Is Getting Married A Bad Investment?

In what may be an attempt to irritate all the June brides, Blueprint for Financial Prosperity points out that the average wedding costs $27,852 and the median pre-tax income in 2005 was $46,326. That’s a lot of money for a party. But what about the tax breaks? Well, those might not be so hot either.

As two happily single but committed persons, you’d pay $38,621.50 ($19,310.75 each); $39,392.50 if you were married, a difference of $771. As you make more and more money, the difference becomes more acute. So, either don’t get married, or don’t make a lot of money… a fair decision for someone to have to make right?

Take that, love. —MEGHANN MARCO

Don’t Get Married [Blueprint For Financial Prosperity]
(Photo: Stirwise)

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  1. skittlbrau says:

    i am getting married in january, and we’re doing it in a frugal manner (costa rica, anyone?). but it’s so easy to get carried away with the planning.

    i have friends that spent $50k plus on a wedding – i’d rather have a down payment for a condo.

    as far as the tax benefits go, well, that really shouldn’t be the only reason you get married.

  2. capnfive says:

    It’s worth pointing out that the tax discussion only applies if both people have the same income. Savings can be significant if there is an earnings disparity.

  3. FatLynn says:

    Does it factor in all the towels and crap that other people buy you for the privilege of attending?

  4. It is a Devil’s Advocate post and not even the author agrees with the position that marriage is a bad investment.

  5. B says:

    Can’t married people file separate returns to avoid the tax penalty? Also, it only works this way if both people make the same amount. If there is a big difference in incomes, the person making more money will end up saving quite a bit if the couple files jointly.

  6. bohemian says:

    I wish the big wedding would fall out of fashion. It is a leftover of when women were sort of well, property and didn’t get to have a life.

    Commercialism took it over and found every way possible to make people feel obligated to spend as much money as possible.

    Court house weddings and running off to Vegas need to become the new in thing.

  7. PDQ says:

    Don’t forget the wedding gifts! Depending on where you register and how generous your friends are, that could be worth thousand$$ for you – tax free!!

  8. Snakeophelia says:

    Marriage is not a bad investment. I think one could argue that spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a wedding, especially if it’s (a) all on credit cards or (b) solely to keep up with the Joneses, is not a wise investment. If you can afford it, great, but brides who are on a budget should avoid those 1000-page magazines and ignore the TLC or Oxygen channel. You can have a lovely wedding on almost no money. It’s a smart way to start married life.

    Oh, and Target carries wedding gowns now.

  9. jeffj-nj says:

    Sure weddings cost a lot, but you get a whole bunch of presents, and they’re even all stuff you specifically asked for.

    As for the whole “half of what you earn is forever in jeopardy”, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what pre-nups are for?

    And, lastly, regarding taxes, doing the math on that strikes me like doing the math on buying a hybrid. It isn’t always about the money, it’s about feeling. I don’t know many people looking to get married to save some dough (and if they are, that’s probably the worst reason ever). They do it because they want to. Same with buying a hybrid.

  10. Framling says:

    Man, we got married in jeans and t-shirts, in a movie theater she used to work at, owned by a really great guy who let us use it for free.

    We had the reception at the lake, at a campsite that cost maybe a hundred and fifty bucks to reserve. The most expensive thing was probably the DJ, since we wanted karaoke and a big inflatable American-Gladiators-style joust.

    Everyone agreed it was the most fun wedding they’d ever been to, and it couldn’t have cost more than two or three thousand, most of which was from decorations and such that her mom wanted but neither of us really cared about.

    Our wedding was awesome.

  11. cgmaetc says:

    If you have it to spend, by all means, do. The problem is many couples are burying themselves in credit card debt to achieve this ‘dream wedding’ ideal. Not the best way to start off a marriage, IMHO. And we women are the problem. Have you ever seem those nutjobs on “Bridezillas”? Scary.

  12. Mary says:

    I’m still baffled by the “cost” of weddings. I think I spent less than $500 on my wedding…maybe. I never kept track, I did everything as cheaply as I could and if I didn’t want to do something, I didn’t. Tack on the honeymoon and I doubt we spent $1,000. How can the average ceremony cost $30,000? Ridiculous.

    I’d say marraige has helped me save money, since I’m a spender and he’s a saver. So having him around makes me spend less.

  13. rmz says:

    URK. Our wedding cost about $1,000, and I thought it was fairly fancy for what it was. I can’t even begin to imagine a $30,000 wedding. I see these fancy Hawaiian weddings with catering and outdoor waterfall ceremonies and things like that and I just cringe when I imagine how much that must have cost.

  14. Spider Jerusalem says:

    @B: Filing separately, like my husband and I have to, disenfranchises you even more than you would be if you were single. I cannot claim my status as an educator, I cannot claim even basic things I would be able to as a single person or as married filing jointly.

  15. I just read something where people who get married and stay married do better financially. Now I need to find it, but they had some data and the article was reasonably factual (you like that. I know you do).

    Some of the big reasons were those who got married were looking long term, so they tended to save more, understood about economy of scale in being together, etc.

  16. Spider Jerusalem says:

    @rmz: Yeah, ours was supposed to cost 2,500. Then my mother got involved, and it went up above 5,000, and I nearly plotzed, until she and my father each offered to foot the gap.

  17. Jiminy Christmas says:

    Marriage can be the worst financial decision you make in your life if you get divorced.

    A good ol’ contested divorce can easily run $20K, throw in a good child custody battle and you can double or triple that. I have one friend whose child is 16 years old (she and Dad divorced 11 years ago) and she is still getting dragged into court every year or two so Dad can petition to pay less child support. Sadly for him, he’s between a rock and a hard place. He married his second wife seven years ago and she’s still pissed about seeing 30% of his take-home pay go to his ex.

  18. Antediluvian says:

    Hey, we got married even though it costs us money to be married. But then again, we’re one of them ho-mo-seckshul couples who couldn’t marry until 3 years ago May, here just outside of Boston. While we did everything we could until the actual option became available, nothing compares to the security — financial and personal — of being married.

  19. Hawk07 says:

    I wonder if there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of money spent and the chances of the relationship lasting.

  20. Here is the article, but it’s subscriber only:

    http://economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=92

  21. alterboy says:

    @B: Not in California. California is a communal state meaning EVERYTHING is split. California also forces you to file your taxes the same way as you filed your federal taxes so if you are married you have to file as jointly. I found this out this year when filing taxes. My wife owed which ate up all the extra money i take out of my paycheck. Also my wedding cost 3k max and we made money on our wedding.

  22. How can the average ceremony cost $30,000? Ridiculous.

    @meiran: That figure probably includes those crazy expensive weddings that end up on TV.

    @Framling: That must have been fun, using a movie theater.

  23. kerry says:

    @meiran: I had a friend who knew she was going to want a big wedding, and spent most of college and a few years after saving up. She started out with $15,000 in the bank thinking it would cost $10,000. It wound up costing more than $20,000. She didn’t even go crazy on anything. She bought her dress on sale, she had the ceremony and reception at the same Holiday Inn, she didn’t invite more than 150 people, she didn’t buy exotic flowers, she chose the lower-end meal option from the caterer, yada yada yada, she wound up borrowing money from her dad and putting a lot of stuff on credit cards to pay for it. Even if you think you’re being safe and choosing mid-priced stuff all the way, a large “traditional” wedding is insanely expensive.

  24. etinterrapax says:

    The worst investment you can make in a marriage is picking the wrong mate. I’m not crazy about the expense of the wedding, either, but it’s not something you can discuss with people. They get defensive, think people are just jealous, figure they deserve it, and blah blah blah. And they might be right. My husband and I were broke but traditional, so we told our parents we’d pay for it if they could be satisfied with what we could afford. They weren’t, so they paid for it. It was lovely, not at all extravagant, and much less stressful for us.

    One thing I hate to see, though, is people abandoning social rituals because of the perceived obligation of the expensive party. By itself, marriage doesn’t guarantee stability, but for people who believe in it, and in each other for the right reasons, it certainly can’t hurt.

  25. Starfury says:

    When I got married back in 91 our total cost for the wedding was around $4,000 and half of that was paid for by our parents. Our honeymoon was a road trip to Disneyland over new years.

    A friend got married about 5 yrs after we did and they had a “wedding” at a local B&B. They also went on a 7 day Alaska cruise. Why? Because his wife wanted the “special” wedding. It took them 5 years to pay off the CC debt from the whole thing.

  26. natemartin says:

    I’m getting married in July. My fiancée and I are paying for it all out-of-pocket.

    We have been doing everything we can to save money, and it’s certainly not extravagent. But, because I have a big family, our guestlist has ballooned up to 120, and that’s increased the price.

    In addition, we’re getting married here in the bay area, and that of course increases the cost of everything. Even though we wanted to spend around $8000 max, we’re ending up paying more like $12-13k.

    Still, I can’t even comprehend spending $30 or $50k on a wedding. That’s absurd.

  27. Canadian Impostor says:

    Holy shit $50k on a wedding. Crashing a brand new BMW is a better investment.

  28. Spider Jerusalem says:

    @alterboy: Um…no you don’t. I filed state AND federal separately, and it’s an option for California. Yes, both of them have to match, but that doesnt mean you have to file jointly at all. Among other things, I’m pretty sure it would be unConstitutional, since it would potentially force someone to be liable for a spouse’s responsibilities before marriage.

  29. bkthedj says:

    Weddings need 3 things, booze, food, and good entertainment. Take care of these and it will be a success. Get a great DJ, have an open bar and you’ll be set.

    I hope that people spend more and more its a 26 billion dollar a year industry and its a great industry to be in, helping people plan the biggest party they’ll ever throw.

  30. hills says:

    The article is forgetting about the savings on health insurance – when single I paid over $500 a month – now married, together we pay around $150 total. Now that’$ $aving $ome ca$h!

  31. Alexander says:

    @bohemian: Yes! I got married in Vegas last year. 3 nights at the MGM Grand, dress, tux, rings, tickets to Ka and everything else for about $2000! We couldn’t have been happier and couldn’t have had a better time. Our friends/families threw us post-wedding dinner and we received tons of useful gifts. On the other hand, my friend is getting married in Italy this summer. He will end up spending upwards of $50,000. I could never, ever see myself spending that much money on any sort of celebration instead of investing it in something for the future.

  32. MaliBoo Radley says:

    My husband and I got married for the cost of a wedding licence and the Justice Of The Peace. Oh, and I bought a super cheap dress at Fashion Bug the morning of the wedding. I think we spent about $100 bucks. Afterwards, we went bowling. It was the most amazing day! I have never understood women that feel the need to spend thousands on a wedding. I guess I’m just not one of those gals.

    As for taxes, I can’t really speak to that. I have not worked since we’ve been married, so we only have one income to deal with.

    I will say that the emotional and legal security of marriage outweigh anything tax related.

  33. deltasleep says:

    Getting married:
    meant renting one apartment instead of two
    free healthcare from my employer for BOTH of us
    two incomes= extra savings, extra money, faster repayment of debt.
    waking up with somebody you love every day.

    All of you unhappy, disaffected, lazy children of the 80s should quit trying to defeat your prospects for a romantic future before you even start.

  34. Youthier says:

    @B: My husband and I had to file seperately this year and I lost out on A LOT because of it. Also, filing seperately meant I couldn’t claim any of the interest I pay on my student loans. We’ll be filing jointly next year, thank God.

  35. AcidReign says:

    …..Back in 1992, we spent about $3000, if you count the rings, dress and tuxes (Not the honeymoon). And we had catered food and a live band at the reception!

    …..Halving the rent/mortgage and insurance is worth a lot more than the experts think!

  36. clodia says:

    Dude. Is that even a fair comparison? Average vs. median? I’d like to see all the statistics they looked at before they wrote the article.

  37. kerry says:

    @deltasleep: Not getting married has yielded all those things for my significant other and I, except for the health insurance costs. On the other hand, if we break up we don’t have to pay for a divorce. (We do have a contract in place for equitable division of assets acquired during the tenure of the relationship, so it’s not like we’re naive about this stuff.) I’m not saying marriage is not worthwhile I’m just saying its benefits can be had other ways.

  38. deltasleep says:

    @kerry:
    My wife is an at risk client for a health insurance company. After thorough pricing on the free market or similar policies, it was determined that getting married has saved me about $12,000/year.
    How do you and your partner manage finances? Do you have a joint checking account?
    Did you get your contract notarized and reviewed by a lawyer?

  39. orchid777 says:

    Here’s an opinion from a single woman: amen to that! I am so tired of hearing coworkers bragging about spending $30,000 and taking out loans to get married. I dread the day my boyfriend and I have to get married to have children. It’s an outdated institution, in my opinion.

  40. kerry says:

    @deltasleep: Our contract was written by my lawyer based on an outline we wrote together and has been notarized. We don’t merge our finances, and any expenses towards things that are jointly owned (like our condo) over $1000 get handled in a predetermined way, so that there’s no he said/she said about who paid for what if things need to be split up later.
    Good point about the insurance, though, it hadn’t occurred to me that folks who are hard to insure would benefit enormously from joint coverage. We’re both young and in good health (knock on wood) so it’s easy to forget not everyone is as lucky as we are.

  41. RandomHookup says:

    Having grown up in the South, I notice that the big killer for a lot of weddings among the Yankee folk is the sit-down dinner and the band. Go to a Southern Baptist wedding reception with fruit punch, finger sandwiches and no dancing (and definitely no bar) — you’re all done in an hour. Heck, I’ve seen someone do 3 in a day.

  42. RichAndFoolish says:

    Marriage is the worst financial gamble a man can take.

    Studies have claimed that a good marriage can increase wealth but nowadays most marriages end in divorce. Most wives are able to use unjust laws to extort huge, un-earned sums from their victim(s) (Statistical fact, folks).

    Guys, you have better odds at blackjack than at marriage. That girl you wed today WILL turn into one of the world’s most expensive whores (accurate description for the preponderance of divorced women) tomorrow.

  43. AcidReign says:

    …..@RandomHookup: Finding a protestant church in Alabama that will let you serve alcohol in the reception hall is tough. (Hallelujah for the Episcopalians!) With my family and friends, though, it would have been bad mojo to go dry!

    …..As it was, the 12 or so drinkers at the reception went through two cases of champagne in 30 minutes. The caterer had to hide a bottle for us to toast with!

  44. AcidReign says:

    …..@RichAndFoolish: Looked at like that, my wife is the best investment I ever made! Two do live as cheaply as one around here, I get my kids educated and cared for, and you just can’t put a price on the inspiration she gives me! No, we’re not newlyweds, either.

  45. suburbancowboy says:

    I live on Long Island, a land where a wedding is a pissing contest, and everyone tries to outdo each other. 28 grand is what the cocktail hour costs at most of these ridiculous affairs.

  46. Gloria says:

    I definitely would want to do something I enjoy for my wedding .. and none of that includes dancing (both my boyfriend and I are left-footed nerds), socializing with relatives, or being a hostess and worrying myself to shreds.

    I think I’d want to go go-karting. Drinking afterwards, of course …

  47. Havok154 says:

    My wedding will be under $2k and the reception will be at a nice restaurant with close family only. None of this 300 people at a huge hall, appetizer hour that costs more then my car, and a dinner that cost more then my dinners from the other 364 days of the year.

  48. SexCpotatoes says:

    @RichAndFoolish: Not to mention that up to 80% or more of divorces are initiated by the wife. 90% or more get full custody with child support, and they lawyer up with a guy who can drag the case out 7+ years to torture the husband.

  49. biggeek says:

    Who’s idea is it to have a big, expensive wedding? The woman. It’s always the woman.

    There’s a good reason why there isn’t a show named “Groomzillas.”

  50. a_m_m_b says:

    @ jrford8: his 2nd wife (& all those other women like her!) needs to grow up & get over it already. As a 2nd wife myself, I knew perfectly well that my husband would have a significant portion of his income shipped to his ex-wife for their kids & and planned accordingly so that our household & my son wouldn’t be pinched. i swear, whining about your husband’s child support &/or alimony is a childish as whining about your husband’s dangerous &/or time consuming job (ie: cop, soldier, doctor, lawyer, etc.). If you don’t like it, don’t marry the guy. yeesh!

    as side from love , health benes & the savings of merged household issues were the main triggers for our marriage. unlike my husband’s health insurance, my employer’s insurance is such a PITA it was easier & cheaper to avoid treatment & double expenses was wasteful.

  51. Uriel says:

    My parent’s 25th anniversary will be tomorrow. I only wish I could give my mom those 25 years back.

  52. alhypo says:

    Excellent. Yet another excuse not to get married.

  53. IC18 says:

    My engagement party was about $200. Me and my fiance plan to add only an extra 0 for the wedding. We plan to have the same small simple wedding both our parents had. Imediate family and close friends only, no long distance cousins and the best thing no alcohol. Save that $30,000 on a house down payment and a fancier honeymoon.