The Stigma Against Cheap Weddings

by Patrick Appel

Millman blames the decline of marriage, especially among the lower classes, on economic factors:

The deep causes of the decline of the marriage norm are the rise of the equality of women and the yawning wage gap between the working classes and the profession and upper-middle classes. Marriage has become aspirational rather than normative because men are less-desireable than they used to be, both because women need them less and because men can offer less than they used to.

There is another, overlooked reason that low-income individuals are less likely to get married these days: they can’t afford to. Weddings are a form of conspicuous consumption. Couples, and their parents, are judged on everything from their attire, to the venue, to the flowers. As Zoe noted recently, the average wedding now costs around $27,000. Committed low-income couples could simply go get married at a courthouse, but settling for a low-cost wedding violates cultural expectations and announces the sorry state of your finances to immediate friends and family. It’s little surprise that many lower-income couples opt for no wedding rather than a dirt-cheap one.

Marriage has many intrinsic benefits, but the increasing cost of a wedding partially explains why, statistically speaking, married couples are better off than non-married couples. Being the type of person who has $27,000 to spare, or has parents who can foot the bill, undoubtedly increases the likelihood of success in all facets of life. If you compared households with $27,000 cars to those without any car, I imagine you’d find that owning a such a car likewise correlates with greater economic potential, physical health, and various other desirable traits.