What makes for a stable marriage?

About a decade ago, the gossip on everyone’s lips was that “1/2 of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.” That factoid was later disproven, but it left a lasting impression on the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of America. In an effort to not become a part of that statistic, I started doing a little research on what makes for a stable marriage in America.

Earlier today, I ran across an interesting study on divorce titled ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration. The authors of this study polled thousands of recently married and divorced Americans (married 2008 or later) and asked them dozens of questions about their marriage: How long they were dating, how long they were engaged, etc. After running this data through a multivariate model, the authors were able to calculate the factors that best predicted whether a marriage would end in divorce.

What struck me about this study is that it basically laid out what makes for a stable marriage in the U.S. I’ve highlighted 7 of the biggest factors below. I highly recommend checking the study out yourself (linked above) to look at all of them.

How long you were dating

First, I’ll orient you on how to read these graphs. The authors always chose one category as the “reference point.” That means that all of the other categories are compared to that category. Below for example, “20% less likely” means that couples who dated 1-2 years before their engagement were 20% less likely to ultimately end up divorced than couples who dated less than a year before getting engaged.


What we see above is that dating 3 or more years before getting engaged leads to a much more stable marriage. This finding probably comes as no surprise, but it should stand as a warning to those who are eager to get married right away. Don’t jump into marriage before you really get to know someone.

How much money you make

One depressing finding was that wealthier couples are less likely to end up divorced. The correlation couldn’t be clearer: The more money you and your partner make, the less likely you are to ultimately file for divorce.


How often you go to church

Perhaps another important — but unsurprising — finding was that couples who attend church regularly have much stabler marriages. In fact, couples who never go to church are 2x more likely to divorce than regular churchgoers.


Your attitude toward your partner

If your partner’s looks or wealth are an important factor in whether you want to marry them, then I’ve got bad news for you: Your marriage is more likely to end up in divorce than if you couldn’t care less about wealth and good looks. These findings even more stereotypical when we break the categories down by gender. Men are 1.5x more likely to end up divorced when they care more about their partner’s looks, and women are 1.6x more likely to end up divorced when they care more about their partner’s wealth.


How many people attended the wedding

If you’re following the above guidelines, you’ve been dating your partner at least 3 years before getting engaged, making a combined $125k salary, go to church together regularly, and don’t worry about your partner’s wealth nor looks. The Big Day is coming up and you’re set to be happily married for life, right? Wrong!

Crazy enough, your wedding ceremony has a huge impact on the long-term stability of your marriage. Perhaps the biggest factor is how many people attend your wedding: Couples who elope are 12.5x more likely to end up divorced than couples who get married at a wedding with 200+ people. Clearly, this shows us that having a large group of family and friends who support the marriage is critically important to long-term marital stability.


How much you spent on the wedding

The last graph would have us think that if we want a long-lasting marriage, we better be prepared to burn a hole in our pocket paying for a huge wedding. Yet the findings below completely contradict that intuition: The more you spend on your wedding, the more likely you’ll end up divorced. The particularly scary part here is that the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is well over $30,000, which doesn’t bode well for the future of American marriages.


In the research paper, the authors suggest that the financial burden incurred by lavish, expensive weddings leads to financial stress for the couple, which ultimately tears the marriage apart. They found that women, in particular, are vulnerable to divorce after expensive marriages: women in couples who spent $20,000 or more on their wedding are 3.5x more likely to end up divorced than their counterparts who spent less than half that.

In other words, Bridezilla = Divorcezilla. Don’t let advertisers fool you into spending your life savings on your wedding.

Whether you had a honeymoon

Whatever you do after your marriage, don’t skimp on the honeymoon!


Important: correlation != causation

Of course, it’s important for us to keep in mind that these are all correlations with marriage stability, and they could be telling us any number of things. For example, the “how much money you make” correlation could go either way: Either people in stabler marriages are more likely to have a higher income, or couples with a low income could be more likely to divorce. All of the explanations I wrote above are my own interpretations of the correlations, but keep an open mind when thinking about what could really be driving these correlations with marriage stability.

Dr. Randy Olson is an AI Scientist at Absci using data science and deep learning to make medicines better and make better medicines.

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255 comments on “What makes for a stable marriage?
  1. Ellen Adams says:

    Always interesting Randy!

    • Pablo Alvarez says:

      Correlation is not Causation.

      Let’s be careful! For example, having a honeymoon and having money are directly related, so the last graph and the second are probably saying more or less the same thing.

      The positive effect of a big wedding does not mean “a large group of family and friends who support the marriage is critically important to long-term marital stability”. It might mean “if you elope it’s because you already know they disapprove, and it turns out they were right”.

      Similarly, big wedding correlates with wealth, and the effect of 100+ is a lot stronger than the effect of $30000+. These factors are NOT independent, and thinking of them as if they were is naive and misleading.

      • JEQP says:

        Well, they’re not independent, but they are distinct. For example, you can not have much money and spend a couple of weeks camping in a secluded spot as your honeymoon, and you can earn millions a year and not have a honeymoon because you can’t take time off work.

        • riette says:

          This is just a pseudosience article that should be read only for entertainment value. Surely there not people out there who actually believe how many guests they have at their wedding will predict the success of their marriage. Relationships…and people in general, are a little more complex than that.

          • Randy Olson says:

            This is a study looking at correlations. Sure, inviting 200 people to your wedding doesn’t mean you’ll never get divorced. Rather, the fact that people with large weddings get divorced much less is likely follows from the fact that people with large weddings have a large group of family and friends who support and approve of their marriage. It’s important to think of all of these correlations in that manner.

        • honda fit says:

          +1 not have a honeymoon because you can’t take time off work.

      • CarrieSue says:

        Big weddings do not necessarily correlate with wealth. We have a wedding coming up and both families are large – but the groom’s family is extra large and all are very happy to be ‘involved’ and helping out with decorations and food.

    • honda fit says:

      Good luck having a 200 + wedding for under $1000. Something doesn’t add up there.

    • fire clipart says:

      Perhaps another important — but unsurprising — finding was that couples who attend church regularly have much stabler marriages. In fact, couples who never go to church are 2x more likely to divorce than regular churchgoers.

  2. Unconvinced says:

    Good luck having a 200 + wedding for under $1000. Something doesn’t add up there.

    • Randy Olson says:

      I see that being possible if you call in a ton of favors and have the wedding at a relative’s ranch/large house/etc. 200+ people means a lot of potential favors to call in.

      • Andy says:

        You mention calling in a lot of favors. Does that mean if someone else pays for your wedding, then it cost $0? You might want to clarify that.

        Also, can I ask what you mean by multivariate model? Is this factor analysis? SEM? It’s not clear to me if you fed all the variables in and it said these were the most important factors when controlling for all other things, or if these just had the strongest correlations with divorce without taking into account the other variables.

        Very cool all around, thanks!

        • Ash says:

          When my mother and father were married, they did it in the church then had the reception at their house… Everyone brought one plate of food instead of any gifts 🙂

        • Bex says:

          We’re not at the extreme ends of either metric, but my husband and I had more than 100 people at our wedding and the whole thing cost less than $5K.

        • Andy says:

          Its all about community. That is a purpose of life and my wife and I both try to live our lives in light of our Christian faith which challenges us to live and serve with others. With that in mind our wedding was a celebration shared by all. We had a putlock wedding where we supplied the meat and everyone brought sides. It was at a venue that my wife and I met at and we were friends with the owners, however, the other two places we were considering were also amazing and under $200. The focus was on celebrating life together with those closest to us. Not on extravagant floral arrangements or obscene decorations. We just got creative and had fun with those closest to us. Overall we spent probably less than $5000 on EVERYTHING from the rings, to the flower arrangements, to dress and tux, venue, gifts, food and honeymoon (vacationed on a private lake in TX and a cool lake house which was fun for us). Our wedding was a community event celebrated by all. Anyway thats our thoughts on how to do do it cheap.

          • Cheryl says:

            Andy, Sounds like you and your wife have a wonderful start on your life together. Wish you all the best. And may God bless you and your families with much happiness.

      • Mike says:

        “The more YOU spend on YOUR wedding”. I think this statistic is formed more by people having their $20k-$200K weddings paid for by their parents than people throwing weddings at $5 per head.

        • Peter Combs says:

          Nope. The actual survey says “total wedding expenses”. Remember, when in doubt, look at the paper, especially since Randy was so kind as to link to it.

          The other posters suggestions of an ultracheap religious wedding seems plausible, but there may also be a trend that whatever the size, a cheaper wedding has lower divorce, and whatever the cost, a bigger wedding has lower divorce, even though it’s difficult to have simultaneously a gigantic, free wedding. I’d need to take better than a Saturday morning look at the data to convince myself that’s what’s going on, but it seems plausible.

          • Anjii says:

            I can’t speak for 200+ at a $1000 wedding, but we had around 240 people at our wedding (over 300 invited… large families on both sides, many family friends and a large group of friends as a couple and as individuals). Our parents each had a set amount saved for us, and we had nothing to contribute financially. The total dollar amount we had to work with was about $9,000 (Canadian). Planned EVERYTHING myself! I worked my butt off to find the most affordable church, venue and caterer. Had a cousin do the flowers for cost. Photographer was a gift from my dad (who paid for it in trade with his own woodworking skills, so no cost). Bought fabric and patterns and had the bridesmaid dresses made by my maid of honour’s seamstress mother. Officiating pastor was my brother-in-law. I made CDs with all the music I wanted for the dance, made a reference list for disc/track for people to request from, and my step-dad ran the soundbooth. No band or DJ. Table wine was u-brew, 2 bottles per table. Decor, programs, etc. were either discount/dollar store items (that didn’t look it), or handmade by myself with some help painting butterflies by my sister. Hair was done by my hairstylist sister and makeup done by my makeup artist friend. All the cool vehicles used to transport us instead of a limo, were borrowed from friends and family. The only “splurge” was my dress, which was a sample, and therefore $630 after tax and alterations, instead of the $1000+ retail price. And the coolest thing about my dress is that they never ended up releasing it in their seasonal line, so it’s original 🙂 And although it would seem that all this work and bargain hunting may have been more stressful than hiring people to do it all, therefore possibly raising the divorce rate, I found it the opposite. It was a work of heart for me, investing into my wedding as well as my marriage, by not going into debt for just one day. And as I stressed and worked the 9 months leading up to the day, I promised myself that on the actual day, I would let it all go, focus on US and enjoy it all, even if a few things went wrong (which of course they did). 12 years later, we still have one of the strongest marriages of all our peers.

          • JEQP says:

            I guess the take-away is that if you’re going to have an expensive wedding, it should be because there’s lots of people there. Maybe a per-head cost is a good thing to look at.

      • Mike Halls says:

        That pretty much describes many Mormon weddings. Small wedding ceremony at a temple, wedding breakfast and reception at the church. Nominal fee for the venues ($50) and lots of favors pulled in for the wedding breakfast and reception. Turnouts of 300+ is pretty common between families and local congregations.

        It would be interesting to do a primary component analysis with religion thrown into the mix. Maybe with PCA it would show that ‘being Mormon’ would remove regular church attendance, large and cheap wedding.

        • Fernando says:

          What venue are you referring to? Holding a reception at an LDS church is free. Many Mormon weddings are still expensive, but many parents do end up paying for it. I’ve been to countless wedding receptions held at country clubs and fancy ballrooms in addition to many more scaled down. Hosting 150 guests at a golf club can easily run you north of $10K, if not more.

          • Lizz says:

            Chapels are free for people in the ward to use and because the Bishop is called from the congregation rather then a paid minister he’s free too and if the couple do a temple ceremony that’s free too. Most wedding dresses sell for around $600-800 but you can find cheaper, mine was $300 with veil and alterations. To give people an incentive to get married the state even lower the cost of the license to $30(which helps everyone not just the Mormons obviously).
            i think partially because we’re encouraged to get married younger as a religious group(early to mid twenties is most common) and that tends to be when people are finishing up college with very little money to spare, the community helps out a little and makes it easy to have an inexpensive wedding if that’s what you want. But I’m going to a fairly high class wedding tonight that was $5 a head so if you want expensive you by all means can do it.

        • Emily says:

          I’m a Mormon. My wedding budget was $1000. Got married for free in the temple. Venue was free (at my local church building.) Bought a dress for $350. No flowers, (But pretty centerpieces using candles and seashells and white lights.) No paid photographer, (But a nice friend who did a decent job.) and no bridesmaid or groomsmen attire. (I told my girls friends what colors to wear and they wore ’em.) My brother was the D.J., and the dessert buffet was a lot of different dressed up Costco cheesecakes, sheet cake, and fresh fruit.
          Not everyones cup of tea, but we made it work and it was beautiful. Can’t say 300 people came, but probably close to 200. My diamond is tiny, and our honeymoon to Mexico was thanks to my BIL gifting us frequent flyer miles. Fourteen years later, we have 5 handsome boys and are very happily married.

          • Tasha says:

            That’s my story too! I think another big factor for LDS weddings is that WD generally focus on the wedding ceremony instead of the reception. That’s the whole reason for the party, anyway!

          • statistics abc says:


          • Lily says:

            How sweet! If only everyone would think like that…

      • D says:

        Seriously Randy? How about “excellent observation, these authors really did shoddy work and did not account for confounding variables very well.” You may be discrediting your own professional status by posting this statistical atrocity.

        • Mike says:

          So dramatic. It actually says how much “you” spend on your wedding. The important factor is how does the cost of the wedding affect the financial stress of the couple. If parents contribute most of the money then you have little financial stress, lots of guests, and a supportive family. These variables actually work well together. The less the couple spends on the wedding = the more the families are supportive.

          • D says:

            That isn’t the comment I was discussing. But just to indulge you, I read the study, and it says TOTAL wedding expenses, nowhere does it say how much YOU spent on YOUR wedding.

            I think you are commenting on a different quote than I am. The quote tree on this web site is bit odd.

            My statement is in response to the first comment user “Unconvinced” -Good luck having a 200 + wedding for under $1000. Something doesn’t add up there.

            Followed by Randy’s response of “oh maybe they called in a lot of favors” Rather than saying “yes, that should raise suspicion as to the internal validity of the study”

          • guest says:

            um no. Some families are very supportive, but poor.

        • Alwaysjanesmom says:

          Well said!

        • Alwaysjanesmom says:

          My “Well said” reply was to D’s specific comment, “. . .these authors really did shoddy work. . .”

      • agmach says:

        Interesting you should mention that, and I’m not necessarily disagreeing!

        I haven’t attended many weddings, but my favorite by far was a wedding for two wonderful people hosted at their house, maybe 100-150 guests, that was almost entirely put together by friends. The wedding prep was just as big as the “big day” itself, lasting for months with lots of excitement the whole way…we got discarded wooden pallets and made an entire deck out of them…we got large coffee filters and dyed them and made giant poofy flowers…we got a friend to bar-tend, and others handy to make the bar itself. Strung up lights all around the house and fence. Dinner was catered, but friends brought the drinks. I even got to help sew the cravats and handkerchiefs for the bridesmaids/groomsmen (didn’t matter what gender you were, just if you were wearing a suit or not haha).

        Of course, these folks certainly had favors to call in, being so actively involved in the community and always available to help a friend. But they really didn’t seem so much like favors, more like getting to join good friends at an exciting part of their life.

        Either way, I’m glad your post reminded me of that…always fond memories.

      • Frank says:

        I think the point here is that even if a few people were able to call in favors, the fact is that not everyone inviting 200+ is. And on the other end of the spectrum, you would be hard pressed to spend over $1000 if you were the only couple. My expectations would leave me to believe that there would be some sort of bell curve of attendees that coincided with money spent. As it is, I think these two stats clash and come off unrealistically to anyone that thinks about it for a minute. Also the poll was conducted on recently married and recently divorced. That is two separate groups that shouldn’t polled together as the recently married have the possibility of being the recently divorced. Perhaps that is why there is such a contradiction in nature of those two aspects.

      • Heather says:

        I think 200+ people and mommy and daddy are footing the bill – so you pay $0

    • SH4PPERS says:

      At no point does it say, couples that invited 200+ people spent $1000 on their wedding. The over all statistics are unrelated, and separate from each other. These are just showing you the wall, you have to pick the bricks that best match for you.

      • D says:

        It’s physically impossible for the number of attendees and the cost of the wedding to be unrelated. It’s also why this statistical analysis is pretty poor. – source have math degree with emphasis in statistics.

    • Some Guy says:

      Have the Priest do the ceremony after Liturgy, on the first Sunday of the month when everybody brings potluck lunch to fellowship after service.


    • slideforlife says:


    • Jon says:

      It’s not percentage values of sample, it’s percentage likelihood from reference point.

      The numbers from one can not cross into others and be compared as if they’re percentage of the same thing because they’re not.

    • Le Redditor says:

      We gon’ get uncle randy to get us murried. Den we all gon’ go to Mac-Donalds and get a cheezburger. Den we gon’ go down to the river and catch us sum fish while papa plays a tune on his banjo.

    • dennis says:

      This study is a correlational. Doing these things does necessarily lead to a successful marriage.

    • Rachel Self says:

      Well not that extreme but you can find a balance in there. We had about 175 guests and spent less than $5,000. That puts us ahead of the game on at least those 2 points…

      Breakdown was:

      $1000 dress
      $1000 food (including servers, table linens, etc)
      $500 cake
      $800 pictures
      $500 flowers
      $500 venue
      $500 decor, gifts for bridesmaids, etc.

      • Bertvo says:

        You sound like trailer trash.

        Have a blessed day!

        • Doug says:


          $1000 for food and servers for 175 guests????

          That amounts to 5.71 per guest! I suggest there is something wrong with your economics. There is something not being taken into account here that is not obvious. For example, did someone else pay for things and you are not counting it?

          • Jeff says:

            I’ve been to several weddings where the food was prepared by the church “hospitality committee” or something like that. So the cost was the cost of the raw ingredients. 5.71 would probably cover it easily.

        • Randall Burns says:

          And you sound like someone with very real prejudices. I went to a wedding of a programmer in silicon Valley with a similar budget.

      • Jo Flemings says:

        I’ve been to great family weddings that were budget friendly- it really has more to do with how its done. You can have a down home wedding for $1000-5000, and accommodate 200 people if you have a lot of help from friends and family, and it can still be tasteful and beautiful for everyone! It’s not that hard! The key is community. If the attendees are a pretty closely connected community, or the couple is well known among their friends and have the relationship where they can make it a potluck or a barbecue etc. this is totally doable. I really appreciate the interesting peek into various correlations- nothing is a given, its just a series of potential factors that intertwine in an interesting mix.

    • Justin Vorhees says:

      My wife and I got married at an amazing spot in the mountains of Washington State (Big Four Picnic Area by the Ice Caves). ‘Potluck Wedding’ We has guests bring food and chairs, we supplied music, drinks and the show! Dress at a thirft store, ring is a green quartz, wedding party dressed to match each other. We had just about 200 guests for just about a grand. We decided to spend our money on the honeymoon. We were overseas for nine months. Amazing way to start a marriage. We don’t make very much money, and since we’ve been back in America we have been suffering ‘under the poverty line’ so we’re moving again overseas to live a better life.

    • Interesting says:

      Actually it is very possible. My husband and I did just that and had probably 200+ people attend. It Savery low key and fun. Had dancing, and my mom and I did center pieces, my husband designed a picture frame matt for everyone to sign and my brides maid made me a guest book for my wedding present.

    • Faye says:

      We had just around 200 people at our wedding and our total cost was just around $1,000. We did the whole thing at a friends house, I made my dress, a friend of ours was our officiant, another friend was a d.j. and we got sandwiches made up from a local deli. And our mothers and aunts made the salads and desserts. It is possible, depending on what the couples priorities are/who they know. Having a large network of awesome people was the only way we pulled it off. So I know my case isn’t the norm as I called in a TON of favors but, still, possible.

    • Longfellow says:

      The point of this analysis isn’t to min-max in order to make the least divorceable marriage, though. I don’t see what doesn’t “add up”… when you’re analyzing different factors, it doesn’t mean that every combination of factors has to be feasible.

    • Troy says:

      We did it. As a member on a local social club I was able to rent the facility for $50 my father in law covered the bar tab. And we decorated our selves from the dollar store. It was nice simple and cheap. Then we blew 3k in STL for our honeymoon.

    • William White says:

      It was our second marriage for us both and we opted for a “potluck,” wedding. W made the invitations on our computer and had everyone bring their favorite dish. We bought the wine and champagne and close friends had the celebration at their house. The food was killer and our out of pocket cost was less than $1000 for about 75 people.

    • J K says:

      This is where it depends on your dream wedding. My dream was to enjoy my wedding without going into debt above everything else. It is possible. We had 152 guests and spent $7000. We had a catered dinner (the bulk of our costs)but saved $ by having the reception at my in laws property. I hired an amateur photographer still perfecting his art, my aunt donated flowers as her wedding gift to us. My MIL made our cake. Plain white with real roses (from auntie) as the decor. I made my veil and bought a $200 white prom dress instead of a wedding gown. So a little creativity, a little help with favors or donations and it can happen. If I’d did it again, I’d skip the catered dinner and do a dessert reception and spend the big $ on an experienced photographer. It wasn’t the princess ball wedding but it has been a good marriage so far even with ups and downs. We just celebrated 10 years!

    • AnonUser says:

      You think it does not add up because your not in a community where it makes sense. My wife and I had about 300 people at our wedding and it cost us about $2k. Friends and family brought dishes (like a potluck) for the reception, our church let us use the building for the wedding and reception along with decorations for $50. My wife bought a used wedding dress had it a seamstress help with some of the challenging alterations but did lots of the easier work herself. Most of the expenses were for relatively small things like disposable plates and cups, an honorarium for the pastor who officiated, the marriage license, etc. Our biggest expenses were the wedding cake and the photographer, which we only got after trying our hand at making a wedding cake ourselves and realizing it was a bad idea.

      By the way, when I say ‘community’ that is not code for a rural area, this was in a medium size city in the northeast.

    • J Joseph says:

      When you don’t mind inviting your entire family and having folks eat simple food and dance in the UAW or VA hall, things get cheaper.

    • Holly says:

      We invited over 400 (large family and friends having lived all over the world). Had 2 receptions a month apart (one in the US and 1 in Canada). total cost for both came to around $1500. My dress was $50 (made in the Philippines where I grew up… 1 of a kind), orchids hand carried to the wedding from the Philippines by family, girls carried peacock fans bought overseas by other family members… Finger food at both receptions made by family and church friends. My mom made the wedding cake (3-tiered angel food cake… Beautiful), had it T our church, no cost, my Dad officiated, friends did the music, decorations we made and we’re beautiful….). It can be done. Lots of people helped to make our wedding possible as neither family has lots in the way of finances and we didn’t want anyone to go into debt. it was beautiful! We were blessed to be able to do it this way.

    • Fr. J. says:

      Hispanics have large weddings cheaply all the time. They have family members make the dinner. They pool friends to pay for the music, the flowers, the hall, etc. It is considered an honor to be asked to pay for a part of the wedding, and one is considered honorary family for life. Besides, their weddings are so much more fun than the middle class American weddings that try to imitate lifeless pictures in magazines.

    • someone says:

      It doesn’t have to add up. Those stats are not using the same reference point.

    • Stephen Buckley says:

      It depends on the wider community and support network.
      Some of our good friends children got married
      The reception was at a local community hall that we had used for church events.
      The Dad is a musician so he and his friends provided the entertainment, including musical and dance pieces from the bride and groom. It was an incredibly joyful occasion.
      I did the photography, I have known the groom since he was knee high to a grasshopper, so of course I did it free of charge. There were over 200 guests and several of the wider family chipped in to do the catering. I am not sure they got under the $1000 dollar mark.
      Both are university graduates. so based on the figures above that bodes well. I think its about quality and community rather than cost. Good luck to anyone embracing a the path of marriage.

  3. Roxanne says:

    Some of the analysis seems very superficial. It would be more interesting to delve into the reasons that people elope. I would wager that it isn’t because they didn’t have a big wedding that the marriage failed. Rather that a large percentage of those who elope are doing so because of a taboo relationship or they have behaved irresponsibly and created a situation where they feel pressured to get married, yet don’t have time for or can’t afford a conventional wedding.

    Since it is typically the parents who pay for weddings; you could also surmise that those who feel the need to have a large ceremony could either be surrounded by supportive people or feel pressured to stay in an unhappy marriage to save face.

    In my experience, those who had more expensive weddings for the same reasons also experienced a similar result.

    I also believe that the title should be “What makes for a long-term marriage”, as many people remain in unstable marriages for the wrong reasons. This especially applies to the churchgoers; who tend to suffer through abuse or infidelity for the sake of saving face and being a “Good Christian”.

    • Jay says:

      “especially applies to the churchgoers; who tend to suffer through abuse or infidelity for the sake of saving face and being a “Good Christian”.”

      Got any numbers to back up this assertion Roxanne? It may well be true, but it might also be false, and without numbers it comes across as negative stereotyping of religious people.

      • B says:

        The numbers are in this study, but they don’t prove or disprove his assertion that any of these marriages are happy or good. Given that, the same could be said here on reverse: the blogger is POSITIVELY a stereotyping religious people.

        • Jay says:

          By “numbers” I meant is there any data to prove that religious people are suffering through abuse and infidelity to remain together at a higher rate than non-religious people? And that’s the reason that their divorce numbers are better?

          The post just says religious couples stay together at higher rates; it says nothing about why or whether they are faking happiness. Roxanne is implying that it HAS to be the latter (faking a perfect marriage, which is a negative stereotype of religious people); there’s just no way that they might simply be better at managing their relationship.

          • Mark says:

            The data has the answer – people who go to church sometimes (so are presumably a bit religious but not VERY religious) actually separate MORE than non-churchgoers. Follow that trend – separations increase for religious people until (for the very religious frequent churchgoers) they simply cannot separate even if they wanted to. So, their marriages would lead to separation if they could.

    • RFF says:

      I think most people understand the difference between correlation and causation. Doesn’t mean correlation can’t be insightful, however, as long as one understands its limits.

      • Cori says:

        @RFF I couldn’t disagree more. MOST people understand the difference between causation and correlation? Maybe “most people who will read this article” or “most of the people I know” or “most people with ‘x’ education” but causation/correlation can be one of the trickiest aspects of statistics and logic to tease out for the uninitiated.

        It’s often perceived as obvious when pointed out, but that’s not the same thing as being able to rationalize the difference on an initial reading.

        • Toby B. says:

          Cori – You could not be more correct. It’s tough even for professionals to pick apart the two. Some even know the difference and ignore it anyways. One only need look at all the various BS Fair-Isaac scores.

  4. John says:

    I think that the biggest problem to the smaller weddings is usually the woman’s fantasies. That could also be why the marriage is less likely to work in the future. If the woman(/one of the partners) is prepared to put their fantasy of a big wedding ahead of the financial stability of the partnership, then they’ll be as likely to make a lot of stupid mistakes in the future, too.

    Two common sayings that I have heard are:
    When the woman spends less than the man-
    When the man is chasing the woman-

    the marriage is likely to last.

    No comment on same-sex marriage (obviously different dynamics).

    • B says:

      And THAT ladies and gentlemen, is sexism.

      I know several women who wanted smaller weddings and their husbands wanted bigger ones. Base your assertions of statistical facts, not stereotypical ‘common knowledge.’

      • JimJam says:

        Oh no, another internet “white knight.”

        Just because the 5% or so of men want a bigger wedding does not change the fact that women are largely the ones who overspend on weddings.

        • B says:

          Based on…??

          • Rohnny says:

            Based upon general fantasies that women have about what weddings should be…

            I mean, men in general really don’t give a fuck about weddings when you get down to the bottom of it. I mean, if they didn’t exist, men generally wouldn’t care. It’d be fine to submit some application and be done with it. Or go to some small church and get it done in 10 minutes.

            I mean… come on, if a man decides to spend more money than the woman wants, it has nothing to do with the wedding itself. It’s most likely to make his mate happy than some fucking wedding. Unless he is completely conceited and wants to show off.

            I mean, is it really so hard to understand without statistics? men just don’t give a fuck about the fluffy shit.

            • B says:

              Welcome to Proving My Point.

              You’re basing that on nothing but your own opinion/views. That’s fine – it’s your worldview to have. But that isn’t based on any data or real numbers – just stereotypical extrapolation. It’s completely invalid for any real debate or discussion.

              Try again.

          • Uli Stit says:

            What’s your assertion based on, B? Your “I know several women who…”?

            Would you actually maintain that there is a high correlation between being male and wanting a large and/or costly wedding? Or at a minimum, are you maintaining that generally speaking a large and/or costly wedding is driven more by women than by men?

            • B says:

              I’m not trying to assert anything except that if you’re going to play the ‘No facts’ game, I can make just as many counter claims. That’s why we should discuss these things without extrapolating from stereotypes and applying ‘common knowledge’ thinking.

          • Mark says:

            Says Mr. “I know several women who…”

            Pot, meet kettle.

      • Mandy says:

        Thank you.. You are correct. I’m a woman who wants NOTHING to do with a huge expensive wedding. Not a single one of my friends do either. Being the center of attention at a $30,000 ceremony is my definition of absolute nightmare. I believe it must be the wedding industry putting it out there that spending that much on a wedding is average, for the purpose of making people think that’s normal. I personally only know ONE couple (my brother and his wife) who has spent more than 5k, and many far less. I’d be cool asking my preacher brother-in-law to marry us on some pretty hillside in a national park, but my fiancé wants to actually put some money into it. I know my experience is anecdotal, but it’s also the case with nearly every female I know.

      • statistics abc says:

        Mr. B, the champion of womens rights on randalolson.com, ladies line up your daughters

      • John says:

        I stand corrected according to the DailyMail.

        http://w ww.dailymail.co .uk/femail/article-2233937 /Men-twice-likely-women-want-big-wh ite-fairytale-wedding.html

  5. John says:

    Guys, he uses the word ‘correlation’, not ’cause and effect’. This is an interesting analysis, and something to consider in the larger scheme of things. It’s by no means the first and only document to read before you decide to take your relationship to the next level.

    I, for one, thought this was a great article, and raised some nice points.

    A little male-centric potentially, but I happened upon this article today, too: http://en.amerikanki.com/mistakes-new-wives-make-that-can-ruin-a-marriage/

    I think that the two articles together would make for a lot of support for a couple thinking about tying the knot (not?). Although I don’t know if it would actually make any difference (it’s likely that these are consequences and not necessarily the root causes). My wife always manages to find another reason why I did something wrong when I’ve proved the first reason invalid. 😉

  6. Jack says:

    Overall, nice summary of data, two small grips though:

    “Your marriage is more likely to end up in divorce than if you could care less about wealth and good looks”
    couldn’t. couldn’t care less. People who DO care about looks COULD care less. People who don’t care at all care the minimum amount. They couldn’t care less.

    And that quip about the average american wedding costing 30 grand, I’m just curious, how does that align with say, the median cost? Extravagant weddings might easily skew the average upward.

    • Randy Olson says:

      couldn’t. couldn’t care less. People who DO care about looks COULD care less. People who don’t care at all care the minimum amount. They couldn’t care less.

      Fixed. Thanks!

      And that quip about the average american wedding costing 30 grand, I’m just curious, how does that align with say, the median cost? Extravagant weddings might easily skew the average upward.

      HuffPo addressed this last year, and you’re right, the extravagant weddings do indeed skew the mean. The median is about $10k less, sitting at about $18k for a wedding.

  7. A. Jackson says:

    Randy – Is there any correlation between levels of education and divorce? Are people with doctorates less likely to get divorced than people with just a high school diploma?

    • Randy Olson says:

      Yes, there’s also a correlation with education that I didn’t highlight here. Folks with “some college” education or a 2-year college degree are more likely than high schoolers to file for divorce, but those with 4-year college degrees and graduate degrees are less likely. I figured the income bracket more-or-less covered that, since income correlates so strongly with education.

  8. bill says:

    Article trying to connect unrelated factors in “successful” marriage, does use useful data such as education, and support of spouse/family.

    Why would going to religious worship=”success “?

    People with Bachelor degree/masters/PhD are more likely to have successful marriage than all of the claims author is trying to make.

    Causation \ Correlation

    • Randy Olson says:

      Well, I purposely didn’t go into detail on e.g. why going to religious worship = a stable marriage because there’s so many plausible explanations, several of which have been outlined elsewhere in the comments here. This is a correlational study that I reviewed here, and as such should cause all of us to wonder why these correlations exist. Clearly there isn’t something magical about going to church that makes regular churchgoers more stable in marriages — there’s something else behind it.

  9. Chris says:

    Is like to see stats regarding when and if the couple had sex b4 marriage. I’d assume the sooner you had sex after meeting the person, the higher the divorce percentage. I bet couples who waited til after marriage divorced much less than a couple who had sex within the first month of meeting

    • Randy Olson says:

      They don’t have any data on having sex before marriage, but they do have data on having a kid in or out of wedlock. Both significantly decrease the chances of eventual divorce — having kids in wedlock moreso.

    • TomV says:

      I’m willing to bet that it’s just the opposite. At least the part of waiting until after marriage. If you get married to somebody who turns out to be sexually incompatible, you have a relationship problem right there that may be detrimental to your marriage.

    • Peter Fox says:

      There is data on this. Looking at just women, those who had more sexual partners before their marriage were more likely to end up divorced. The relationship is almost linear.

      If you don’t mind, I’ll leave this here:

  10. Samantha says:

    I think this entire post is an example of how wrong causation vs correlation can go. The stats are there and a stand alone but by no means can you generate a reason for why the stats exist.

  11. Never Coming Back says:

    I like how you tried to correlate religiosity with marriage stability while ignoring the fact that the moderately religious. (which is most religious people) had the highest rate of divorce.

    Push that agenda.

    • Randy Olson says:

      I don’t have an agenda here. Regardless, the small bump for people who sometimes attend church isn’t statistically significant. In the text, I only focused on statistically significant differences.

  12. Joy says:

    I don’t understand why people are getting upset at the author. The numbers are what they are. But if folks want a more objective look at the statistics I would recommend reading the full study. There are no 100% definite outcomes, but it certainly gives you food for thought if you are desiring longevity in your marriage.

  13. Christina Sottosanti says:

    One major flaw that negates the entire article: CORRELATION is not CAUSATION. Look it up – lots of people get this wrong.

    • Greg says:

      The article wasn’t studying causation, it was studying correlation. Saying “correlation doesn’t equal causation” doesn’t mean anything. Everyone knows that. There’s no one that reads this article thinking “oh no, my marriage is doomed because I had 75 people at our wedding instead of 175!”. If the author seemed to speak like that, it was in a joking manner. Joking because again, EVERYONE knows that correlation does not equal causation, because of possible latent factors.

      That doesn’t mean the results aren’t interesting. Even though they are only correlative and not causative, they can still be used as indicators. The example they always use to teach “correlation does not equal causation” is that increased ice cream sales are correlated with higher crime rates (increased temperature being the latent factor). Sure, you can’t say that increased ice cream sales cause increased crime rates. You CAN, however, say that when ice cream sales increase, we expect crime rates to increase. If you weren’t aware of the temperature being a factor, you could, say, prepare for higher crime rates whenever ice cream sales increase.

  14. Most of the relationships shown in these images are not statistically significant in the multivariate models. Statistical significance isn’t the be-all, end-all of reporting results, but it would be useful for readers to know that many of these results are actually consistent with chance variation once you control for the relevant covariates. For example, none of the categories of wedding expenses significantly predict divorce (except ‘don’t know’, which is actually negatively predictive or divorce) in the full model, which controls for, e.g., wedding size (which is presumably highly correlated with cost).

    • Randy Olson says:

      The $0-1k category actually is highly statistically significant. Regardless, the trend that the “wedding cost” category shows can’t be denied, even if they’re not all statistically significant from the reference point: the more you spend, the more likely your marriage will end up in divorce.

  15. Wow – these are incredibly interesting stats. My wife and I fit just about every “unlikely to get divorced” category there is. I guess we’re lucky!

    I never would have thought a honeymoon would have much to do with getting divorced or not… hmm…

    • Eli says:

      Think back to the financial situation statistics. Most couples that are able to go on a honeymoon, do. Things that may hold you back: money, inability to take off of work for that period of time, children from prior to marriage with no way to care for them during that time, etc.

    • KeyLimePie says:

      @Derek – A honeymoon indicates a couple is excited, romantic, successful, good at planning, perhaps idealistic. It’s not that the honeymoon itself lowers the chance of divorce, it’s that the traits of people who take honeymoons do.

  16. HH says:

    The other major problem is that this study surveys users on Mechanical Turk, not a representative sample or even an RDD sample.

    • Randy Olson says:

      They compared the sample to the sample from the American Community Survey (ACS), and adjusted the weights of the responses to reflect the demographics from the ACS.

  17. Eli says:

    These are all correlations, not causations.

    We could look at the religion one and say that religion makes a stronger marriage OR that people that are religious believe that God would frown on a divorce.

    A couple who had 200+ people at their wedding may feel more social pressure to stay together, since they also felt obligated to invite 200+ people.

    A couple that spends $1000 or less on the wedding may think that it’s a ceremony, nothing more, and value their relationship more.

    A couple that doesn’t go on a honeymoon may not be able to afford one, going again with the financial information.

    (I’m not saying that any of these are necessarily 100% true or even 10% true, but it’s important to consider why some stats may be the way that they are)

  18. Mjaybee says:

    You’re completely wrong. The divorce rate in the US for first marriages after 20 years is 50%.


    And that does not include data from states like California (CA, CO, IN and LA, specifically), which one may presume has a higher rate of divorce

    • Gimlet says:

      Your link doesn’t disprove his statement. His statement was on the overall divorce rate being below 50%. Your linked study specifically notes on page 3 under the “Statistical Analysis” heading that the sample of 20 year marriages only includes people between the ages of 15-44, and also is focused on first marriages. Because of the age limitations in that study, the probabilities for longer-term first-marriage survival are necessarily based on people who got married at younger ages (which is correlated to a greater probability of divorce in and of itself).

  19. dlksjdgqmo says:

    “In fact, couples who never go to church are 2x more likely to divorce than regular churchgoers.”
    But couples who go sometimes to church are even more likely to divorce than couples who never go to church.

  20. norma nugent says:

    All that is interesting, but if it were boiled down to the one thing that will forecast marriage stability it is this. The male must be mature…emotionally and mentally. It does not seem to matter whether the female is mature or not. If the male is immature, there’s not much hope for it to last.

    • B says:

      Sorry, but I called someone out earlier for making sexist generalizations, and I have to throw the flag here, too.

      Come on, guys, I’m just asking that we not apply general thinking without factual proof in these discussions. We can do it!

  21. Myself says:

    This is ridiculous.

  22. Cat says:

    I’m confused. How can you be more likely to stay together if you have 200+ people attend the wedding but be more likely to divorce if you spend a lot on the wedding? If you have 200 people attend your wedding, you will be spending a great deal of money on the ceremony, bridezilla or not.

    • Veronica says:

      Yes, I just replied to this based on those “stats”.

      • Randy Olson says:

        Check the other comments here for how it’s possible to pull off a large wedding at low cost. Regardless of that, these statistics in no way imply that those who had 200+ attendees also spent <$1000 on the wedding.

  23. Andres says:

    really interesting reading, however, some key issues were left out of the study that probably would have had a more statistical impact, like age difference, level of education, number of kids, roles, etc, over all really interesting,

  24. Heddie Leger says:

    This appears to me to be bunk. Who did researchers interview. I knew my husband 6 months….we have been married over 40 years….my daughter dated her husband 5 years TO MAKE SURE…they were divorced in 10 years……they spent alot on a wedding, we did not. Each of these categories are superficial….what about values, ethics, and the things that really matter.

  25. CS says:

    I have a big question concerning church attendance — Are these results only with couples that are already religious to begin with? What about the statistics of non-religious couples? This seems like a big issue with this particular statistic.

  26. k says:

    you seem to have skipped over an interesting statistical fact above:
    if you sometimes go to church you are 10% more likely to divorce than people who never go.

  27. Dominic says:

    A stable marriage though doesn’t always guarantee a fulfilling marriage. I guess this is more anecdotal, but I have a friend who is sticks it out in a marriage that he finds completely unfuffling (lack of any sexual intimacy from his wife). His wife is prudish and controlling, but he has low self-esteem. Neither are staisfied, but both stay as they are codependent. Maybe it is just me, but this kind of situation is quite common.

    • Contessa says:

      I think this is more common than not. Most statistic show marital fulfillment sharply declining over a relatively short period of time. In studies of marital typology, there’s usually just a small group, say less than 25%, who are stable + mutually fulfilled. There is a much larger group who are stable and unfulfilled(one or both in the couple are unhappy), and they are usually the “traditionals” and the religious.

      There are a few books on the topic, The Mirages of Marriage, being one. There’s also some data from the Prepare-Enrich studies, which almost always comes from somewhat to very religious couples, but it’s still interesting. Their “Vitalized couples” tend to only comprise 25% of the sample. “Vitalized couple” is what most of us likely wish to be with our spouse when we marry=mutually happy, fulfilled, and stable over time.

      Sure, if you want to make your romance more and more difficult to get out of once it sinks, throw all your money-assuming you have any-and/or your social capital into it. It’ll be “stable”=sunk cost fallacy. Unfortunately for most, stable is undesirable in and of itself.

      Like others have said, if you want to be happy -irrespective of how long you end up together-make sure you’re strongly compatible emotionally, physically, spiritually, that your values and priorities align. Use your head. If you’ve been dating X number of years and already have to ” work hard” at the “relationship”, consider now that dating is the absolute easiest part of the whole deal. If you have to call therapist while you’re dating, are bored, don’t like each other’s families, personal habits or conflict management styles, getting married and ultimately consumed in sunk cost is the wrong thing to do.

  28. Ian says:

    “They found that women, in particular, are vulnerable to divorce after expensive marriages: women in couples who spent $20,000 or more on their wedding are 3.5x more likely to end up divorced than their counterparts who spent less than half that.”

    Wait, so their partners aren’t also 3.5x more likely be divorced? If we’re measuring couples, how does this statistic show up differently in women than men? Shouldn’t this just say, “couples who spent $20,000 or more on their wedding are 3.5x more likely to end up divorced than their counterparts who spent less than half that”?

    • Vicki says:

      Indeed. That “women in particular” implies that they collected separate statistics on same-sex and mixed-sex marriages, and found that expensive weddings are predictive of divorces in marriages between two women, but not in marriages between two men or between a man and a woman.

      Did they? How large is the dataset on same-sex marriages with actual wedding ceremonies?

      • Randy Olson says:

        They only looked at mixed-sex marriages. I was confused by this at first, too. I believe the reason is because some people marry and remarry multiple times. So the data is showing that many women had several very expensive weddings between 2008-2014.

    • Jeff says:

      The data was collected from individuals, not from couples. There may be systematic differences in how men and women mentally count the expenses, and how they recall them. As well as differences in how likely people from each combination of gender and spending were likely to participate in the survey in the first place.

  29. Doug says:

    One thing that makes no sense in this survey is the less you spend on the wedding the more successful the marriage. This directly contradicts the more people who attend the more successful the marriage in terms of stability. These two factors are mutually exclusive and puts the whole survey in question.

    • Jeff says:

      I don’t think you understand what a multivariate analysis is.

      Note that in the bivariate analysis, the correlation with spending level was the reverse, probably because of the correlation between spending and attendance number.

      There argument for binning the the spending category seems specious to me, and this interaction would have been more interesting to look at if they hadn’t done that.

    • Tariq says:

      Doug, this is what I thought too. But I think what Randy did is analyzing a correlation within the same levels of the other correlations. An example is: “for two marriages that cost 10K but one had more attendees than the other, which one is less likely to end up in divorce?”
      However, in reality, this can’t happen since we know fact that the cost increases as the number of attendees increase.

  30. Alex says:

    I did not find this very interesting or useful; in fact, I think there is a lot of dangerously misleading information, here.

    Virtually all of these factors point to *other* factors, which are probably the true explanatory cause. Let’s take a random example: the number of people who attended your wedding has an impact on whether you’re likely to divorce..? Not likely — the true explanation is probably something more like this: if both people in the couple come from large, close-knit families, they are likely to share a strong love of family and are likely to prioritize building strong family relationships — especially that of husband and wife. From the way you are writing this, one might think that an engaged couple should go on Omegle and invite the first 100 people they meet, so that they may decrease their chances of getting divorced.

    Pointing to how long the couple was dating seems legitimate, as does the partners’ attitudes toward one another.

    How much money the couple makes might be interesting to think about, but we can’t be sure from this post — it’s impossible to usefully examine money in isolation in this context, since it is so closely bound up in factors like educational attainment. Maybe it’s simply the case that educated couples are more likely to make good marital choices, and these educated couples so happen to make a lot of money.

    Finally…don’t skimp on the honeymoon? People who have honeymoons are less likely to get divorced? That may be true. But weren’t you just telling us that wealthier couples are less likely to get divorced? Couldn’t having a large disposable income be related to one’s ability to have a ritzy honeymoon? And again might that be linked back to educational attainment..? Maybe educated people make more money, and can afford a honeymoon, and the common link to all of this is a good education? I’m not saying that’s the case — I’m just speculating, because the data you’ve given me do not make the case for what makes a stable marriage.

    • Cori says:

      This is the perfect example that *not* everyone understands the difference between causation and correlation. Randy said specifically that this was a correlative study, so of course none of these factors are intended to be explanatory causes.

      I’ll grant you that Randy’s description of this point (the “Clearly…” part) seems to imply causation, but the study itself “clearly” does not make that inference.

  31. Shannon Doak says:

    The point about dating length isn’t really the point. The point is that you get to know someone really well. I would propose that dating in the normal sense of the word is not likely to give you the clearest impression of a person. First when you begin “dating” the you usually go out to things such as movies which aren’t particularly social activities. Second, when dating, there is usually a strong physical attraction that can lead to other activities that might make talking to one another take the back seat. It is hard to talk to each other when you are keeping your mouth busy with other activities. Third, how honest are most people when they begin dating? This is why the longer couples dated the longer they stayed together because the real person had a chance to come out. I would suggest that if you find someone you are interested you change the approach to let’s find out if we are compatible for the long haul. Talk to each other, do community service with each other generally do something that will bring out the real person. The length of dating is not as important as how well you really get to know a persons true character.

  32. Dennis says:

    The financial aspects of this make a lot of sense to me. If you have a lot of friends who come to your wedding both of you probably have a good support system. A large wedding doesn’t have to cost a lot and if they’re your friends they will probably help with the wedding and help keep the cost down.(Also I don’t see where the cost current dollars is factored in. Since this is studying longevity of marriages one would assume that the couples have been married for some time and $100 in the 60s or 70s would not be $100 in 2014.) This also correlates with people who frequently go to church not being charged for use of the church’s facilities. Also a lot of those attending would be from church. Spending less indicates better financial management and priorities which eventually will increase your income. Many marriages that dissolve have financial problems.

  33. Linus Schrewe says:

    In statistics there’s a concept called “Correlation does not imply causation”. Basically what it says is that a correlation (to values apparently influencing each other), it doesn’t necessarily mean that one really influences the other. For example, the statement “Clearly, this shows us that having a large group of family and friends who support the marriage is critically important to long-term marital stability.” isn’t necessarily true, rather there are many different causes that may cause this correlation.
    (For example, it may be due to increased pressure, or increased confidence in the marriage leading to more people invited)

  34. Allyson says:

    My husband and I dated for 8 months before we got engaged and got married 6 months after that. We don’t have a combined income of $125k and we couldn’t be happier. One thing this article doesn’t didvuss is age. We were 31 and 32 respectively when we met. When you are older than most who get married you have a clearer definition of what you want and need out of a partner. When you know, you know…

  35. Elizabeth says:

    Yep, going by this my marriage should never have survived. We got married one week after meeting in person (having known each other on the Internet for a few years and figured out we were in love six months earlier). Our wedding cost virtually nothing except license fees and rings, and consisted of myself, my spouse, and two of my friends, one of whom married us. We earned very little at the time (although our finances have improved since), we’re not religious, and we didn’t have a honeymoon.

    We’ve been married eleven years and going strong. Sometimes when it’s right, it’s right. Don’t let fear of not ticking a bunch of boxes keep you from following your heart.

    • Randy Olson says:

      Of course. There’s always going to be outliers in studies like this because we’re talking about probability here, not absolutes. I’m happy to hear that you and your SO are one of the outliers. Congratulations!

  36. Zoni says:

    Haha. All these traits are mutually exclusive.

    As already pointed out, how do you have a wedding with 200+ guests and cost less than $1000, especially when you’re earning $125K+!

    • Zoni says:

      I hope the author didn’t put this up as a serious article to be followed. Looking at the study, it’s full of flaws. I think it’s great to know this is what the study found, haha, but not so great to apply it across the whole general public.

      If you were to critically appraise the study you’d find lots of points of discussion!

    • Randy Olson says:

      Plenty of people listed possible ways to have a large wedding without spending too much money elsewhere in the comments here. Give ’em a read. 🙂

      • Liz S. says:

        Just wanted to point out that most of the suggestions for having a large, cheap wedding rely on (a) a large, nearby, and willing pool of helpers in the form of friends and family, (b) a religious (generally Christian) community that provides many of the larger expenses for free, or (c) lots of time and devotion to planning. If you are, say, an non-religious Jew who is attending medical school and lives several states away from most close friends and family (*AHEM*), and you have neither the time nor labor resources, you’re basically stuck paying a lot of money if you want to have a big wedding.

        Of course, lacking the resources of either a religious or a secular community might play a substantial role in probability of divorce. So I’m not really providing an argument that contradicts the data – just commenting that having both a large and cheap wedding is not a realistic possibility for some people.

        • Jennie says:

          Yes! Thank you for saying this. A large, cheap wedding is not possible for everyone. In particular, if you are neither a member of a church with a large social hall nor the owner of a large home, there is no way around paying a fair bit just to rent a suitable space.

          I think it is also worth pointing out that a potluck wedding reception would not be considered socially acceptable in all social circles. While I like the idea, I am confident most of our guests would have found it offensive.

  37. KP says:

    This article was fun. Concise and full of data, though, it’s hard to make solid conclusions. How should I save my marriage from divorce? I had a small weeding that cost too much money with a man I dated for less than a year and we never went on a honeymoon! We’re doomed! haha. [Wait! What’s the rate of success of marriages when the people dated less than a year anyways??]

    If you are looking for why relationships succeed or fail and want concrete ways to make a marriage happier, I would recommend looking into John Gottman’s research. I won’t say too much because there’s a lot to tell. By reading his work and checking out his videos, you’ll learn much more than what I can tell you in a paragraph.

    I can, however, give you a few starting points:
    1) John Gottman
    2) gottman.com – much of his old and new research is consolidated on this website (but there is much more out there).
    2) John Gottman’s Four Horses of Apocalypse – behaviors that predict divorce. (Please look deeper than google’s first, concise article on the topic.)
    3) Gottman’s Love Lab – videos and explanations of couple conflict and their current marriage vitality (some videos are on youtube)

    There is a lot out there if you have the motivation to dig for it such as: simple methods for repairing a relationship, themes/warning signs/patterns he has named based on hundreds of video hours of couples in conflict, and books condoning and condemning his research conclusions and methods.

    His research from the 70’s was a strong foundation for more marriage research that is still ongoing. His work is good, not flawless, but good and it is continuously evolving. Here is part of his message:

    Marriage is hard but nearly any marriage can also be a long-lasting, rewarding, relationship with another person. Just like a garden, if you only plant the seed but don’t continuously complete small maintenance on it, there will be fruit, but there will also be weeds -which eventually hinder, weaken, or destroy altogether the seeds that you planted.

    Another major factor – conflict resolution. There will be conflict – guaranteed. How do you resolve conflict with your partner and how do you act – verbally & nonverbally – when you are in a conflict? Your behavior towards your partner (or any relationship) is very important. When behaviors change – so does a relationship – for better or for worse. He has a list of successful, simple, behavior modifications available. Seek them out.

    -Source. Just an amateur who has devoted many years into studying relationships.

  38. Paul Smith says:

    There’s something that connects all of this. Successful Marriage is about selflessness. Ooshy gooshy lasts only so long. A couple who are primarily focused on a huge, expensive wedding, or base their relationship on physical or materialistic characteristics, have little else left after the ooshy gooshy wears off.

    • Contessa says:

      I don’t come away that message at all. First, is a successful marriage solely based upon its longevity or “stability” any way? I’m guessing most modern folks think not.

      Marital longevity could be based on many things, happiness and fulfillment being a few, but the above factors could easily indicate the level with which a couple feels socially and/or financially pressured to remain together.

      The extent of the consequences involved in a divorce(such as being taken to the cleaners by an angry spouse) or the impact a divorce would have on your social status(as in the case of many politicians and those who are deeply religious and for whom divorce is a sin), are more relevant to those whose cultures are pro-marriage in general. And those from pro-marriage cultures will be more likely to marry, more likely to have others from their culture support their marriage, more likely to spend lots of money on their wedding and honeymoon, more likely to have a need to avoid inbedded social shame in divorcing, and more likely to keep at it even while miserable (“selflessness”).

  39. Adam says:

    “Crazy enough, your wedding ceremony has a huge impact on the long-term stability of your marriage.”


    Crazily enough, your wedding ceremony has a huge *association with* the long-term stability of your marriage.

  40. Eric says:

    Question about “How many people attended the wedding” – I think these statistics may be misleading. Are these statistics based on all marriages, or just first marriages? I would think that second and third marriages have a lot better change of being lightly attended, and those that have divorced have a higher chance of having yet another divorce.

  41. Lenny - 25 says:

    Interesting reading! The point of this post should be seen in its entirety and not in isolation. Use all the data and then look at the outcomes. Many posts here identify with 3 more factors that are linked to their marriages long duration. I was skeptical as well until I reviewed the entire blog. It would be interesting to hear from those whose 3 or more associated factors are separated or divorced and what those common factors are. It is a learning experience for our all of us.

  42. Angela says:

    I love being the exception. My husband and I dated for 2 months, got married by a JP with only us there, honeymooned in his truck (he was an over the road driver) and we have been going strong 18 years! The #1 factor to whether a marriage will work or not is the commitment of the two people involved. If you are both determined to fix any problems together, then anything can be fixed!

  43. Really?? says:

    I take issue with the idea that divorce rate is this correlated with the stability of a relationship, especially when we’re considering frequency of “church attendance.” In most major religions, the holy sacrament of marriage is held sacred, and divorce is considered a sin. It would follow, then, that the more religious (who are attending church much more often than the more secular) among us have a lower divorce rate – but this has nothing whatsoever to do with how stable their marriage is. There are many, many examples of couples in unstable, unhealthy marriages who remain married regardless because it’s against the rules of their religion to walk away when they arguably should.
    I think this applies similarly with regards to the annual income of a given household – money holds a lot of power over people, and even those in unstable relationships are often inclined to stick around if they know they’ll end up financially unstable after walking away.

  44. I study marriage/family for a living so it was fun to come across this post.

    I enjoyed reading the research paper Randal based his charts on. They used AmazonTurk, which didn’t produce an ideal sample, but it was better than other easy alternatives, and it allowed them to incorporate the questions about weddings they were interested in (apparently not available in existing data). Something important to be aware of is that the paper has not gone through peer review yet—it’s a working paper that was posted online last month. It’s probably under review right now and could undergo significant changes before it’s published in a journal. Overall, I think the paper is interesting and will probably get published eventually.

    What I am concerned about is the way the results presented. I’m not sure whether he just wasn’t paying attention or if it’s because he’s a graduate student in computer science and isn’t familiar enough with social science methodology to fully interpret the results. Here’s some of the problems (mostly dealing with the nuance of statistical significance):

    1. How long you were dating

    There’s no statistically significant difference between less than one year dating, and only dating for 1-2 years before engagement. However, there is a statistical difference between 3+ years and less than 1 year in predicting divorce.

    2. How much money you make

    Only 25,000-49,999 and 50,000-74,999 are different from the lowest category. There’s no statistical difference between the lowest category and the higher ones.

    3. How often you go to church

    There’s no statistical difference between never going to church and sometimes going to church. Empirically, we can’t say the story is that if you go to church occasionally you’re more likely to divorce than if you don’t go to church at all. However, regular church attendance seems to be a protective factor when the other option is never going.

    4. Your attitude toward your partner

    He misinterpreted the reference categories. Wealth and Looks seem to be there own reference category (yes/no), rather than having a shared reference category. Wealth is a non-factor for the group as a whole and when it was broken down by gender, but the partner’s looks being important at the time of the proposal was associated with increased likelihood of divorce. Furthermore, it didn’t matter whether or not women thought their partner’s looks were important, though it did for men.

    5. Wedding Attendance

    Looks fine. (now I’m thinking back counting how many people came to my wedding… haha)

    6. How much you spend on the weddings

    When you look at the group as a whole (and for men), the only statistical difference is that people who reported that they didn’t know how much their wedding expenses were were 48.8% less likely to divorce. However, when you only look at women, they were 3.5x more likely to divorce when $20,000+ was spent.

    7. Whether you had a honeymoon

    Looks fine.

    Conclusion: Interesting/fun study. And Randal did a good job making the results look pretty and he linked us back to the original paper and encouraged us to look at it ourselves. However, I would suggest Randal be more careful about how he presents someone else’s results, especially if it’s not in his own field of study. And, I disagree that we can overgeneralize the findings and say that the study “basically laid out what makes for a stable marriage in the U.S.” This is a study about engagement and weddings, and it’s a only small piece of the research literature on marital stability.

    • Randy Olson says:

      Thank you for your thorough review of my article! You’re correct that some of these categories technically aren’t statistically significant, for example the “Sometimes goes to church” category. That’s why I generally focused on the statistically significant differences in the text of the article.

      I’d also like to point out that just because p >= 0.05 doesn’t mean that there aren’t some interesting trends in the data. For example, you pointed out that for the “income” category, the middle incomes are statistically significant but the higher ones aren’t. Yet we still see an obvious trend of more money <-> less divorce. In that case, I’m less likely to trust the frequentist statistics and take the data for what it is. That being said, I’d love to see the effect sizes from these models instead of relative probabilities.

      • Thanks for replying to my comment, Randy. I can definitely relate to the challenge of how best to present results to a general audience, especially when things start getting more technical, and you are actively doing so on top of everything else you do. Good point regarding statistical significance–even though a p-value is important, we impose arbitrary cutoffs. Regardless, we can still see interesting trends that can be useful. Most of the trends highlighted seem plausible, though I wonder whether some of the categories may have been limited empirically by a smaller number of cases (e.g., making $125k+). Best wishes!

  45. Veronica says:

    “How many people attended the wedding” and “How much you spent on the wedding”… Isn’t this a contradiction for what this list is trying to say? Read it again.
    How can you avoid spending 20k when you have over 200 wedding guests? The debt or bill doesn’t matter when you’re in a happy relationship, anyway; you planned it, you both accounted for it. This list is about as real as the Dr. Oz show.

    • Brandy Miller says:

      Veronica: It’s easy. You invite them to the wedding, but you have a very simple reception without a lavish meal. Perhaps you even make it a potluck reception, asking everyone to bring a dish rather than a gift. Such things can be done.

  46. statistics abc says:

    if u keep making graphs with no axis, someones gonna hit u. dis shiz dun fly in this hood, which is the hood of people with even passing understanding of statistics.

    what if the bars reflected 1%, 0.8% and 0.61%; what if it reflected 0.001% 0.00069% etc… This graph means nothing, and as someone who is attempting to prove a point, you should be ashamed of violating every tenet of academic research.

    also, relative to what? divorce rate relative to the death rate of babboons in the central african republic? relative to the speed of light in water?

  47. sergio says:

    What about the number of previous diferent sexual partners? Is there a correlation with the divorce rate there?

  48. tom says:

    marriage should disappear like the horse and buggy has. it’s antiquated, and no longer serves it’s original purpose.

    • Brandy Miller says:

      Marriage is a beautiful thing. To know that you are loved no matter how unlovable your behavior, warts and all, is one of the greatest gifts you can receive from or give to another human being.

  49. Stacie says:

    Very interesting study! I think my husband and I are an exception, though. We married eight months later after meeting and made less than $100,000 combined income. However, we met at church and are strong in the faith (we believe Christ’s teaching about divorce in Matthew 19), we had around 150 at our wedding and spent less than $6,000 (we had some help, but paid for almost everything), had a very modest honeymoon, and have been married for over 17 years. God is the foundation of our marriage, and He keeps us together.

  50. Andre says:

    Do you have any data on the age disparity or closeness through the dataset? I wonder if the partern age is a correlation . Age of marriage and age difference.

  51. Contessa says:

    Interesting stats. It makes sense that the more money folks invest into a relationship-anything really- and the more people they ask to support their marriage, the more likely they are to stay. Isn’t this basic econ? Further, most mainstream religions promote marriage and shun divorce, so it’d make sense that the more religious couples would divorce less.

    This says nothing of the longterm happiness of the couple in the 21st century, and I’d personally prioritize far over longevity.

  52. Tam says:

    I often trust studies… Something doesn’t sound right about person who claims did the study

    1. Multiple studies showed that the longer you date, the higher expectations that you know the person and will be surprise to find after marriage.

  53. John Mellor says:

    Staying married and having a good marriage are not the same. Some of these statistics likely apply to both, but you can impute different reasons for some of these correlations. Eg. Couples who attend church regularly are religious, and may not believe in or be willing to accept the stigma of divorce. People who have a ton of people at their wedding may be concerned about keeping up appearances and concerned about what that large community would think were they to get divorced. I am sure some of these correlations are real, but the way they’re presented seems to suggest they correlate to solid, healthy marriages. I have to disagree.

  54. Vincent Cate says:

    Seems like it is saying that the more people at wedding the less chance of divorce but then 200+ is 92% chance. Seems like something is wrong. Was that supposed to be 8% chance?

    • Jeff says:

      He says that 200+ is “92% less likely” to end in divorce than eloping, not that it has a 92% chance of ending in divorce.

      Although I don’t understand how he derived that “92% less likely” number from the data reported in the paper. That seems to be some kind of mistake.

  55. DiInj says:

    Oddly,my marriage fell into lowest category for nearly every measure and none were high for risk of divorce. The stats that are missing are disparity of income and child-rearing. My ex-wife, who divorced me,
    made much less money than me (by choice – the vocational evaluation said she could make just as much as me) and was less involved with the children.(my opinion – the custody evaluator actually ruled that parenting was joint) Despite this and three marriage counselors saying she had issues with alcohol dependency and absolute evidence her lawyer lied in court she was awarded preferment alimony. Divorce doesn’t work the way most people assume. Many divorces are little more than scams to get money.

  56. Erica says:

    The tidbit about half of all marriages in the U.S ending in divorce IS a fact, and the number is growing. If you’re going to say it was disproved, at least give the source for it. I can tell you from the classes I am taking right now that the divorce rates for first marriages in the US are over 50%.

    • Jeff says:

      He did provide a source for it. Perhaps you don’t find that source convincing, but to claim he didn’t provide one is simply dishonest of you.

  57. Brad Dodson says:

    Randal – your posts have been very interesting. This one raises a lot of questions to me. For one thing, I think it would be super useful to see error bars on the charts (they are in the paper, but the tabular presentation in the paper makes the whole thing hard to decipher). With only 3,000 respondents, I’d imagine some of the categories end up being a quite small sample.

    Do you have the original data? It would be super interesting to throw into a PivotChart in Excel and look at the cross-correlational behavior of different factors.

    • Randy Olson says:

      Thanks Brad! I was trying to figure out where the error bars were in their tables. Is that the numbers in parentheses?

      Unfortunately, I don’t have the original data. You’d have to contact the original authors of the paper for that.

  58. Market researcher says:

    I appreciate the work you put into this, but your data visualizations and their lack of a numerical Y-axis are a little puzzling to me.
    Perhaps you mean for the reference point to be the Y-axis? Regardless, it makes it really hard to compare the relative importance of, for example, a big wedding versus low cost of wedding. The increases are relative to a reference point, but it isn’t clear to me why you’re changing the size of the reference point every time.
    Were there any other ways you tried crafting visualizations?
    This does seem like a pretty challenging data set, and you set up the narrative to flow very well. (I dig your logic and writing!)

    • Randy Olson says:

      The original research article chose a reference point for each category. It’s actually not possible to make comparisons between unrelated categories as you described because of this.

  59. Monica says:

    Just one comment about your piece “What makes a stable marriage.” Obviously I’m not a social scientist & this is just my opinion, but I disagree with your assumption: “couples who attend church regularly have much stabler marriages”.

    Yes, the data shows they are less likely to get a divorce, but we can only assume the reasons why. You could also claim: “couples who attend church are too afraid to leave an unhappy marriage because they’re brainwashed to believe that divorce is bad or a sin.” I wonder if there is a way that we could measure church couples to figure out how many are happily versus unhappily married?

    • Mark says:

      Yes! I was about to make a very similar comment. I do happen to be a social scientist, but you don’t have to be one to realize that never divorcing because you fear the consequences from your God, Goddess or Gods doesn’t shout out “marriage stability!” In fact, I’m going to guess that a lot of those marriages that Randal Olson considers “much stabler” are actually pretty darn rocky most days.

      But yes, if you want to stay married (happily or very unhappily) then being religious would “help”.

    • Hlesta says:

      The study states observed facts…..so we cannot insinuate they are not true without tangible data……that would just be speculation. And may be it the support in the places of worship that makes the couples less likely to part. Yes, and it good to know pple will not divorce because they beleive its sin, that why they are in that religion, the same way non beleivers may not see anything bad about divorce…..

      • Phillip says:

        Monica is right though. The actual observed facts from the study is that divorce is lower if religious attendance is higher. That doesn’t equal to stability or happiness. Unless you define stability as meaning not divorced. So “more stable” is the contention, not the data point. If they are afraid to divorce because of social / religious reasons, and fight, bicker and aren’t around each other much… is that ‘more stable?’

    • Djester says:

      If you doofuses had the ability to read you’d have noticed that each of the 7 indicators discussed is linked to the “stability” of marriage as defined by its ongoing existence (as opposed to its removal via divorce). None of the metrics or indicators is taken to mean these people have a healthy, happy, fulfilling marriage, they are just linked to the likelihood that they have (or have not) a marriage. Your own “religious” commitment to disliking certain types of religion has blinded you to the point of the piece. None of the other indicators is a concern to you regarding the “stability” of the marriage, only the church-related one. So you’re apparently unable to see a possible link between the financial consequences of divorce and the “stability” of high income partners? Sigh. And shame on “Mark” below for parroting the same inanities, even though he claims to be a social scientist. I guess all this just illustrates the fact that there’s authorial bias and then there’s reader bias. For the record, if “stable marriage” is defined as “not getting a divorce,” then nobody has any objection to any of this. But if “stable marriage” is defined according to some individual reading this piece on the internet, then all bets are off. I wonder which definition a careful reader would adopt in determining whether the author has stayed on task or not.

      • Phillip says:

        “if you doofuses had the ability to read you’d have noticed that each of the 7 indicators discussed is linked to the ‘stability’ of marriage as defined by its ongoing existence…” Where does the author say that stability in this article is in reference to length of marriage (it’s on going existence)? You are inferring that based on the data he collected, but that’s a problem. The term is loaded and nebulous. While his data may prove length of marriage the loaded term is then tied to it. Then people say, “oh i saw a study that said the most stable marriages are when you make more money and go to church more often.” Many people hearing it are not thinking “length of marriage” but rather “quality.” This is how “statistics don’t lie but liars use statistics.”

        It’s a shell game…

        Look I can play this same silly game too:
        Similar Silly Question: “I want to know who where on earth are the most beautiful women” then I will offer data women by weight and size proportions. I use the data of physical measurement to tie to the word beauty. Then go on twitter, ‘study shows most beautiful women come from iceland.”

        Back to the article… look at the 19 uses of the word “stable” in the article… yet it is never defined for the purpose of this data. I could say “oh so psychological stable marriages are due to more money and regular church attendance.” That would be potentially wrong … Below are the first 3 of 19 uses of the word, none with a clear definition:

        “I started doing a little research on what makes for a stable marriage in America.”

        “What struck me about this study is that it basically laid out what makes for a stable marriage in the U.S. I’ve highlighted 7 of the biggest factors below.”

        “dating 3 or more years before getting engaged leads to a much more stable marriage.”

        The data should explain an answer to a question. In this case, the question isn’t clear. What does the author mean by “stable?”

        You say it’s obvious because the data he gathered is about divorce – then it should be defined as such. Otherwise people will use the data to promote “stable” (meaning better quality, psychological more sound, etc.) relationships based on earning more money, dating longer, not living together and attending church more often. hahahah it’s a joke, fabled as “research.”

        Get it? Hope so.

  60. Cheapandhappy says:

    Only in the past 20 or so years have weddings come to mean you must spend thousands on “costumes” and decor, and feeding folks a meal. In the 50s-80s, most U.S. weddings were church weddings with cake, punch and nuts receptions or followed by a meal provided by the church body. The celebration was a religious ceremony celebrating the creation of a new family, or it was a simple civil ceremony at the the courthouse perhaps followed by dinner or a reception at the parents’ homes. Young people did not expect their friends to shell out hundreds for tuxes and dresses and expensive wedding gifts. Weddings were not the self-absorbed cry for attention and gifts that so many of today’s ceremonies are. I suspect that’s why the more expensive the wedding, the greater the likehihood of divorce. Materialistic,self-centered brides and grooms who see the wedding gala as somehow proving to their peers how beautiful or how important they are are not likely to be mature enough or grounded enough to deal with the realities of life. The Disney princess stories are fantasy, and the real princess wedding (Diana’s) did not work out so well. Those who need to measure their worth by how much they spend on a wedding are likely pretty shallow people, and as such they probably are incapable of the cheerful compromise and occasional sacrifices needed for any union to succeed. Additionally, the idea of a three year engagement being more successful than a shorter engagement does not factor in whether the couple was sexually active during that three years. It assumes noone will marry as a virgin. Many who have fought to maintain sexual purity will marry in less than a year and still have marriages that endure because they have a similar worldview and consider many of the same things essential.

  61. Ted Futris says:

    I appreciated you summary of this study. In research, it’s often easier to measure “observable” indicators like those reported above that are intended to indirectly represent things that are more important. For example, going to church may not be what is important to marriage but instead its what couples gain and share from that experience, like spirituality as well as relationships with others who support the couple. Similarly, the number of people at your wedding or whether you eloped or not may reflect the couple’s social support system. Paul Amato, a sociologist at Penn State, describes in his book “Alone Together” that couples are becoming more isolated and disconnected from others and this is having an impact on marital stability (and quality). Unfortunately, so many of the other indicators reported above are really reflections of income/SES: couples with more resources have greater access to resources that can support them when they are in times of need/stress.

    For those interested in learning more about what the research has shown to really make a difference in promoting healthy and stable marriages, check out the following resource authored by Extension specialist from various Universities: http://www.nermen.org/NERMEM.php. This FREE publication highlights 8 core qualities of healthy relationships.

    What’s Extension? Each state has a land-grant university that offers outreach services focused on youth development (4-H), agriculture, and family life (nutrition, finances, housing, relationships, etc). Agents are available in every state through county or regional offices to share resources developed by content experts. I am the State Extension Specialist at the University of Georgia focused on family life and relationship education.

  62. Jason says:

    Very interesting!
    The one stat I wish it showed was co-habitation (living together, shacking up, etc..) before marriage and it’s affects on likelihood of divorce.

    • Fraser Buchanan says:

      I think a number of other studies have shown that couples who move in together before getting engaged or married are more likely to get divorced than those that do not.

      • Anna S says:

        Something tells me they are less likely to divorce because they figure out they’re a bad fit before the marriage happens. Hence the trial run

        • Maureen says:

          Reassessing the Link Between Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Instability
          Fraser Buchanan is correct.

          • Actually, this study found the opposite: “the once-strong association between premarital cohabitation and marital instability has weakened over time, and there no longer seems to be an association for the more recent birth and marriage cohorts.” In other words, it *was* once the case that people who lived together before marriage had a higher divorce risk, but that’s no longer true.

        • Christopher North says:

          One of the possible causes is change. Yes, when you live with someone, you do sort out some of the people who you could never live with, but as most people who are married knows, things change over time. Living with someone for 3-5 years, does not mean after 10-15, either are not going to change.. And here is where the problem lies, when you are already living with them, and then they change, there is the problem.. You THINK you know someone when you live with them.. you don’t LOL..

          • Rick Santorum says:

            Yup. And health stability, children, and environment add plenty of turbulence to the mix.

        • gcarlsn says:

          you might think so, but my sense is that people who have been living together a long time find it easier to get married than to break up, until things get so bad they divorce. Like, moving all your stuff out to be alone seems really hard, and you figure you’ll get him to stop biting his nails eventually… then you realize 10 years later you’re stuck in a relationship that should have stayed in college.

      • District15parent says:

        Correlation does not equal causation (as the article itself acknowledges at the end). For example, couples who don’t live together before marriage are more likely to be religious, and religious people are more likely to disapprove of divorce. It doesn’t mean living together before marriage CAUSES you to get divorced, not does it mean that NOT living together before marriage gives you a happier marriage.

        The problem with all these graphs is that in each case, they compare the divorce rate based ONLY on that one specific factor, while ignoring every other factor.

      • Renee Smith says:

        Wrong you have more time to get used to your partners behavior and habits at home before marriage

        • Fraser Buchanan says:

          Studies have shown that the opposite is in fact true.

          • Older studies, yes. But the most recent ones (like the Reinhold study mentioned above, and a 2012 one from the CDC, and a 2014 one in the Journal of Marriage and Family) show that cohabitation neither increases nor decreases divorce risk.

            • Jared says:

              Doing a review of multiple recent studies on the topic, many still conclude that prior cohabiting is correlated with marital instability. So I guess you’d call it mixed reviews at best. Further, another societal trend not accounted for in studies like Reinhold is the decrease in likelihood that a couple will get married at all.

              In years past, a cohabiting couple may in fact eventually get married, and arguably thinks less of the institution, positively correlated with non-religious couples etc.

              Today, less people are getting married at all. So cohabiting couples, who are arguably more likely to view marriage as potentially temporary surely are among the first to forego the institution altogether, leaving prior cohabiting couples who do still marry to be among those who value marriage as a lifelong commitment, more similar to those who believe lifelong committed marriage is a religious requirement or value.

              So the nature of cohabitation hasn’t changed, only that the “cream of the crop” of cohabiting couples are among the fewer who do decide to marry.

  63. Maxine says:

    I appreciated your tweet and post after I read the study. The study did a good job of showing how excessive spending on a wedding didn’t necessarily lead to a stable marriage.

    I get the whole church thing, but 200 people at your wedding? Perhaps this demonstrates that having a large wedding is a trait of conformity, and conformists are more apt to stick it out? In many cases, large weddings are due to family pressure, so that’s the best alternative at this point. Or perhaps it is due to the age of the sample? Larger weddings were more common 25 years ago?

    The results particularly apply to the US and I also think it demonstrates American cultures participation in the wedding industrial complex. I’m French Canadian and there is a large contingent of us that have “common law unions” which are pretty much recognized as “married status” here. I also know lots of outliers; no rings of any sort, bare minimal attendance, no frivolous things, nondenominational, and no honeymoon that are happy, stable and long lasting.

    One last factor that was not in the study that might have provided more perspective about the results is if people lived together prior to marriage. Not sure how applicable that would be since the age of the sample seems to be high, middle age range.

    After being married for a year but together for over 10, I can say this; the marriage ceremony didn’t change a thing. Being married doesn’t feel different. But, that’s just me. We are still together because of mutual respect and support, love, pursuing adventures, all the “honeymoons” aka trips, and laughing….laughing a lot.

  64. Hi Randal – really enjoyed this item, but most of all enjoyed the amount of commentary. I was going to add my own comments, but they feel a little long, so perhaps in a week or so I’ll write up a response article. But, I like how you provided the charts around it and individual details, as I did read another article based on the survey and thought to myself, “hmm, this needs a bit more added to it”.

  65. R Henn says:


  66. Bob Parsons says:

    “the fact that people with large weddings get divorced much less is likely follows from the fact that people with large weddings have a large group of family and friends who support and approve of their marriage. ”

    But what if it doesn’t mean that. In the article you also say it similar, starting with “Clearly…..” What if it means the individual are good at having relationships with others & thus will be good at having a relationship together.

    To pursue the advice of the original assumption means convincing as many as possible to be excited about your wedding, and even more important, to attend. My potential assumption means learning how to get along with a wide variety of people.

    After deebating though, I do want to say great article. I had heard the data previously but I really enjoyed your analysis.

  67. william says:

    what I really want to know: do people with a history of large numbers of sexual partners have a higher divorce rate than people who save themselves for their husband/wife, or have had relatively few partners? How come this issue isn’t examined? We’re not so sensitive about sex that we can’t frankly discuss it, can we? Are we afraid of the answers? Thanks for posting the data that you’ve already accumulated.

  68. dedStik says:

    Interesting, wonder where my spouse and I fall in?
    We knew each other 30 days to the day we got married, we skipped engagement and got married instantly by a jp. Neither of us are religious nor do either of us attend church.

    We celebrated our 19th anniversary this past summer.

    • Hlesta says:

      That is what we call an outlier, out of the many, you will always find one that doesnt follow the norm……………great to have your marraige working for you

    • Rick Santorum says:

      Some people have an instant like to each other and the marriage is no different than agreeing to continue to see each other. Essentially you continued to date and learn about each other—you just made it official rather early. That in and of itself may have kept you together.

    • By the way since no one else said it, CONGRATS!

      Your story is quite similar to mine, but we took three whole months to marry. That was back in the 90s. Some people are just lucky enough to have found their cosmic destiny mate ?

    • BillSamuel says:

      Also, there are no absolute statistics provided, so we have no way of knowing which results produced a high rate of divorce.

  69. adam johnson says:

    My Name is Ms. Vivian Adam, I was married to my husband for 13 years and we were both bless with three children, living together as one love, until 2009 when things was no longer the way the was [when he lost his job]. But when he later gets a new job 6 months after, he stated sleeping outside our matrimonial home. Only for me to find out that he was having an affair with the lady that gave he the job. since that day, when i called him, he don’t longer pick up my calls and he nothing since to come out good. Yet my husbands just still keep on seeing the lady. Until I met a very good friend of my who was also having a similar problem, who introduced me to a very good love spell caster. But i told her that if it has to do with things that i am not interested, but she said that it has nothing to do with pay first. but the only thing he was ask to do was just to go and buy the items to cast the spell, and that was what she did. And she gave me the spell caster e-mail address and phone number. When i contacted him, i was so surprise when he said that if i have the faith that i will get my husband back in the nest three [3] day, and off which it was really so. but i was so shock that i did not pay any thing to Dr.obadam, but my husband was on his knells begging me and the children for forgiveness. This testimony is just the price i have to pay. This man obadam is good and he is the author of my happiness. His e-mail address obadamtemple gmail.com

  70. RJ says:

    Interesting article. The data do fit conventional wisdom. Stability, similarity, shared views, common goals for life, a wide support system and seriousness of the marriage commitment are well known to help stabilize marriages. Many of the comments here show a poor understanding of statistics in populations. Statistics in a large data sample will not predict individual examples. Statistics can only be used to predict trends for populations. Marriage has evolved from a permanent agreement to raise a family to modern selfish ideas of a transient business unit which must serve each individual and which can be cancelled when any party grows dissatisfied


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  73. Sonali Chandna says:

    I think it takes complete dedication and believing in the life after marriage, if one puts all effort in making life more like work, party, work, party and more party then all marriages will work out to be great. I dated for a few months after meeting my partner through Meetoutside – 100% free online dating site , after deciding to tie the knot, it takes time to get adapted but eventually works out if we try hard enough.

  74. Sorry but I believe these statistics are skewed! For example…a big reason of couples who make a lot of money for not divorcing is that it would be very financially hard on both of the individuals so they often “come to an arrangement’ or stick it out so they don’t have to divide up the money. To imply that makes a good marriage is incorrect. How many people attended your wedding and how much you spent is also skewed. Most of that money came from parents with VERY HIGH expectations and often who insist that you get married and stay married because of everything they spent–not to mention the debt a couple takes on for however much they spent themselves. it can take YEARS to repay that. Ultimately, a stable marriage is not necessarily happy. Quantity vs. quality is not much goal to reach for… while the statistics might be interesting, they don’t provide any inspiration for creating a happy and satisfying marriage to me.

  75. The secret to a long and happy marriage for men is leaving your socks on during sex. Women LOVE that.

  76. Taylor White says:

    One thing weird about these results: the likelihood of divorce is lower with more wedding attendees but it is higher with higher costs. Doesn’t it cost more to have a lot of guests? I think this should have been handled with some sort of interaction term.

  77. Timothy M Higdon says:

    It seems multitude of money solves quite a bit. Truth.

  78. Shannon Smith says:

    I am Shannon by name. Greetings to every one that is reading this testimony. I have been rejected by my husband after three(3) years of marriage just because another woman had a spell on him and he left me and the kid to suffer. one day when i was reading through the web, i saw a post on how this spell caster on this address aisabulovespell@nullgmail.com , have help a woman to get back her husband and i gave him a reply to his address and he told me that a woman had a spell on my husband and he told me that he will help me and after 3 days that i will have my husband back. i believed him and today i am glad to let you all know that this spell caster have the power to bring lovers back. because i am now happy with my husband. Thanks for Dr.Aisabu. His email: aisabulovespell@nullgmail.com .,

  79. Jude Olney says:

    Good article. Thanks for the bit about correlation and causation at the end.

  80. donna says:

    How long you remain married has absolutely nothing to do with a successful marriage. Anyone can wake up miserable next to the same person everyday. I would love to know how many of the people who do not divorce are happily married.

  81. Crystal says:

    Am Crystal Morgan from united kingdom I want to thank Dr. Ekpiku for getting my lover back to me within 48 hours. When my lover left me i was so tired and frustrated till i search the internet for help and i saw so many good talk about Dr Ekpiku of Ekpikuspelltemple@nulllive.com and i decided to give him a try and i contact him and explain my problems to him and he cast a love spell for me which i use to get my husband back.If you want to get your lover back contact Dr. Ekpiku via email: Ekpikuspelltemple@nulllive.com Dr. Ekpiku the great man that is able to bring back lost love.

  82. Carolyn .L. Martinez says:

    May be someone out there knows what i am talking about and know how its like to be invisible mostly by the one person you are in love with. I was in love an unhappy married man.His marriage was going to limbo and i was the only one there for him. He only saw me as a friend but he was more than that to me. I wish i had the heart to tell him before the went ahead and got married then, may be he would never had be unhappy and may be we both would have been together. Yeah it turned out i was too much or a chicken. Though we are together now literally because of the spell Metodo Acamu a very powerful spell caster i must say helped me cast to make him love me just as i loved him. A lot of people may have different opinion as to if what is did is wrong or right but really, it do not matter because he was in pain and his life was falling to pieces and i was his friend who was in love with him. I knew he was going to be happy with me and he is now. For the first time in three years i have he really happy i mean he tells me every time how free he feels . We are perfect together and i know we are always going to be like this. This would not be the case if not for the spell Metodo Acamu helped me cast. All that was required of me were just the materials that was going to be used to prepare the spell and note Metodo Acamu does not do spells for money i wish i knew why but i do not. He told me that i should get the materials needed for the spell preparing he told me to get them myself and if i can’t find the materials all i had to do was send the total cost for it so he can help me. It wasn’t easy to get them but i found them but it took a lot form me i would advice against getting them yourself because there are not only hard to but also difficult to mail believe me. I am only writing this short article for those out there with problems similar to the one i had. If you want to contact him use this email its what i used [email protected](yahoo). com rewrite this email in the usual email standard form for use

  83. Marcel*** says:

    Funny, but that’s it. The metadata to work on such a retrospective study are much too weak to be useful. People lie for many reasons. Also ” a marriage in America” statistical evaluation involves too many potential biases related to the investigated pools of people with different cultures. That’s why every other “study” can refute the previous one 🙂

  84. Angelina Scott says:


  85. Rhelda says:

    Hummm. My parents met each other on a Thursday night, went to a football game Friday night and got married Saturday night. They were married over 50 years before my dad past away…Oh, and they were married by the justice of the peace, in church clothes, with wedding bands. Dad always told me, if you want it to work, both will work things out together, if not they will fight and divorce.

  86. guest says:

    Serious question: Is it possible to have a wedding with tons of people for very little money? Cost will often positively correlate with number of guests. Then again, I’m guessing that having a support network is more important, and with a large support network it’s more likely you have family helping to pay in the first place (decreasing the burden of post-wedding debt which could contribute to the divorce correlation).

    • Ara Jordan says:

      I recently attended a wedding held in a local orchard that had nearly 300 guests. It was potluck, with the bride’s mother baking the cake and a grandmother donating the wedding band. The couple DIY’d all the decorations and favors and yard games, and the groom’s parents paid for the booze. Both sets of parents picked up the tab for the venue, which wasn’t much to begin with. Her dress had been her grandmother’s, his suit had been his father’s. All in all, I’d be impressed if they spent even $1K out of pocket on everything, and indeed that was a direct result of very supportive family who were more than happy (and able) to cover a majority of the cost of their still-very-bargain-price wedding. And it was the funnest wedding I’ve ever been to.

  87. Lorne says:

    Much of this makes sense to me, but the income and church attendance are the opposite of what I’ve seen in other studies. I guess the church one could match if *many* people attend occasionally, but the income has me stumped ?

  88. Lorne says:

    Oh I see it’s “household income” and tops out at 120k, so perhaps if the scale went up to 300ish it would go back up? Interesting…

  89. jadane says:

    Looking at the summary of the study, those “polled” seem to be taken from those who registered for various “Wedding” sites (which I had no idea existed–in fairness, I also didn’t realize you were supposed to tick off your choice of wedding presents from a “registry”). These people are likely not representative newly weds. Also, the important figure is not “average” cost of a wedding (since a million dollar extravaganza skews that), but rather the “median” cost. If you don’t know the difference, you are as ignorant about statistics as I am about these ridiculous ceremonies.

  90. alwedworth says:

    Don’t Ever Get Married! People get bored! Women get vengeful and never forgive!

  91. Tracy Lee says:

    I had doubts about magic spells after purchasing many spells that never worked I actually decided to never buy a spell again. I have tried different spell casters..Some of them never answered me after I paid and were obvious scammers, some really cast a spell but for some reason it didn’t work. Then I saw a video on youtube with a person who was mentioning she had results with Mama Anita. Despite the suspicions I had her site looked real so I gave spells a last try. It’s probably the best decision I ever made in my life because it worked and my boyfriend came back with me After I broke up with him I spent a lot of time wishing that I could just turn the clock backwards.He helped me do just that. In fact our relationship feels like the break up never even happened. We have never been this happy or passionate, all thanks to mama anita. If you’re looking for a good spell caster look no further,you can contact her straight on (mama.anitaspellcraft@nullhotmail.com). website..http://kelvinlargemyself.wix.com/anita ..

  92. Juju says:

    Hmmm. So invite lots of guests to the wedding but don’t feed them.

  93. Mary Jo Swift Belanger says:

    It could be couples who elope are more likely to be unconventional so may not stay in a marriage because of what others think.

  94. Sarah Kornely says:

    How many people attend your wedding vs how much you spend are exactly opposite, rendering any kind of a correlation null. If 200+ people attend your wedding you are spending big bucks… Js

  95. natasha777 says:

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  96. P.A. says:

    Was married in simple chapel, no guests, no family. Been married almost 27 years.

  97. andrei says:

    Could you elaborate on what kind of statistics you used?

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  99. Lady Efe says:

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  100. Mandy Divanna says:

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  102. Clara Jason says:

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  104. mary silva says:

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  105. maria roupa says:

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  106. Tejaswini says:

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  107. “Crazy enough, your wedding ceremony has a huge impact on the long-term stability of your marriage. Perhaps the biggest factor is how many people attend your wedding: Couples who elope are 12.5x more likely to end up divorced than couples who get married at a wedding with 200+ people.
    Clearly, this shows us that having a large group of family and friends
    who support the marriage is critically important to long-term marital

    Hmm maintaining a marriage vs being happy… I bet everyone would choose to be happy.

  108. BillSamuel says:

    The more people at your wedding and the less you spend on the wedding, the more stable the marriage according to this data. But if you have a huge wedding, it’s going to be expensive. So these 2 pieces of data seem contradictory to me.

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  110. very good and great full article thanks for sharing

  111. linda manzo says:

    What a wonderful and a straight forward spell caster that has brought back joy and happiness into my life!!! Am giving this testimony because am so happy, I want to thank Dr. gbojie for the great thing He has done in my life , He brought happiness back to my life, I never believed in spell casters until my life fell apart when my lover of 6 years decided to call it quit almost when we wanted to get married. I was so emotional breakdown to the extent i could not do anything reasonable again, after 3months in pain before an old friend of mine introduced me to a spell caster on line called Dr gbojie, this was after I have been scammed by various fake spell casters. I was introduced to Dr gbojie a true Spell Caster. In less than 38 hours i saw wonders, my lover came back to me and my life got back just like a completed puzzle, and after 1month later we got married and it was just like a dream to me because i thought i had lost him forever. Thank you Dr. gbojie for helping me but most of all, Your Honesty and Fast Accurate Results. EMAIL HIM FOR HELP: gbojiespiritualtemple@nullgmail.com or gbojiespiritualtemple@nullyahoo.com : through his number +2349066410185. You can also read my testimony on his website: http://gbojiespelltemple.wordpress.com .

42 Pings/Trackbacks for "What makes for a stable marriage?"
  1. […] Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University, took an Emory University study and turned it into a practical guide on how to relate the wedding day to the future strength of a […]

  2. […] Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University, took an Emory University study and turned it into a practical guide on how to relate the wedding day to the future strength of a […]

  3. […] Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University, took an Emory University study and turned it into a practical guide on how to relate the wedding day to the future strength of a […]

  4. […] Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University, took an Emory University study and turned it into a practical guide on how to relate the wedding day to the future strength of a […]

  5. […] Interesting article here from a statistician. […]

  6. […] who marry for looks or money don’t have super stable marriages, but most interestingly, people with huge weddings stay married […]

  7. […] artificial life, and evolutionary computation. Follow his blog at http://www.randalolson.com, where this post first […]

  8. […] About a decade ago, the gossip on everyone's lips was that "1/2 of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce." That factoid was later disproven, but it left a lasting impression on the eligible bach…  […]

  9. […] Check out the rest of the graphs here. […]

  10. […] I make my living by trying to statistically measure and present the security of a computer network. The month I started, it seemed nearly impossible. Today it’s merely difficult. So I loved this story about trying to apply statistics to something even more difficult: marriage success. […]

  11. […] data scientist Randal Olson recently visualized some of the findings from a paper by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, two researchers at Emory […]

  12. […] About a decade ago, the gossip on everyone's lips was that "1/2 of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce." That factoid was later disproven, but it left a lasting impression on the eligible bach…  […]

  13. […] data scientist Randal Olson recently visualized some of the findings from a paper by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, two researchers at Emory […]

  14. […] data scientist Randal Olson recently visualized some of the findings from a paper by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, two […]

  15. […]   统计学家 Randy Olson 调查了数以千计的已婚和离婚的美国人,询问了大量与婚姻有关的问题,根据被调查者的答案使用模型进行分析后揭示了婚姻长期稳定的秘密。当然这些因素只是相关性而不具有因果性。Olson 发现:在订婚前约会 1 到 2 年的夫妻比约会不到 1 年订婚的夫妻离婚的可能性低 20%,约会 3 年及 3 年以上的夫妻离婚的可能性低 39%;你和你配偶挣钱越多离婚的可能性越低,每年挣到 12.5 万美元的夫妻比不到 2.5 万的夫妻离婚可能性低 51%;更关心配偶外表的男性离婚率会增加 1.5 倍,更关心配偶财富的女性离婚率会增加 1.6 倍;你在婚礼上花的钱越多离婚的可能性越大;私奔的夫妻离婚的可能性比有 200 多人出席婚礼的夫妻高 12.5 倍;有蜜月的夫妻比没有蜜月的夫妻离婚可能性低。 […]

  16. […] Olson, a fourth-year computer science graduate research assistant at Michigan State University, crunched the data in the Emory report to create some graphs. Couples who spend $20,000 on their wedding (excluding […]

  17. […]   统计学家 Randy Olson 调查了数以千计的已婚和离婚的美国人,询问了大量与婚姻有关的问题,根据被调查者的答案使用模型进行分析后揭示了婚姻长期稳定的秘密。当然这些因素只是相关性而不具有因果性。Olson 发现:在订婚前约会 1 到 2 年的夫妻比约会不到 1 年订婚的夫妻离婚的可能性低 20%,约会 3 年及 3 年以上的夫妻离婚的可能性低 39%;你和你配偶挣钱越多离婚的可能性越低,每年挣到 12.5 万美元的夫妻比不到 2.5 万的夫妻离婚可能性低 51%;更关心配偶外表的男性离婚率会增加 1.5 倍,更关心配偶财富的女性离婚率会增加 1.6 倍;你在婚礼上花的钱越多离婚的可能性越大;私奔的夫妻离婚的可能性比有 200 多人出席婚礼的夫妻高 12.5 倍;有蜜月的夫妻比没有蜜月的夫妻离婚可能性低。 […]

  18. […] 其它 nimda 15秒前 1℃ 0评论 统计学家Randy Olson调查了数以千计的已婚和离婚的美国人,询问了大量与婚姻有关的问题,根据被调查者的答案使用模型进行分析后揭示了婚姻长期稳定的秘密。当然这些因素只是相关性而不具有因果性。Olson发现:在订婚前约会1到2年的夫妻比约会不到1年订婚的夫妻离婚的可能性低20%,约会3年及3年以上的夫妻离婚的可能性低39%;你和你配偶挣钱越多离婚的可能性越低,每年挣到12.5万美元的夫妻比不到2.5万的夫妻离婚可能性低 51%;更关心配偶外表的男性离婚率会增加1.5倍,更关心配偶财富的女性离婚率会增加1.6倍;你在婚礼上花的钱越多离婚的可能性越大;私奔的夫妻离婚的可能性比有200多人出席婚礼的夫妻高12.5倍;有蜜月的夫妻比没有蜜月的夫妻离婚可能性低;固定去教会的夫妻,离婚可能性低46%。 […]

  19. […] Was eine stabile Ehe ausmacht (randalolson.com, Randal Olsen, englisch) Lange Ehen sind nicht nur eine Frage der Liebe, sondern […]

  20. […] 興味深い結果をミネソタ大学でコンピューター・サイエンス研究助手、ランダル・オルセン氏が見事にチャートに転化させていました。マーケットウォッチがこれを報じています。 […]

  21. […] 统计学家 Randy Olson 调查了数以千计的已婚和离婚的美国人,询问了大量与婚姻有关的问题,根据被调查者的答案使用模型进行分析后揭示了婚姻长期稳定的秘密。当然这些因素只是相关性而不具有因果性。Olson 发现:在订婚前约会 1 到 2 年的夫妻比约会不到 1 年订婚的夫妻离婚的可能性低 20%,约会 3 年及 3 年以上的夫妻离婚的可能性低 39%;你和你配偶挣钱越多离婚的可能性越低,每年挣到 12.5 万美元的夫妻比不到 2.5 万的夫妻离婚可能性低 51%;更关心配偶外表的男性离婚率会增加 1.5 倍,更关心配偶财富的女性离婚率会增加 1.6 倍;你在婚礼上花的钱越多离婚的可能性越大;私奔的夫妻离婚的可能性比有 200 多人出席婚礼的夫妻高 12.5 倍;有蜜月的夫妻比没有蜜月的夫妻离婚可能性低。 […]

  22. […] makes for a stable marriage? Do men on OKCupid follow the standard creepiness rule? Guy writes chilling post about being a […]

  23. […] About a decade ago, the gossip on everyone's lips was that "1/2 of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce." That factoid was later disproven, but it left a lasting impression on the eligible bach…  […]

  24. […] According to this chart (click to enlarge): […]

  25. […] Olson has a very popular post on predictors of divorce, based on research by two economists at Emory University. The post has a lot […]

  26. […] What makes for a stable marriage.  (Randal Olson) […]

  27. […] What makes for a stable marriage.  (Randal Olson) […]

  28. […] The more people attend your wedding, the less likely you are to divorce. But the more money you spend on your wedding, the more likely you are to divorce… […]

  29. […] entre os custos do casamento e a duração do enlace matrimonial. O blog Randal S. Olson publicou um texto mais acessível sobre o […]

  30. […] summary of the research appears in Randalolson.com. Here are two conclusions that surprised […]

  31. […] scientist Randall S. Olson visualized the results in a series of graphs, which you can see below. The first shows that while marrying for the money makes it moderately […]

  32. […] adults who have been married to a member of the opposite sex. Their findings were also broken out into visual form by data scientist Randal […]

  33. […] out this interesting post that correlates divorce rates to a whole host of factors. Did you know that the more people spend […]