I’m in my mid-30s. So of course, many of my friends, family, and acquaintances have gotten married in the past few years. Most of them have been really stressed out about it. And the financial aspects of the wedding have usually been the most stressful. A few of their issues:
- A coworker in his 50s had a daughter who was getting married. He felt like he had to pay for it. He found out that the daughter’s family was kosher, which meant the whole wedding had to be kosher. Making the wedding kosher would double the price. He wound up going into debt to pay for the wedding.
- A friend’s sister was getting married. The sister and her fiance decided to move their wedding up from May to November. The family got angry at the sister, as they didn’t have the financial means to pay for the wedding 6 months earlier than they’d been planning. The sister said that she had never expected her parents to pay for the wedding, and that she had the right to change the date if she wanted. The parents felt insulted the sister didn’t think they could afford to pay for her wedding.
- A friend was getting married, and he wanted to have a small wedding. He was going to pay for it himself. His family said they wanted to pay for it, but they wanted to be able to invite their friends. The wedding turned into a huge and complex affair, exactly the opposite of what my friend wanted. He told them he wanted to scale back on the guest list. They fought, and it caused a rift in the family that lasted for years.
- A friend got married and had the expensive wedding of their dreams. The marriage lasted two years. Of course the fact that it was expensive didn’t lead to the marriage ending, but all the money spent on the wedding was still gone.
- Another friend wants to get married to her longtime boyfriend, but they don’t have the money to have the wedding they’d like. She’s been telling me this for years, and they still aren’t married because they can’t scrounge up enough money to make it happen. I suggested a very simple ceremony, but they’re both unwilling to do that.
These certainly aren’t unique experiences. I’m sure many of you have experienced more drama with your own weddings or friends’ weddings.
But is all that drama really necessary?
In my opinion, a wedding should be about two people pledging themselves to each other. The trappings of a modern wedding may be fun for some, but cause a lot of stress for many others. And the financial aspects of the wedding only add to that stress.
The average cost of a 2015 wedding in my area (South Florida) was more than $51,000. And in Manhattan, it was almost $89,000!1 Just think of what you could do with that kind of money. $51,000 would be equal to a 20% down-payment on a $255,000 home. And in my area you can buy a 2-3 bedroom home in a nice neighborhood for $255,000. A wedding is one day of your life. I definitely don’t think one day of your life is worth 20% of the purchasing price for a house.
In fact, a 2014 study found that weddings that cost more than $20k were 46% more likely to end in divorce than weddings that cost less than $20k.2
Are Diamonds Really Forever?
That brings me to my next topic: engagement rings. The same study found couples who spent $2,000-$4,000 on a ring were 30% more likely to get divorced than couples who spent $500-$2,000.
Did you know that before WWII, only 10% of engagement rings contained diamonds? Did you know that diamonds are not nearly as rare as other precious stones?
You see, the De Beers diamond cartel knows their stones aren’t rare or particularly special. They’ve just been clever at marketing their diamonds. They launched the “a diamond is forever” campaign in the 30s. After that, buying a diamond engagement ring for your significant other meant that your marriage would last longer.
In the 80s, De Beers came up with another successful campaign. This one convinced the public that engagement rings should cost 2-3 months salary. They’ve actually made many people believe that if a man didn’t spend this much, they didn’t really care about their future wife.
But what about the argument that a diamond engagement ring is a good investment? If times are tough, can’t you just sell your ring and recoup most of the amount you spent on it? Actually, no. Most of the time, if you sell your ring, you won’t even get back half of the value.3
I know this won’t be a popular opinion, but why are we letting a diamond cartel control us like this? If you’re just looking to have a piece of jewelry that shows your commitment to each other, why not each wear simple wedding bands? And if you really want a shiny stone, why not get a manufactured diamond or even a Cubic Zirconia? Most of the population won’t be able to tell the difference between that and the “real thing.”
Bucking Against Society’s Expectations
The wedding and engagement ring industries are expert at extracting money from us. As much money as possible. But does a courthouse wedding and backyard barbecue make your marriage any less legitimate than a $100k wedding? And does a simple wedding band make you any less happy with your spouse than a ornate, 2 carat diamond ring?
My answer to both questions is an emphatic no.