Why Spending Less on Your Wedding Can Lead to a Longer Marriage

Calling all brides and grooms: it’s time to get clear on wedding budget and your values. 

There was a lot of hype from my “viral” article about my wedding dress tradition, originally published on Brides and syndicated across the world on sites such as The Today Show, Yahoo, Huffington Post and many more.  Though the thousands of comments from inspired brides and people sharing their own anniversary traditions were overwhelmingly positive, I was not surprised by the obnoxious and offensive comments from the looming Internet trolls (get a life!).

I ignored most of these comments, but I did notice a theme that’s actually worthy of some attention. In my article, one of the reasons that I encouraged other brides to partake in my celebratory anniversary tradition to re-wear their gowns is to get their money’s worth.  Some trolls were critical of the wedding industry and the amount of money that is spent on a bride’s big day.  

Check out a few of the comments found on the Yahoo syndication below: 


Wear your wedding dress to 'get your money's worth'. Herein lies the problem. The shallowness of today's women. Their weddings are about outdoing everyone else. They spend a fortune on a dress, and an even greater fortune on the wedding and reception. Their guests must only buy them gifts that are on their registry. And two years after all of this nonsense they are divorced despite the idiocy of paying for a dating coach and relationship counselor. Heaven help us. 


These big weddings and expensive dresses are such a waste. We had a small less than 2K wedding and everything was saved for getting our first home put together. Why would you waste so much on 5-15 minutes of time? My friends fiancé came from money, they paid over 20K for a wedding...... A brand new car spent and thrown away in 1 full hour of ceremony and reception....

And to be honest the guy could careless about flowers or a big wedding, they want the thing over with and Bridezilla back in hibernation ASAP. 


People overspend for weddings. I have friends who went into serious debt because their bride wanted to be "princess for a day". My wife is a queen for a lifetime, partly because we kept within our means.

What these trolls didn’t know when they raged against my article was that over two years ago I exchanged “I do's” with my husband in the sunroom of my parents’ home. The DIY touches, such as the sequin and lace ribbon I hot-glued to my hand-arranged bouquet minutes before I walked down the “aisle” (aka the living room) made the day feel genuine, special and real. 

Twenty guests witnessed my husband and I make the most serious commitment of our lives. It was intimate, lovely, and I didn’t break the bank.  The following weekend we celebrated with our friends for a reception weekend with drinks, dancing, and a brunch where I donned my dress, all on a tight budget, of course.

Last year I tackled this very topic in an article published on Elite Daily.  I asked readers to more seriously consider what the wedding-planning process means, and I encouraged newly engaged couples not to “sell out” their values. I also highlighted the risk that spending a lot of money has on your marriage.  As a marriage therapist, I work with couples on managing conflict, and money is a big source of that. I pose this question to you: do you really want to start your lifetime together with a huge headache of wedding debt?

There’s actually research to support that the more couples spend on their big day, the shorter their marriage will be—yikes!

This 2014 study found that the hazard of divorce was 3.5 times higher for couples that spent more than $20K as opposed to those who spent between $5K and $10K.  The researchers also stated their evidence suggests weddings that are high in attendance (but relatively inexpensive) are associated with lower divorce risks.

High attendance and low cost definitely requires you to be creative in your planning, especially in today's wedding culture where “necessities” include destination location bachelor and bachelorette parties, photo booths, videographers, gifts from the bride and groom, lavish post-wedding brunches and multi-week honeymoons.

According to The Knot, an average wedding has 136 guests and costs $31,213 (excluding the honeymoon).

My husband and I live in Boston, and after doing my research, there was no way we would be able to have a traditional celebration with a fancy venue, attire, rings, stationary, band, dancing, food, flowers and favors for anywhere close to $31K without cutting major corners. Most importantly, I did not value spending that much money on a one-night celebration.

During the engagement period I did not allow myself to feel inferior for doing things my own way.  I refused to get sucked into the wedding industry's ideals and standards that were being pushed down my throat since the second I changed my relationship status to “engaged” on Facebook. Thank you, targeted advertising!

I was 28 when I got married, and everyone around me was having cookie-cutter nuptials with no expenses spared (some going into debt).  I skipped the frivolous expenses that I initially felt pressured to include. Pinterest is a slippery slope of inspiration, influence, and fantasy that makes reality and real life budgeting depressing. 

It was a conscious choice to go against the grain, but I reminded myself it was the love that my husband and I have for each other that should be the focus. 

It all comes down to what you value. Is it a wedding, a house, college funds for your future kids, traveling around the world, retirement savings?  For most people, money is finite.  In my opinion, it does not make sense to take out loans, max out credit cards or tap into your parents’ savings for five hours of celebrating.

The love my husband and I have for each other is not reflected by the amount we spent on our wedding. I think some people confuse this.

For the majority of people in their 20s and early 30s, a huge wedding is likely irresponsible. As a Millennial myself, I absolutely understand wanting things, and wanting them now, but we need to really think through the consequences. Kicking off a marriage with a huge amount of debt is a giant buzz kill.

What’s most surprising is that Millennials actually care about financial responsibility! In fact, when it comes to dating, a 2015 MONEY poll found that:

·      88% of Millennials say they care strongly about financial responsibility, whereas only 58% say they care strongly about sexual prowess

·      41% of Millennials say a lot of debt is unattractive

So why are our behaviors not matching up with our beliefs? I challenge you to consider how breaking tradition and creating your own may benefit you as a couple, both emotionally and financially.

Another question I ask is do you feel you have to prove your love to others outside of your relationship?  If you're putting on a big show because it's what everyone else is doing, or if you feel pressure to impress people, I urge you to take a step back and look at the big picture.

It's not about providing a lobster dinner for 100 friends and their plus-ones who you don't even know or like.  The people who truly love you will support whatever decision you make, and they won’t take it personally if you don't throw a big shindig.

This event is to honor you and your partner. Your relationship is what's most important. Setting yourself up for a happily ever after, which may mean a down payment for a house instead of a lavish wedding, should be the priority.

In my counseling practice, I have seen couples lose sight of the fact that the wedding is just one day in a lifetime together.  The wedding planning process can weed out poorly matched couples, as it's a great test of communication, compromise, stress-management and aligning core values.

So, if you're planning a wedding, get clear about your values at the beginning of the process.  As a couple, consider whether there are other non-traditional ways to celebrate your love and begin the next phase of life together.  Don’t forget that marriage is about the two of you and the life you will be creating; it’s not about a party.

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