What they find is that the more you spend on your wedding, the more likely your marriage is to end in divorce. Spending on an engagement ring is even worse. They claim spending $5,000 instead of $500 on a ring increases the risk of divorce 30%. Interestingly, a bigger wedding seems to be good for longevity of the marriage.
This kind of “drive-by” study, which was conducted using Mechanical Turk, a social science fad these days, always feels a bit dicey to me, even if it confirms my priors. The immediate problems that come to mind are that they can’t separate out the kind of person who would want a fancy wedding or to buy/receive an expensive ring, from the act of putting on such a wedding or getting such a ring. (Note: a follow-up study where they give couples randomly, $5000 cash or a $5000 engagement ring is in order.) They do control for income, but I dunno, even that seems half-hearted. People pay for weddings lots of ways: from borrowing, from savings, from mom and dad. I suspect that matters.
Finally, getting a bit normative here, can we just agree that engagement rings themselves are actually a really, really bad idea? It’s a holdover from another time. Are men and women equals? If so, let’s get rid of this tradition in which a man demonstrates his earning power by buying an utterly useless gift. If anything, engagements rings should be exchanged. My spouse let me off the hook on this one, and I’m glad for it, both because we could put the money to better use and because she understood that receiving a fancy ring would be incompatible with her principles. Also, she seems not into diamonds. Love that woman.