Stories | May 29, 2015

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

How much do you think people spend on weddings? The sum a stranger splashes out on confetti or cake might not seem very important. But newspaper reports and talk around the water cooler of champagne receptions or other expensive touches can have unexpected effects.

For the launch of the ING International Survey special report on weddings and life events, eZonomics crunched the numbers and came 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. Anchored with a ball and chain? This idea of big-spending happy couples may change the way people perceive costs. It’s like a seller at a market stall who suggests an item is worth triple the cost – expecting the buyer to feel financially savvy if they can haggle that high price down. The astronomical price of a celebrity wedding can also act as an inflated reference point - a phenomenon known as anchoring. One 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 weddings, love and family is called adaptive expectations. This 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 costly, your own expectations may adapt accordingly.

5. Icing on the cake Many studies associate being married with higher levels of happiness. Some equate the effect to a surprise windfall of thousands of euros. However, an Australian study points out that being married to the right person is an important part of any boost to happiness – finding that people in poor marriages are "fairly miserable, and much less happy than unmarried people”.

Economics of dating For those not heading down the aisle but enjoying dating, economics also offers some guidance. Four tips are here, including how less can be more when the paradox of choice makes it hard to choose from a range of options. It suggests imposing your own limits on the choices available.

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...