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How Your Wedding Date Impacts Marital Success

Research indicates that some unusual wedding dates are linked with divorce.

We all know a couple who chose to get married on a special date—October 10, 2010 (10-10-10); January 2, 2003 (1-2-03). Other couples choose dates of romantic or other significance such as Valentine's Day, New Years Day, or the birthday of one of the partners.

Some couples select decidedly odd wedding dates like April Fool's Day, Halloween, or the anniversary of a national or historical event of interest. The mutual selection of such unusual dates no doubt conveys something about the (shared) personality traits of the spouses to be. This can be a positive factor constituting an area of similarity, or a predisposition to superstition or the tendency to value novelty over substance.

But although selecting a popular or unusual wedding date will certainly help both partners remember their anniversary, it might reduce attendance at the wedding—a factor which has been linked to a higher rate of divorce. On the other hand, choosing a popular date for nuptials can drive up the costs of the wedding—another factor linked to a higher rate of divorce.

So how do you choose? According to research establishing a link between wedding date selection and duration of marriage, the answer is: thoughtfully.

“Not your Lucky Day”

Research by Jan Kabátek and David C. Ribar in a piece entitlted “Not your lucky day,” (2018) examined the link between specific days of weddings and marriage duration.[i]

They used Dutch marriage and divorce registries from 1999 to 2013, comparing the lengths of marriages that began on ordinary dates with those that began on unusually popular dates. They identified several types of popular dates, including Valentine’s Day and days that were numerically distinct—such as dates with the same or sequential number values (e.g., 9.9.99, 1.2.03). They showed that the rate of weddings on such dates was 137 to 509 percent higher than on ordinary dates.

Here comes the interesting—and unfortunate—part. Kabátek and Ribar found that the chances of divorce for couples who married on special dates were 18 to 36 percent higher than for those who tied the knot on ordinary dates. Even after controlling for characteristics of some couples that could explain some of the higher divorce risks, they found special-date weddings to be more vulnerable, creating odds of divorce that were 10–17 percent higher compared to marriages on ordinary dates. They found these relationships are even stronger for couples in first time marriages.

What's In a Date? Practical Considerations

In their study, Kabátek and Ribar acknowledge several practical considerations impacting the selection of a wedding date. They note that choosing an unusual date might reduce wedding attendance, while selecting a popular date could reduce potential venue availability options and increase wedding costs. They cite prior research demonstrating that high priced weddings, low wedding attendance, and less formal ceremonies, lead to less durable marriages.

They do, however, explain in their study, “Putting superstition and numerology aside, it is hard to pin a causal explanation on the wedding date itself. We do not see these special dates as causal. Rather, we see the choice of a particular date as a marker for other aspects of the wedding, characteristics of the couple, and even the progression of their relationship.”

The note that smaller weddings that are more informal could indicate the couple lacks significant social support, or is uncomfortable within their social network. On the other hand, they recognize that couples might intentionally opt for smaller or less elaborate wedding ceremonies if they perceive less need for social validation due to higher confidence about their marriage decision.

Specific Results Linked to Specific Dates

Kabátek and Ribar examined the correlation between marriage duration and specific dates. They found the ratio of divorce was “37 percent higher for Valentine’s Day weddings, 26 percent higher for same-number-date weddings, and 18 percent higher for sequence-date weddings than for ordinary date weddings.”

Regarding the attribution to the characteristics and vulnerabilities of the individuals involved, they found that couples who chose to get married on special dates “tended to have less education, were more likely to have children already living in their households, were more likely to have one or both partners remarrying, and were less similarly matched than couples who wed on ordinary dates.”

Even when they controlled for these characteristics, they found the ratio of divorce was still higher. Specifically, “11 percent higher for Valentine’s Day weddings, 17 percent higher for same-number-date weddings, and 10 percent higher for sequence-date weddings than for ordinary weddings.”

More Important Than a Date

Certainly, there is no indication that selecting a special date of significance for a wedding will thwart its success. Many happy couples that selected distinctive wedding dates remain blissfully in love after years of marriage. More likely, for some couples, certain personality characteristics might impact both the selection of an unusual or distinctive date, and relational success.

Reference

[i]Jan Kabátek and David C. Ribar, “Not your lucky day: romantically and numerically special wedding date divorce risks,” 2018, https://doi-org.libproxy.sdsu.edu/10.1007/s00148-017-0684-6.

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