Pricey wedding, shorter marriage

Couples planning a pricey wedding got a bit of bad news from two Emory University economics professors.

Not only is a diamond not forever, the more expensive the diamond, the shorter the marriage is likely to be, they found. The study also revealed that the more money couples spend on their wedding, the shorter the duration of their marriage.

“We found that spending below $1,000 (on the wedding) is associated with longer marriage duration, ” said Hugo M. Mialon, who authored the September study with Andrew M. Francis. Spending $20,000 or more on the wedding comes with an increase in divorce among women respondents, said survey results. And when men spend between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring, divorce is 1.3 times more likely than spending between $500 and $2,000.

The authors theorize that an expensive wedding burdens couples financially in a way that may later strain their marriage. Or it could just be that the couples who tend to have lavish weddings are simply those couples who tend not to be the best match for each other, Mialon said.

For the best case scenario, they suggest having a relatively inexpensive wedding with as many guests as possible. Couples should also be sure to take a honeymoon.

With the average wedding spending hovering just under $30,000 in 2013, according to data from The Knot, it doesn’t seem that many couples are meeting those standards.

Wedding planner, Sara Skinner, said a wedding under $1,000 in metro Atlanta means not having a wedding.

“It would be really difficult in the metro Atlanta area to spend under $10,000 on a wedding, ” said Skinner, owner of Scarlet Plan and Design. Her brides on a budget spend about $12,000, she said. And before you think you can just throw a cheap wedding at home, consider that a home wedding can cost more than you think.

“People think they will save all this money, but they don’t. They don’t understand they have to bring in rentals, ” said Skinner, an expert at designing non-traditional ceremonies.

Skinner has helped her clients save money in a range of ways. Using food trucks instead of traditional catering has become a popular option, she said. She has also encouraged brides to use new talent — florists or caterers who are just starting out — that will charge less in return for experience. Another cost saving measure is to choose a venue that will let you bring your own alcohol, Skinner said. Just make sure you hire a licensed and insured bartender to serve.

The Emory study suggests that a well-attended ceremony is key to long-term happiness, but the number of guests is often the main factor that drives up the price of the reception. One option is a cocktail reception with seating at or around 60 percent, said Skinner. Guests can mingle, while you pay for say, 200 seats instead of 300.

Couples willing to have their wedding on Tuesday through Thursday can save a bundle, Skinner said, noting one couple that saved thousands of dollars buying out their favorite restaurant for a Thursday reception.

The trend, Skinner said, is a movement back to shorter engagements and smaller, more intimate weddings like those noted in the study from Francis and Mialon. Before World War II, they noted, only 10 percent of engagement rings contained a diamond compared to 80 percent at the end of the century. In 1959, Brides Magazine advised brides to give themselves two months to plan a wedding. By the 1990’s the planning stage was 12 months.

Brittany Lee Keith is an example of the new modern bride. While it was more than the ideal $1,000 expense, the cost of her November nuptials was a quarter of the cost of the average American wedding. Keith spent $6,500 hosting 150 guests at her wedding and reception in Macon.

Brittany Lee Keith spent $6,500 on her November wedding in Macon. Well below the national average of $30,000. Credit: Leigh & Becca Photography

Brittany Lee Keith spent $6,500 on her November wedding in Macon. Well below the national average of $30,000. Credit: Leigh & Becca Photography

“We tried to do as much as possible ourselves. I made my wedding cake, we borrowed as much as we could from sweet willing friends and always asked ourselves if we truly needed something before purchasing. We invested a lot of time in creating and printing our own invitations and used TheKnot for RSVP instead of spending extra on postage, ” Keith said.

She also got her dress on sale for $300 and made all the bouquets. A friend did the catering at a discount. Keith purchased reception items from warehouses online. The church was free and the venue was discounted since she lives in the subdivision. They spent $2,200 on photography.

Brittany Lee Keith saved on wedding expenses by making her own wedding cake. Credit: Leigh & Becca Photography

Brittany Lee Keith saved on wedding expenses by making her own wedding cake. Credit: Leigh & Becca Photography

“We are so happy to have the wedding done and not be in debt, ” she said. “When it comes down to it, it is most important to be marrying the right person, have everyone you love present and to celebrate what the day truly means.”

And yes, they had a honeymoon — an all-inclusive trip to the Dominican Republic, a gift from the groom’s parents, purchased on

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