not.  It doesn’t take a spouse to show someone you love them.

Changing anything in this world begins with us.


2 thoughts on “Weddings vs. Marriages: Increasing costs and decreasing risks

    Samantha Davids said:
    July 5, 2011 at 08:22

    Interesting, but I am more inclined to think that there is no relationship between those two variables (cost of weddings and rate of divorce). Correlation does not mean causation! haha I think it’s more likely that the cost of weddings is related to our consumer mentality and the rate of divorce is tied to cohabitation (there are studies that show they are more likely to divorce but I can’t find them at this moment! haha) and their mentality towards marriage as you mentioned.

    You should also take into account that eloping is actually on the rise…( People are aware that weddings are ridiculously expensive and are opting for different approaches.

    Lacy de la Garza responded:
    July 5, 2011 at 08:31

    Haha, fabled quote of old, but definitely true. Correlation does not mean causation! I believe our consumer mentality has a lot to do with the rising cost of weddings, but I do think it’s closely related to the idea of need to affront the ceremony with a facade of stability. Why spend all this money if we weren’t totally in love? “Look how in love I am!” Though, I guess that could be considered a part of the ‘consumer’ culture as well.

    Eloping is definitely an interesting point. I wonder what the statistics will look like in 5 or 10 years, of comparing the “staying-married” rate of those with expensive ceremonies vs. eloping. The quant is coming out in me when I read numbers like this, but really it just boils down to trying to determine what this cultural shift means for the future of traditional marriage.


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