Study: Couples Who Had Bigger Weddings Have Happier Marriages



You know how, the reasoning goes, that if you have a goal—say, to run a marathon next year—and you make it public and well known and talk about it with a lot of people, that you’re more likely to meet it, because you have witnesses who will both hold you to it and give you support?

Well, so goes the reasoning for a new study that shows that couples who had a large guest list and number of attendees at their weddings experience higher marital quality than those with teeny weddings.

The Washington Post piece on the report from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia explains that the study looked at a few aspects of couples’ histories (granted, it’s a somewhat small sample—418 couples) and their overall “marriage quality,” based on how they answered a bunch of are-you-happy-with-this-are-you-happy-with-that questions.

The findings showed that not only were couples who had a larger wedding happier—but that those who had a more formal wedding were, too. Their aforementioned couples-are-held-accountable reasoning:

[T]here is some reason to believe that having more witnesses at a wedding may actually strengthen marital quality. According to the work of psychologist Charles Kiesler (Kiesler, 1971), commitment is strengthened when it is publicly declared because individuals strive to maintain consistency between what they say and what they do … Social scientist Paul Rosenblatt applied this idea specifically to marriage (Rosenblatt, 1977). He theorized that, early in a marriage, marital stability and commitment would be positively associated with the ceremonial effort and public nature of a couple’s wedding. Rosenblatt specifically suggested that holding a big wedding with many witnesses would lead to a stronger desire—or even need—to follow through on the commitment. Our findings suggest that he may have been right.

Which is interesting: People often say—and it’s absolutely true—that you don’t need the big, huge, fancy ballroom and the fancy wedding and the fancy tableclothes and champagne and 10-piece band and all of that to declare your love for each other and set yourselves up for a wonderful union. You don’t need that. But it’s interesting to hear that the giant guest list that so often goes with that kind of wedding actually has a rather potentially significant plus side to it that stretches past the wedding itself and into marriage.

I mean, don’t make yourself nuts planning some huge thing or go into debt to try and pay for it—it’s more just that if you’re already doing that kind of wedding, isn’t it nice to know about the possible side effects?

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