How Much to Spend on Your Wedding if You Want to Avoid Divorce

October 18th 2015

When it comes to spending for your wedding, a study conducted by two Emory University economists reveals that less is more.

Emory professors Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon surveyed more than 3,000 people and found that low wedding costs increase a couple's chances of staying married. Weddings can be wildly expensive and can often put a strain on two people at the beginning of their union.

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A 2013 survey from wedding site the Knot found that the average wedding costs $31,213, and a more recent Knot survey found that 66 percent of brides think about wedding costs all of the time.

The Emory academics found that spending $20,000 on a wedding increases a woman's odds of getting divorced by 3.5 times. Spending $5,000 to $10,000 on a wedding, however, means a woman is only 1.6 times more likely to divorce. According to the research, spending $1,000 or less is your best bet for staying married to the person with whom you tied the knot, especially if you're male.

Spending less on an engagement ring is also wise, but only to an extent. The researchers found that spending $2,000 to $4,000 on a ring increased a man's chances of divorce by 1.3 times, compared to spending $500 to $2,000. But going too cheap can also be unlucky when it comes to engagement rings: The study found that spending less than $500 on a ring increases a woman's chances of divorce. (A 2013 report by Jewelers of America found that the average couple spends $4,000 on an engagement ring.)

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"The evidence suggests that the types of weddings associated with lower likelihood of divorce are those that are relatively inexpensive but are high in attendance,” the study authors wrote.

Sociologist Pepper Schwartz said in an interview with PBS that failed marriages shouldn't necessarily be blamed on high wedding costs or post-ceremony debt. But, she said, “The wedding has become the highlight rather than the beginning of something.”

Schwartz said that weddings have become a circus, and the rise of social media has created pressure to stage elaborate proposals that go viral. The Knot found that nearly 70 percent of people had a private proposal in 2009; that number fell to 57 percent in 2011.

RELATED: The Average Cost of Attending a Wedding Has Doubled in 3 Years

"People get so wrapped up in planning, but really it should just be something that represents you as a couple," wedding blogger Aubrey Secrest told the Eastern Iowa Gazette earlier this year. "It shouldn’t be about looking good on social media or looking good to your friends."

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