Glamorous weddings certainly raise the bar for couples, and set benchmarks that may be difficult to maintain. But to others, a stylish wedding is perceived as a rite of passage to a new life. Consider that the average cost of a wedding in the United States is around $26,645 (or even higher), but it also depends on where you’re located.

A couple getting married in Bangor, Maine can expect to pay anywhere from $15,769 – $26,281, while a couple in Beverly Hills will likely have to double those figures to as much as $61,064. Of course, it depends upon your personal financial situation. It is customary for the bride’s parents to pay for the wedding in the United States, since the groom’s job is to take care of his wife for the rest of his life.

Regardless, it’s interesting to see what the opportunity costs of an expensive wedding really are. Consider that most newlyweds tend to want to purchase their first new home together. At around $26,645 for a wedding, that constitutes a hefty chunk of change for a down payment on a new home. Financial planners and wealth consultants routinely urge their clients to follow sensible money habits when it comes to big-ticket expense items. For example, a $26,645 down payment on a home would qualify you for a home valued at around $300,000.

To Wed in Style or Not?

Many millennials are choosing to forgo expensive weddings in favour of smaller and more personable soirées with close friends and family. The tens of thousands of dollars that they would otherwise have spent on a wedding and/or honeymoon could be better spent on investing in real estate, and education, or even paying down credit card debt. In fact, the purpose of starting a new life with a new partner is to have a better life, an easier life, and a more fulfilling life.

Debt is one of the prime causes of hardship, uncertainty, and divorce. An interesting statistic emerged from the AWP (Association of Wedding Professionals) which indicated that the wedding industry in the United States generates an average of $86 billion per annum – enough to finance 287,000 couples’ homes valued at $300,000 apiece. This rite of passage comes at a hefty cost, especially when you consider all the other expenses that await newlyweds after the celebrations have ended.

What’s in a Ring?

Perhaps it is a testament to the spending/saving habits of couples that determines whether they stay married or divorced. Emory University conducted a study which indicated that couples who spend $20,000 + on their marriages are 3.5 times more at risk of getting divorced, than couples who spend under $10,000 on their weddings. This could be a reference to the poor financial planning that flashy couples participate in. But it’s a fine line that couples must walk when planning their nuptials. Those who avoid spending money are equally likely to end up separating or divorcing.

Divorce rates rise exponentially when the cost of the wedding ring is less than $500, but couples tend to stay married longer if the cost of the wedding ring is between $500 and $2,000. Anything above that is correlated with higher divorce levels. Here’s another shocking statistic: 4.7/10 couples regret the debt that they incur on their weddings.

For one night of entertainment, couples could be indebted for several years while they are trying to pay off properties, complete postgraduate studies, prepare for an expanding family, and purchase a new vehicle. The sum of all these expenses can prove crippling to a new couple. In comparison, just 25% of couples regret purchasing their first home together – proof that real estate trumps the fanciful wedding expenditures for most couples.