Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

I Do…Not Have $27k to Spend on a Wedding

Consumer insights sometimes come from places you don’t expect them to, and this one is pretty interesting. Blogging on The Dish, which is edited by gay conservative, Andrew Sullivan, writer Patrick Appel pointed out an interesting counterpoint to some common wisdom on marriage.

The original point, as laid out by another conservative writer, is that fewer people in lower economic classes are getting married because women are working more, and thus more financially independent, and with upward mobility for the lower and middle classes growing increasingly difficult, men can’t bring as much long-term potential to the table. So I suppose we’re all just doomed to continue hooking up for the rest of our lives.

There may be something to that line of thinking, but I never completely bought the idea that women (or men for that matter) judge a thing like marriage against 40-year earnings projections. If most people were capable of thinking like that, it’s unlikely we’d have even had a recession to be unevenly yanking ourselves out of in the first place. Sure a college degree and a few years of solid work history are positive signs in a potential mate, but it’s abundantly clear that most of my generation doesn’t know where our paycheck will come from in five years, let alone twenty-five. Greater male-female earnings parity probably does play a role, but again, people aren’t spreadsheets. Marriage is an emotional decision in addition to a financial one. So if the retirement-planning method of finding a spouse isn’t what’s driving lower marriage rates (at least by itself), what else might be?

Appel thinks it has to do with the wedding itself, more specifically the cost of the wedding. When he noted that the average wedding costs $27,000, I added a reminder to my Google calendar to get married, in 2043. Further, he asserts that for low-income couples, flouting this conspicuous consumption ritual, and getting married on the cheap, is tantamount to announcing your brokeness to family and friends. Also, having the financial wherewithal to pony up $27k for a party, or whatever ungodly figure that is dragging the average upwards, is probably a pretty good sign that those without some wealth, or parents with money, are likely to opt out anyway. With the way wealth is distributed in this country, changes in middle and low-income people are the ones that really move any trend line that encompasses the whole population.

So, bad news, millennials. None of us are ever getting married. Unless we do what we do best, and figure out how to make it happen without going into debt.

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