How much is a wedding and marriage worth?

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Two years ago Jeremy and I talked about writing about how we staged our low cost wedding. With all that is our busy lives we never quite got there. In fact, our wedding was so inexpensive that I would have to sit down and itemise the individual costs to work out the total because, honestly, as we booked and purchased things we barely needed to blink. I can confidently say that it cost us under five thousand dollars. So, have you discussed with your significant other what you think your wedding and marriage is worth? Let us look at what we found and propose an interesting conversation starter for you and your partner to dive into.

Wedding costs in review

More recently, I was engaged in a conversation with others who have been married, at least once, and have since re-partnered to create blended families or step-family situations. As we talked it became resoundingly clear that, on a second time around, the cost and expense of a wedding was considered far more seriously when contrasted to other financial priorities and more often than not a decision was made to spend less than before.

Whilst we were talking I asked who would be happy to discuss how much their previous wedding’s actual cost and how long the marriage lasted, and what any future plans might look like. I was surprised that 37 people felt happy to purge themselves by sharing this information as well as an idea of what they would do if and when there was a next time. I sat down the with figures and worked out what ‘cost’ the marriage had on an annualised basis. Now remember, none of the marriages actually lasted.

And here is the general breakdown:

  • Almost 38% of respondents averaged a spend of less than $1,000 per year of marriage,
  • Almost 22% of respondents averaged a spend of $1,000-$2,000 per year of marriage,
  • Just over 24% of respondents averaged a spend of $2,000-$10,000 per year of marriage,
  • Just over 16% of respondents averaged a spend of $10,000 or more per year of marriage.

As I read that final line all I can think is ‘ouch’ that really financially makes my back pocket hurt with sympathy pain. And this was reflected in responses as many who spent an average of $2,000 or more per year of marriage expressed some form of regret as well either during the conversation or in talking afterwards. What totally gobsmacked me though was one respondent who said,

$70,000 on my first wedding and we were only married 5 months before I left.

That’s like making a $168k/pa investment in a dud offering. This is like a property developer ripping off a purchaser for what they are worth. It is just made me feel dirty to hear that. This person wasn’t alone though. That top bracket included people who had spent $34,000 and $35,000 average per year of marriage on their wedding also. It was really eye opening and it definitely made people think about it enough for further questions to be asked as well the conversation continuing later also.

And whilst that very top end is enough to have you visibly cringe, it is unsurprising really given that according to ASIC the average spend on an Australian wedding currently sits at $36,200. Half of this being ‘consumed’ on the day as venue, food and beverage costs. That really doesn’t leave much for show.

Talk early about your planned expenditure.

Jeremy and I spent quite a bit of time talking costs before our wedding. We were really on the same page as each other when we agreed that we would rather spend less now and invest more into our marriage over the time we shared together afterwards. That it would save us taking on any debt as well as making us more conscious about that commitment to investing in each other.

For both of us, our previous marriages fell short of a decade and this was a bittersweet pill to swallow. So, we also set a commitment early on that our 10 year anniversary will be treated as a ‘big deal’ and each ten years thereafter. We haven’t decided what that will look like quite yet but it’s kind of cool to have that in the back of our minds. It gives us purpose to how to deal with life and interact with each other each day because we know that what we say and do is with a vision for the long term rather than any short term personal gain in the moment. It’s kind of nifty that way.

So, what is a wedding and marriage worth?

Well, I propose that depends on what you feel the investment structure should be. Should it be a massive down payment with a smaller investment in the future or should it be a more conservative investment with more put in as time shows its worth? That is up to you and your partner to decide really. When I was considering it this week I looked at how long those 37 marriages lasted:

  • Almost 30% of respondents averaged a marriage duration of up to 3 years,
  • Just over 51% of respondents averaged a marriage duration of 3 years and up to 10 years,
  • Almost 14% of respondents averaged a marriage duration of 10 years and up to 20 years,
  • Just over 5% of respondents averaged a marriage duration of 20 years or more.

Looking at the figures 81% of those failed marriages ended within ten years. The median was actually just six years. So, maybe you could discuss with your partner what a marriage is worth over 6 years and then determine how much of that should be invested into the marriage during each year and how much as the ‘balloon’ upfront payment. After that time you can increase back to the original determined rate or crank it up a notch as a milestone kicker. I think it would make for an interesting conversation.

So, for example, if you both decide that a marriage is worth personally investing $2,000 into the other person per year, making $4,000 annually, then you have $24,000 that you have decided that your marriage is worth in those first six years. Now look at that figure and decide – how much of it do you want to spend on a wedding upfront and how much would you prefer to keep aside to invest in your married life as it progresses in those first six years. It makes an interesting question, doesn’t it? Sit down with your partner and try this at home. I assure you it will make for interesting conversation.

If that conversation leads to how you might consider reducing the cost of future nupituals then ASIC also have provided their own ideas to reduce the cost of your wedding. If you have your own ideas to share too, either as plans for your future or things that you have actually done for your big day, then please comment below too.

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