Baumgardner: You're more likely to get divorced if...

photo Wedding tile

As Randal Olson approaches 30, he's been thinking more about marriage. So when one of his friends posted a study on Facebook that said expensive wedding rings lead to more divorce, it caught his eye.

"My girlfriend and I had recently talked about wedding rings," says Olson. "She said she did not want a big wedding ring. After reading the study, I was thankful we agreed on that topic.

"I am one semester away from graduating with a doctorate in computer science. My focus is on research so I don't take things at face value. As I read the study ("A Diamond Is Forever and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration" - Francis and Mialon 2014), I ran across this huge table of many different factors that play a role in long-term marriage."

Some of the findings made perfect sense to Olson such as:

• Those dating three years or more before getting engaged are 39 percent less likely to divorce.

• The more money you and your spouse make, the less likely you are to ultimately file for divorce.

• Couples who never go to church are two times more likely to divorce than regular church-goers.

Other findings took Olson by surprise.

"I was pretty shocked to see that the number of people who attend your wedding actually has a huge impact on long-term marital stability," he says. "Couples who elope are 12.5 times more likely to end up divorced than couples who get married at a wedding with 200-plus people.

"The more I thought about this, the more it actually made sense. Having a large group of family and friends who are supportive of your marriage is vitally important to the long-term stability of your marriage."

Other surprising findings included:

• The relationship between how much people spent on their wedding and their likelihood of divorcing. The findings suggest that perhaps the financial burden incurred by a lavish wedding leads to financial stress for the couple. Women who spent $20,000 or more on their wedding were 3.5 times more likely to end up divorced than their counterparts who spent less than half that.

• The honeymoon matters. Couples who went on a honeymoon were 41 percent less likely to divorce.

• A big difference in educational levels could be associated with a higher hazard of divorce.

• If looks and wealth are an important factor in your decision to marry a person, you are more likely to end up divorced.

"Some of my friends read these findings, commented that they were in the bad categories and asked me if their marriage was doomed," says Olson. "The answer to that is no, but according to this research, statistically they are more likely to run into challenges.

"I believe the biggest takeaway for someone considering marriage like myself is: This isn't a list of do's and don'ts. However, this was a very large study and the findings are worthy of consideration to help couples have a more stable marriage.

"I think planning is the key. It takes a lot of work to plan a wedding. Put that same amount of effort into planning for your marriage."

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at

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