Stories | May 29, 2015

What’s wrong with the cost of an “average” wedding?

How much do you think people spend on their weddings?

The sum a stranger splashes on the confetti, cake and other special touches for their big day might not seem very relevant to you. But newspaper reports and talk around the office water cooler of lavish champagne receptions, expenses-paid flights and lots of zeros on the grand total can have unexpected spin-offs.

For the launch of the ING International Survey special report on weddings and life events, eZonomics has crunched the numbers and come up with five lessons from the study.

1. What do I really want?
When given the statement “rather than spend money on a wedding or civil partnership, I would prefer to spend it on a house”, 60% of people in the survey agreed. A form of opportunity cost, the question lays bare choices – as well as the trade-off that happens when one is picked over the other.

2. Ignore the average
Talk of huge price tags that accompany “average” weddings may not be all they seem. An average can be skewed up by a very high response in a survey. Instead of calculating the average – or mean – (adding all sums together and dividing by the number of responses), our report uses medians. This gives a more realistic answer of EUR5,000 for the mid-point spend of a wedding in Europe in the last five years. At the upper end of the “big day” budgets in the survey are the occasional responses of EUR50,000 or more but these carry less sway in the median than the average.

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3. Don’t be anchored by the ball and chain
This idea of big spending happy couples may actually influence the way people perceive costs. It’s similar to a seller at a market stall who suggests an item is worth three times the cost – expecting the buyer to feel financially savvy if they negotiate down from the high starting point. Technically known as anchoring, the astronomical price of a celebrity wedding can act as an overinflated reference point. A strategy is to try to forget what others are doing and focus on your own wants and budget.

4. You’ve changed me
Another economic idea relevant to the world of “I dos”, love and family is called adaptive expectations. It is the notion that people make decisions based on the direction of recent data. So if you’re reading that other people’s weddings are hugely costly, your own expectations may adapt accordingly.

5. The icing on the cake
Many studies have found that being married is associated with higher levels of happiness. And some even equate it to a similar boost to happiness as a surprise windfall of thousands of euros. However, an Australian study points out that being married to the right person for you is an important part of the happiness boost – finding people in “poor marriages are fairly miserable, and much less happy than unmarried people”.

The economics of dating
For those not heading down the wedding aisle and enjoying dating, economics also offers some guidance. Four tips are here, including how less can be more when the “paradox of choice“ makes it difficult to make a selection from too many options. It suggests “imposing your own limits to cut down the pool”.

eZonomics team
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This article is related to the ING International Survey:

Weddings and Life Events 2015

Weddings and Life Events 2015

May 29, 2015

A wedding or civil partnership ceremony is one of those events that will stay with you for the rest of your life – and it seems people in Europe are forking out for the cost. This survey of 12,743 people in 13...

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