On April 9th, 2022, Nicola Peltz the daughter of billionaire Nelson Peltz and super-model Claudia Heffner, married Brooklyn Beckham, son of pop star-turned-designer Victoria, and former England footballing star David, in a glittering wedding ceremony.
Elle Magazine declared, ‘the whole of Hollywood attended’.
The nuptials were at Nelson’s £79m ($103m) estate in Palm Beach, Florida, costing an estimated £3,069,987 ($ 4 million).
Vogue, the famous fashion magazine commented that as Victoria and David Beckham have been married for twenty-three years, ‘…with this as their template, the future looks bright for the brand new Mr. and Mrs. Beckham’.
That might indeed be true, and everyone would want to wish the newly married couple well for the future, yet some research into a perhaps surprising link between the cost of a wedding and the chances of later divorce, may be an inconvenient and uninvited guest to the party.
The study entitled, ‘“A diamond is forever” and other fairy tales: the relationship between wedding expenses and marriage duration’, found that marital duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony. In other words, the more you spend on the engagement ring and the wedding, the sooner you are likely to end up divorced.
Brooklyn Beckham is reported to have splurged £350,000 for Nicola Peltz’s engagement ring.
Yet this survey, published in the journal Economic Inquiry, of more than 3,000 marriages in the United States, wasn’t all doom and gloom; the research also found that a higher wedding attendance was generally positively associated with marriage duration.
However, given how good-looking both Nicola Peltz and Brookly Beckham are famous for being, another ominous finding from this study was that reporting that one’s partner’s looks were important in the decision to marry was significantly associated with a relatively higher risk of divorce.
The study also found that higher spending on the engagement ring is associated with two to three times the chances of reporting that debt resulting from wedding expenses caused future stress in the marriage.
Yet the amount spent on the honeymoon is not associated with the risk of divorce, regardless of how much the honeymoon cost. Spending less on the wedding is associated with an 82%–93% decrease in the chances of reporting wedding-related debt stress compared with higher spending.
If wedding expenditures are indeed associated with ‘debt stress’, the authors argue, then it is possible that wedding expenses raise the likelihood of marital breakdown, given that prior research suggests a link between economic stress and marriages ending.
However, it is extremely unlikely that the daughter of billionaire Nelson Peltz is going to experience ‘debt stress’ as a result of the $4 million spent on her wedding. But maybe the possible link at this higher end of the marriage market between more expensive weddings and divorce rates is that being able to afford to spend so much on a wedding, also means this kind of couple is less likely to remain together simply because they need to stick at it for merely financial reasons, like many poorer couples may need to.
Perhaps part of the answer to this conundrum is suggested by some more recent research which found that scheduling your wedding on particular days was also, surprisingly, a strong predictor of a future divorce.
The study is entitled, ‘Not your lucky day: romantically and numerically special wedding date divorce risks’.
The research compared the durations of marriages that began on unusually popular wedding dates with marriages on ordinary dates. The researchers identified several distinct types of popular wedding dates, including Valentine’s Day and numerically special days (dates with the same or sequential number values, e.g., 9.9.99, 1.2.03).
So-called ‘special-date’ weddings were found to be much more vulnerable, with 10-17% higher divorce odds compared to so-called ‘ordinary’ dates.
The research was inspired by what seems to be a tendency for many to choose wedding dates because they are romantically significant, memorable, or viewed as lucky or auspicious. It appears that Valentine’s Day and numerically quirky dates, such as December 12, 2012 (12.12.12) are terrifically popular as wedding dates.
This study used the 1999-2013 marriage registry from the Netherlands involving 1.1 million respondents, investigating four types of special dates associated with exceptionally high numbers of weddings: Valentine’s Day and dates with the same, sequential, or mirror numbers for their days, months and years (e.g., 9.9.99, 1.2.03, and 20.08.2008.
The chances of divorce were 37% higher for Valentine’s Day weddings, 26% higher for same-number date weddings, and 18% higher for sequence date weddings than for ordinary date weddings.
That romantically and numerically special wedding dates are associated with substantially higher divorce risks may be explained, according to the authors of this study, by the fact these are more popular dates, yet their desirability might be ‘a double-edged sword’. The status of these days could increase the demand for venues and so drive up the costs of the associated weddings.
Recall that the first study we quoted found that more expensive weddings were associated with less durable marriages. Additionally, the authors of this study argue that Valentine’s Day and numerically special dates are not tied to days of the week and could fall on early weekdays when attendance is inconvenient and possibly lower, and lower attendance was found to be associated in previous research to shorter marriages.
Are there any other possible psychological theories that might explain these findings; the more expensive the wedding and the engagement ring, the higher the chance of divorce, plus Valentine’s day, and other special dates for wedding days all predict higher divorce rates?
The authors of the ‘Diamonds are Forever’ study, Andrew Francis-Tan, and Hugo Mialon, then at Emory University in the USA, point to industry efforts to commodify love and romance. In the late 1930s, De Beers, the diamond merchandiser, created the slogan “a diamond is forever,” which was rated the number one slogan of the century by Advertising Age in 1999.
The marketing campaign aimed to link the purchase of a diamond engagement ring to a long-lasting marriage. However, the authors of this study point out that the industry message linking wedding expenses with durable relationships had never been scientifically evaluated, until their research.
Another possible theory is that choosing a special date or spending a lot on your wedding might be linked with raised, and indeed even, unrealistic expectations and comparisons, over what life is going to be like after the wedding.
After all, the routine of ordinary married life is not going to be anything like the day that cost at least $4 million dollars to put together, as in the case of the wedding of Nicola Peltz and Brooklyn Beckham.
How special your partner made you feel that day, may become emotionally confused with other background variables, like the cost and specialness of the date. Once these have faded into the background, the morning after, all you are left with is, the actual unadorned partner, in the cold light of day.
And who exactly can make you feel like $4 million can, every day, day in and day out?
Might it be that the inevitable ‘let down’ after such an amazing experience, begins, in itself, through psychology, to plant the seeds of eventual marital destruction?
Raj is a psychiatrist and author of The Mental Vaccine for COVID-19.