About 2 million couples tie the knot in the U.S. each year. And, average spending on formal weddings comes in at over $28,000. With a still high divorce rate in this country, researchers at the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia wondered if there’s a correlation between formal weddings and marital bliss and published their findings in the report titled “Before I Do.”

In the National Marriage Project study, 89% of respondents had a formal wedding. 41% of these couples who had a formal ceremony report have a high quality marriage. Only 28% of couples who did not have a formal wedding reported enjoying a high quality marriage. Researchers also detected an association with the size of the wedding and marriage happiness. Here are the numbers of people who reported being in a high quality marriage and the number of people who attended their weddings:

  • 50 guests or fewer: 31%
  • 51-149 guests: 37%
  • 150 or more guests: 47%

Analysts who studied this data suspect that couples who take the trouble to make a commitment to each other before a large crowd are consciously deciding to spend their lives together. This practice stands in sharp contrast to couples who drift into marriage after cohabitating and perhaps have a child or two before finally deciding to formalize their relationship.

Analysts points to the higher divorce rates for men or women who have cohabited with a number of different partners before marrying as a risk factor for unhappiness. 42% of consumers who are currently in a high quality marriage have not lived with any romantic partner except their spouse. Having a child from a prior relationship is another stress factor in a marriage. Only 25% of women in a high quality marriage report having had a child with another partner.

As consumers plan their weddings, they’re likely to spend significant sums of money. About 3.1% of all U.S. adults expect to pay for wedding and honeymoon related expenses in the next year according to AudienceSCAN. 60% of these consumers are under age 35. Couples about the take the plunge over-index in their intent to spend on personal appearance services. This includes dental procedures or teeth whitening, manicures and pedicures, and tattoos. At least 63% of these consumers will vacation in the U.S. in the next year, which is 36% higher than average.

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.