Do wedding choices influence marriage quality?

Do wedding choices influence marriage quality?

Spring has given way to summer, which means it’s time for tropical temperatures, beach days, barbecues, and of course, weddings! In this blog let’s find out whether wedding choices, such as the number of guests, can influence marriage quality

Spring has given way to summer, which means it’s time for tropical temperatures, beach days, barbecues, and of course, weddings! According to CBS, more than 70% of twentysomethings in the Netherlands who live together hope to marry their partner someday. And although their reasons may differ – apparently, an important reason for young males is simply that their partner wants to get married – most couples aspire to a long and happy marriage. In this blog let’s find out whether wedding choices, such as the number of guests, can influence the quality of a marriage.

Diamonds are forever?
For many brides and grooms to be, the engagement ring is an important aspect of getting engaged. Some grooms-to-be spend months researching and buying the perfect ring. According to an American tradition, men should spend at least two month’s salary on the engagement ring, but does spending that much actually lead to a better marriage? A 2015 study in which 3000 Americans were surveyed examined how engagement ring spending correlated with marriage duration and divorce rates. As it turns out, men who spent between 2000 – 4000 dollars on a engagement ring were 1.3 times more likely to get divorced than men who spent between 500 – 2000 dollars. However, spending less than 500 dollars on a ring was also associated with higher divorce rates. Spending an exorbitant amount of money (i.e., over 20,000 dollars) on your wedding as a whole was also associated with higher divorce rates. This may be due to wedding-related debt stress undermining couples’ relationships. This study merely provided a first look at the association between wedding costs and marriage quality – it is unclear whether this association would hold in different countries and if participants were followed over time. Nonetheless, couples may do well to ignore the wedding industry’s claims that more expenses lead to a better marriage.

Number of wedding guests
Although an expensive wedding does not necessarily lead to a better marriage, there is evidence that a marriage high in attendance does. Although one might expect such an association to be mainly explained by having more economic means, this association held even when researchers controlled for income and education. However, researchers were unable to control for other variables that could be important, such as parental income and wedding costs. Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that having more witnesses at the wedding may actually improve marriage quality. According to work by social scientists, commitment is strengthened when publicly declared, because people try to remain consistent in what they say and do. As such, having a wedding with many witnesses might lead to a stronger desire to commit and make the marriage work. Of course, a higher number of guests could also be related to having stronger bonds with friends and family, who could help newlyweds to weather marital problems.

Strolling through the streets of Paris, relaxing on the best beaches of the Bahamas… after all the time and effort spent on wedding preparations, most soon-to-be-wed couples look forward to going on honeymoon together. In America, 99% of couples who choose a traditional wedding will have a honeymoon. A wise choice, as research has shown that a honeymoon is associated with longer marriage duration, regardless of how much it costs. Perhaps this association is due to couples being happier when they have a nice vacation to look forward to, or having more time for each other. Or perhaps poor couples may not only be unable to afford a honeymoon, but also have more strained relationships because of financial hardship. Nonetheless, it would probably be no harm for couples who plan on marrying in the future to start saving for their honeymoon.

Deliberate and explicit agreements
In conclusion, several wedding choices, such as engagement ring expenses, numbers of guests, and going on honeymoon seem to be related to marriage quality. However, let’s not forget that couples’ histories, and especially communication styles, are also very important predictors of a successful marriage. For example, making deliberate decisions and explicit agreements together, instead of sliding into certain habits and situations, such as living with your current partner, seem to be very important for a successful marriage. Furthermore, as most studies to date have used surveys, it is not yet clear what we would learn about marriage by following couples over a long period of time, from before to long after their wedding. Finally, although many people hope to marry someday, nowadays many couples are happy in a relationship that takes a different form than marriage. What do you see as the key to a successful marriage or long-term relationship? And what advice would you give a newly engaged couple? Let me know below!