I have a little diamond on my engagement ring, which is an antique that belonged to my great-grandmother who got married in the late 1920s. I love my ring and have never wished for a bigger diamond (diamonds are pretty and all; I’ve just never personally cared about having a big, sparkly one). And now I have reason to appreciate my own engagement ring (and wedding band) even more. A new study conducted by economics professors from Emory University found that “participants who spent large sums of money on engagement rings (over $2,000) were 1.3 times more likely to end up divorced than men who spent $500 to $2,000. (and, fittingly, “women who received expensive engagement rings also experienced higher rates of divorce”).
Interestingly, though, spending too little on an engagement ring is also a predictor of divorce. Those who spent less than $500 on their partner’s engagement ring experienced higher rates of divorce. (And I guess, since my ring is a family heirloom, we fall into that category of spending less than $500 on it. But! If I remember right, my wedding band was $700, so BAM! We’re safe.). Maybe spending something significant (which I think most of us wouldn’t consider $500 to be) appropriately symbolizes the significance one places on getting married, without breaking the bank doing so.
The researchers hypothesize that spending more on a ring than couples can afford puts financial stress on them as they begin their married lives together, leading to marital tension.
“The researchers place some blame on the wedding industry for creating a new standard over the past fifty years through ad campaigns, magazines and inflated costs that encourage brides and grooms to spend, spend, spend.” I find this particularly interesting since my “20 Wedding Must-Haves You Don’t Need” was published on HuffPost recently and received some really nasty, mean comments. Out of curiosity, I looked up the profiles of many of those commenters and guess what? They ALL worked in the wedding industry. Guess they don’t want word to get out that you can actually have a beautiful wedding and a perfectly happy marriage without going into debt.
“Our findings provide little evidence to support the validity of the wedding industry’s general message that connects expensive [engagement rings and] weddings with positive marital outcomes,” the study states. A-fucking-men.
Related: How I threw a budget wedding in New York City.
RedroverRedrover October 8, 2014, 3:40 pm
I think this study would have a lot more validity if they looked at the percentage of income spent on the ring, rather than the price of it. Like, someone who makes $100k and buys a $2000 ring is spending 2% of their salary on it, while someone who makes $20k and buys a $500 ring is spending 2.5% of their salary on it. So the $500 ring in this case is more extravagant. Not to mention the $20k earner probably has a lot less disposable income, making the $500 ring even more of a stretch for them.
mandalee October 8, 2014, 3:55 pm
Yes I agree. What is considered expensive by some people isn’t to others. I think the costs around weddings have gotten out of control, but if an expensive ring or wedding is what the couple wants and they can do it financially, I don’t see why their marriage would be doomed for buying within a certain price point.
Dear Wendy October 8, 2014, 3:49 pm
I agree. But I think in general, people are spending a MUCH bigger percentage of their income on rings and weddings these days than people did fifty years ago. The article I linked to had this quote, which is interesting:
“In 1959, Bride’s recommended that couples set aside two months to prepare for their wedding and published a checklist with 22 tasks for them to complete. By the 1990s, the magazine recommended 12 months of wedding preparation and published a checklist with 44 tasks to complete.”
Muffy October 8, 2014, 3:52 pm
We got engaged in January and married in August. People were surprised we were “getting married so quickly!” I know a girl who got engaged just before I did but is not getting married until Fall 2015 – that is a 2 year engagement! Because she needs time to plan etc. I wouldn’t have the patience for that but I guess more power to her.
ktfran October 8, 2014, 3:58 pm
My sis just got engaged in early Spring 2014 and is getting married in two and a half weeks! She’s glad for the short engagement. People are surprised…. but she just says, when you have over a year, you plan for over a year. When you have eight months, you plan it in eight months.
HmC October 8, 2014, 4:43 pm
I got the same types of comments- engaged in August and married in January. We did that on purpose, wanted to have a winter wedding and no way was I going to stress over napkin colors for a year and a half. The shorter the time you give yourself, the simpler you force yourself to be, voila!
My friend was engaged for over TWO YEARS. We almost thought something might be wrong, like they were stalling? And then they had a perfectly simple, lovely wedding. To each their own.
Sunshine Brite October 9, 2014, 10:14 am
I wanted that! My husband encouraged me to have a longer engagement to get our out of town friends to have more time to plan and get there as there were some other weddings in the friend groups the year prior. Mine was able to make it from Boston when she might not have otherwise and one of his friends from Seattle or Portland could too. So I guess he was right on that front.
Lianne October 9, 2014, 1:39 pm
We got engaged in May and are getting married in December. I also didn’t want a long engagement…we know we want to get married, so why wait? We’re also breaking from tradition and doing a destination wedding. This way we get more than just a day with those we care about – not to mention that JUST the people we care about are making the trip. I know this wouldn’t work for everyone, but it works for us!
ohsoridiculous October 9, 2014, 3:18 pm
Short engagements are AWESOME. We got engaged in August and are getting married next month!
va-in-ny October 8, 2014, 3:57 pm
Couldn’t you also argue that diamonds were not as expensive fifty years ago?
I saw this article posted on Facebook this morning and a lot of comments were like “I inherited my grandmother’s 2.5 carat diamond, so my husband only spent $500 on my ring!” Which, I guess counts to the premise of the article, but basically says that someone that would pay for the exact same ring in today’s prices wouldn’t have a successful relationship. I don’t think that’s a fair assumption.
va-in-ny October 8, 2014, 4:08 pm
I would also like to say that I agree with you, Wendy – the idea of a *******wedding******* (I’m using those as sparkles) has really gotten out of hand. No one NEEDS to have so much stuff to celebrate one day. But, I also come from the mindset that you should do what you want to do for your day. So, if you want to go all-out and have a fancy-fancy event with everything PInterest tells you to have, I’m happy for you! If you want to have a small, intimate wedding, go on, girl! You have yours!
Going into debt to have a party, though? ehhhhh, don’t be stupid.
RedroverRedrover October 8, 2014, 4:00 pm
Oh I agree. People go crazy over wedding stuff now. No one should be going into debt for what is essentially a party.
Although that 12 month number isn’t always a matter of choice. The Catholic Church around here requires a 12 month waiting period. I think because they don’t allow divorce, they don’t want people rushing into it. Anyway, if you want to get married there, welcome to a long engagement!
Miel October 8, 2014, 4:03 pm
But do you think they were asking for a 12 month waiting period 50 years ago ? That’s also something that changed. Back then you sometime heard of couples getting married with less than a month notice because a baby would be born 7 short months after the wedding…
RedroverRedrover October 8, 2014, 4:09 pm
I know, I’m just saying, it’s not always the couple’s fault if the engagement is long. My uncle had that kind of wedding, with the “premature” baby coming along 7 months later. 🙂 And I think if you had that situation now, they’d waive the waiting period, actually. But otherwise, the couple is pretty much stuck.
Diablo October 8, 2014, 3:47 pm
We were dirt poor when we decided to get hitched. For sure, the engagement ring and both wedding bands together were less than $500, even adjusted for today’s dollars. Does this mean we have to get a divorce? She’s gonna be upset….
othy October 8, 2014, 3:50 pm
No worries Diablo, Othello and I were in the same boat, but so far no divorce. And, I still like him after all these years.
Ika October 8, 2014, 5:23 pm
I didn´t even get an enggement ring! Nobody here does really. And the divorce rate as far as I know is lower than inthe US.
Muffy October 8, 2014, 3:50 pm
I read your list on Huffpo Wendy. I liked it. I think a lot of people’s problems with it was that they were thinking of the typical, what we see on TV ceremony and how that could be reconciled with your list. Like you need chairs because you’re going to have 300 guests! and you need a dance floor because well it’s a wedding and all weddings have dance floors! I think what your article was getting at (and correct me if I’m wrong) is that there are all sorts of weddings and just because your wedding does not follow the typical script we’ve created for weddings nowadays does not make it any less of a wedding. I personally would love to attend an events in a park (but I would probably sit on the grass lol) and then go to a restaurant – it’s still a wedding – even if I didn’t have to go to some event hall.
Miel October 8, 2014, 3:57 pm
I agree with you, I just re-read the comments and people just refuse to see how weddings in general can be different from their own. Or how weddings can take all forms and shape. Seeing the comments, you would think someone will get insulted because “my ceremony is going to be in our church, and you’re telling me I should remove all the wooden benches that have been there for a century ? Are you crazy ?” Or the wedding planner who was like “you don’t have time to do flowers yourself. If you have 300 guest, that’s at least 30 tables, thus at least 30 center piece. It’s impossible !” All I’m thinking is that I don’t want 300 people at my wedding, and that I’m still not convinced by the necessity of flowery centerpieces. She would think I’m crazy too.
RedroverRedrover October 8, 2014, 4:03 pm
We had a big wedding because we have a big family. About 20 tables at ours. I wanted centerpieces but didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So for about 6 months we collected interesting-looking liquor bottles. We scraped the labels off and filled them with blue-tinted water. Then we put pussy willows and twigs/small branches in them. We grouped them in 3 and tied them with a blue bow. They looked amazing and were super cheap! Scraping the labels off of 60 bottles was a huge pain in the ass though.
Miel October 8, 2014, 4:05 pm
My brother made some cardboard sculptures for all the tables at his weddings. Of course, that was a lot of work too, but you can make them in advance and you don’t have to keep cardboard refrigerated….
RedroverRedrover October 8, 2014, 4:07 pm
Yeah, we had everything in advance except the pussy willows, which came the day of along with our bouquets. And that’s all the flowers I had, just the bouquets and a handful of pussy willows. I think it helped that it was winter though, so the branches kind of looked seasonal. Maybe it would look weird in the middle of summer.
Kalu October 8, 2014, 11:18 pm
I really like this idea! Is probably ad paint , glitter and or gilt to them
T-I October 9, 2014, 1:01 pm
We would much rather have spent money on booze than centerpieces, that’s how our centerpieces came to be buckets of beer for the table to enjoy!
RedroverRedrover October 9, 2014, 2:11 pm
Our venue came with an open bar, so it would’ve been more expensive for us to buy beer for the table! 🙂
Portia October 8, 2014, 9:08 pm
Yeah, that comment was more than ridiculous. Yes, if you want super fancy centerpieces for 300 people, it will cost a good amount of money and will take money to coordinate it. She didn’t seem to get that for people who didn’t want that, Wendy was saying they didn’t have to.
Most of the comments brought up the chair issue. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to stand for 20 minutes, especially in heels, but are they saying it’s more uncomfortable than standing during a cocktail hour? Because I don’t think I’ve been to one of those yet that has chairs for everyone.
muchachaenlaventana October 8, 2014, 3:59 pm
yeah I just briefly read a few comments and the lady bitching because she had to do all the work at her 300 person wedding and make sure 30 centerpieces were chilled and all the other shit, basically did not get the point at all of that article. Sadly I know so many people too enmeshed in the Wedding Industrial Complex/their bourgie middle class upbringings that these things are seen as ‘necessities’ and nothing will convince them otherwise.
mylaray October 8, 2014, 4:30 pm
Wow I just read the comments too. While I never really dreamed of a dream wedding as a girl, I did think I would spend hundreds of dollars on a wedding dress and have all these things that I thought were necessary. But when the time actually came, I realized none of that mattered. I wore a $30 white lace mid length dress that I already owned and that didn’t make it any less of a wedding. I have nothing wrong with fancier weddings either, but it just wasnt for me.
LS October 8, 2014, 5:31 pm
I agree! I think the majority of commenters on other sites barely bother to read the article. Wendy clearly states that it’s fine if you choose to have these things, but they are areas where it’s possible to cut costs if you want. But people get all defensive as if she’s picking on their special day. Plus, she gives a brief explanation of each one–like no cake, meaning you don’t need to buy a $500 fancy wedding cake, you can substitute with cheaper options. Yet commenters jump to the conclusion that she’s poo-pooing all dessert items.
Miel October 8, 2014, 4:00 pm
Wendy is that your ring in the picture ? Because it’s beautiful !
Dear Wendy October 8, 2014, 4:35 pm
It is, thank you!
Lianne October 9, 2014, 1:41 pm
I completely agree. And while I love my engagement ring, I really wanted something antique for mine. I wish I had a family heirloom to inherit! 🙂
mylaray October 8, 2014, 4:05 pm
I really didn’t want an expensive ring but it ended up being more expensive than we initially set out for (still under $2000 though) because I wanted the materials to be high quality enough to last for years and years. And I’m sensitive to yellow gold so we paid more for rose gold. I wear several rings everyday and I only take them off to shower so they need to take a beating. I agree that wedding related spending is out of control, and when I think about it, our wedding cost only about twice as much as the ring. I personally would rather invest the money in a piece of jewelry I love and can keep for years than the wedding itself. I’m a gift person anyways so the rings we have mean a lot to me and something that was worth spending on. I wouldn’t want a car on my finger though. I would be too scared to wear it, for fear of losing it.
Astronomer October 8, 2014, 4:18 pm
Hm, I ordered and paid our wedding rings on Etsy for $135ish after Mr. Spacely picked them out. I wonder what the heck that even means. But we hadn’t opened a joint checking account yet, and Mr. Spacely had just paid for some other wedding stuff. (I can’t remember what off the top of my head.) I guess we’re extra extra doomed. Ha!
BTW Wendy, your ring is really pretty.
TheGirlinME October 8, 2014, 6:19 pm
<3 "Mr. Spacely" :-D.. that is all, carry on…
Crochet.Ninja October 8, 2014, 3:28 pm
very bizarre. i didn’t have an ‘official’ engagement ring. He gave me a ring with my birthstone in it about 8 months in, and i wore it on my right hand for a few years, then we switched it to my left. then one day we picked a day and got married lol 🙂 all rings together are under $500
HmC October 8, 2014, 4:37 pm
“The researchers hypothesize that spending more on a ring than couples can afford puts financial stress on them as they begin their married lives together, leading to marital tension.”
I highly doubt that’s the case. I’m sure it happens, but I’d bet this is one of those (many) issues where people try to interpret meaning and causation from an occurrence that is more about correlation. A lot of well off people I know didn’t bother with over the top diamonds, I guess because they don’t have something to prove? But regardless of where you fall socio-economically when you get married, I doubt that the one time purchase of the ring actually impacts and changes your chances of divorce. Probably more likely that people that feel they have something to prove, or feel they must spend beyond their means, are more likely to divorce, and more people that have big diamonds fall into those categories more often than people with simple rings.
That said- don’t burn me at the stake for this but… 2k seems a bit of an odd price point. Honestly that is not very high even for a small diamond ring. Maybe my view is skewed from living in a large city. When I think of modest, tasteful, smaller sized engagement rings they are also generally above 2k.
p.s. I love that the mean-spirited commenters work in the Wedding Industrial Complex. Assholes.
HmC October 8, 2014, 4:46 pm
And related- knowing what I now know about diamond prices, I assure you that a good number of big rocks you see (even in big cities) are not real diamonds, or are sub par quality. Not trying to be snobby, just an observation.
RedroverRedrover October 8, 2014, 5:00 pm
I agree with you that it doesn’t seem like a lot. Things are more expensive where I live, and my ring was over $2000, and I don’t even have a diamond. Mine was from a “socially conscious” place though where they use recycled materials, and any new materials have to be from somewhere that’s safe for the workers. So I’m sure they inflated the price above what it would normally be worth. But still.
Everyone I know has a bigger ring than mine, and they’re all diamonds to boot. So I’m sure they all spent over $2000. They can all afford that though… the benefit of living in a big, expensive city is that it’s where the high-paying jobs are. I suspect some of those rings are closer to $10k. And the marriages don’t look like they’re imploding. Well, one does, sadly, but that couple had issues way before the ring showed up.
something random October 8, 2014, 5:16 pm
My stone isn’t a diamond, either. And it was bought over ten years ago so maybe inflation is a factor here? Also, I agree that location makes a big difference. I watch some those home-shows and I’m always shocked by how much you have to pay for home square footage in “up and coming” neighborhoods.
I don’t think there is actually much of a of a cause/effect relationship. I always imagine the Kim Kardashians out there participating in this research throwing everything off. I do think Big Wedding is evil and needs to be stopped, though.
mylaray October 8, 2014, 5:32 pm
I have a small diamond ring.. It’s ¼ carat. I have no idea what that really means but before I got engaged, it was often mistaken for an engagement ring. And I can’t imagine it costing more than $2000. It was a gift so I’m not sure. I remember brushing it off as “oh no, that’s too small to be an engagement ring” when someone asked me once and I felt really bad when she said she has several friends with engagement rings that small.
Portia October 8, 2014, 4:39 pm
So, spend enough, but not too much? At least they have the “not too much” part. And I they should have looked at heirloom rings – I could see that as an indicator that you wouldn’t be as likely to be divorced, since your families would theoretically approve of the match.
Also, I really need to start opening some of these posts in an incognito page, I’m gonna have engagement ring ads for days… I’m just gonna write “crafts” a lot in the hopes I get those ads again. Crafts crafts crafts…
RedroverRedrover October 8, 2014, 5:01 pm
Portia October 8, 2014, 7:52 pm
Thanks! And crafts to you too!
something random October 8, 2014, 4:39 pm
My engagement band and ring are in the safe zone! I guess we’re gonna make it!
Addie Pray October 8, 2014, 4:51 pm
Hey I have a stupid question. So, the engagement ring, is that meant to be worn only while engaged – i.e., when you get married, you get a wedding band and the engagement ring goes in your jewelry box? Because so many women I see just have the bands.
RedroverRedrover October 8, 2014, 5:03 pm
Engagement rings are a relatively new custom. The “real” custom is the wedding bands, which should be worn after marriage. Engagement rings are basically just like any other ring. Wear them or don’t, up to you.
va-in-ny October 8, 2014, 5:03 pm
I think that’s just a personal preference. Sometimes people like to wear the rings stacked together, some like just a band, some like to move the engagement ring to the right hand. I think that each person just gets to decide how they want to wear their jewelry.
HmC October 8, 2014, 5:11 pm
There are so many ways to do it. I think traditionally you wore your engagement ring while engaged, and then along with a wedding band when you were newly married, then put it away and just wore the band? I feel like I see people do it all ways now- just have a band, just have the engagement ring, wear both forever, wear the engagement ring only if they are going somewhere fancy.
mylaray October 8, 2014, 5:13 pm
During the wedding ceremony, the “tradition” is you move the engagement ring to your right hand and your wedding band on your left hand. Then once married you can stack them on your left hand with the band being closest to your hand, since it’s an old tale that there was a vein on your ring finger that led directly to your heart.
othy October 8, 2014, 10:41 pm
I wear both my engagement ring and my wedding ring, with the wedding ring before the engagement on the same finger. I do leave the engagement ring home when I’m traveling or doing something where I might lose it (think running with sweaty hands). The wedding band is slightly tighter and was a lot cheaper than the engagement ring.
Liquid Luck October 9, 2014, 10:40 am
I barely even wore my engagement ring when I was engaged, and I was incredibly annoyed at how many people seemed totally outraged by that fact. I don’t wear any other jewelry and never have (except on special occasions), so why would I suddenly start wearing some just because someone thinks I’m marry-able? At one point I was fed up enough to just start telling people that used the ring money to get myself branded instead, which seemed to work pretty well.
I got a simple wedding band that doesn’t bother me to wear and I never take it off because both of us wearing rings is important to my husband. People generally seem less scandalized now that I at least wear something, but I still think it’s incredibly stupid that anyone even has an opinion on what other people choose to do.
Sue Jones October 8, 2014, 5:16 pm
In true form… I never even had an engagement ring. In fact, my husband and I forgot to get wedding rings in time for the afternoon we got married (on our livingroom rug with 2 other people, the guy who married us and my stepson in attendance as witnesses) so we made rings out of hair. I think we picked out the rings like 2 weeks later. I dunno… I guess I just forgot or something! It was like (the day we got married) – “Oops, honey, we forgot to get rings! Shouldn’t we get rings? OK, let’s do it next week, no problem…”
something random October 8, 2014, 5:22 pm
Do you two still have the hair rings? What color were they? Did you braid them? Cut out a huge lock? I don’t know why I’m so interested. I’ve never heard of such a thing. It feels vaguely Jolie-Pitt vogue.
Sue Jones October 8, 2014, 5:32 pm
They didn’t hold together well so, no, we don’t have the hair rings anymore. And this was in 1997 so the Jolie-Pitts weren’t even a thing yet! I think we just cut out huge locks. Braiding may have worked better, but would have taken time, and as I said, we just realized we had no rings right then!
othy October 8, 2014, 10:42 pm
I would have gone with bread bag ties. They made excellent pretend rings when I was 8.
d2 October 9, 2014, 7:59 am
Oh, Sue Jones, that is a great story. And I really like the hair rings.
Lyra October 8, 2014, 8:14 pm
Navy Guy and I have been having more of the Serious talks recently and a ring expectation conversation came up not too long ago. The type of rings that I like are a bit more on the expensive side (or at least the prices look expensive to me, probably isn’t to everyone), but I do NOT want him going into debt just to buy a sparkly ring for me. I want a ring and he knows that but I told him the other day that it ABSOLUTELY has to be within his budget if we end up getting engaged. Since we wouldn’t be combining lives in any way (living together, etc.) prior to that, I told him he needs to set his own budget and stick to it!
Also, related, one of my friends chose to remain Facebook friends with my ex and we were talking about rings the other day. She knows all about his money issues that he had when we were dating — which I can guarantee haven’t changed since — and she mentioned his now fiance’s ring and how ridiculously extravagant it was. I guarantee if that were me on the receiving end I would have been REALLY upset with him going waaaay outside his budget (again). Can we say bullet dodged???
Penguingina October 8, 2014, 11:16 pm
Have you looked into lab created diamonds/gems?
Sunshine Brite October 9, 2014, 10:12 am
Don’t let him go alone! Have him take a trusted friend. I think I told you about when Mr. Ginger and I went. They checked his credit and then went even harder at him bringing out a ring that cost somewhere between $5000-$6000 when he’d asked for $1000-$1500. One of them even mentioned that that’s the ring that I deserved. I was supposed to only narrow down to a few and have him make the final choice but he got too overwhelmed by the sales push.
At one point there were 3 salespeople on top of him and I thought he was going to cry as his budget “wasn’t big enough” he went a little over what he planned especially with tax but we added the wraparound band on right away so that was the final cost of the ring.
Liquid Luck October 9, 2014, 10:45 am
We went to a place that doesn’t pay it’s staff based on commission, and it was awesome. There was no pressure to spend more since the salesman was making the same money no matter what we paid. I highly recommend that route!
artsygirl October 17, 2014, 2:34 pm
My husband went in dressed in a graphic tee shirt and shorts kinda hoping that he would be dismissed and could browse at his leisure – what actually happened was the sales staff was nice and friendly and were not overly pushy. I agree with Liquid that if they do not make commission they tend to be more laid-back.
artsygirl October 17, 2014, 2:08 pm
My engagement ring cost a little bit over $10k but he won the money at one poker tournament – so it wasn’t even something he had to budget or pay off in installments. My sister had a $700 engagement ring and the marriage crashed and burned within 2 years while mine is still going strong after 6. I agree with RedroverRedrover that it likely has more to do with what percentage of our salary you are shuffling away for the marriage and wedding – not living within your means is a stressful way to live your life.
artsygirl October 17, 2014, 2:14 pm
Also not saying this to completely dismiss the study (personal pet peeve is when people say things like “it is so cold out here, how could global warming possibly exist?)