According to the website Hitched, the average UK wedding costs an eye-watering £31,974.
This high perceived cost acts as a major barrier to marriage. In a Marriage Foundation survey conducted last year, almost one in three young unmarried adults aged 18-30 said they would be more likely to marry if the typical wedding was ‘cheaper, smaller, and didn’t have to include a big meal’.
We have long suspected that the widely touted figure of £30,000 for the average cost of a wedding is hugely inflated by the wedding industry who survey only its biggest spenders. This high perceived costs acts as a major barrier to marriage, especially among those less well-off.
In our survey of 2,000 adults aged 30 and above who had ever married, we asked two questions about the wedding day of their first marriage:
- In today’s money, roughly how much would you estimate the entire wedding celebration cost for your first marriage? This cost is for the day itself, not
including stag/hen do, clothes, gifts, honeymoon, etc
- Roughly how many friends and family came to your wedding for your first marriage?
We found that the median cost of a first wedding – based on today’s prices – has risen steadily since the 1960s and is now in the range £5-10,000, most likely below the mean cost of £9,000.
The median number of guests at a first wedding has risen from 50 in the 1960s, peaking at 80 in the 1990s, and is now back down to 50 in the recent years since 2017.
We also found evidence that wedding size affects future divorce risk. Taking other factors into account in regression analyses, early divorce risk is significantly higher following weddings where costs are very high (more than £20,000) or where number of guests is very low (1-10).
Our findings are consistent with previous research. Expensive weddings can be bad for marriages due to risk of debt and over-emphasis on the party. More guests can be good for marriages because they affirm the choice to commit to one person and rule out other choices.
So far as we know, this is the first UK study to investigate these links.