Why you should care
Because weddings are expensive.
The wedding of Kristian Barowsky’s best friend was across the country, and calculating airfare, hotels, presents and fixings, it cost Barowsky nearly two grand to attend. But it was worth it, right?
Wrong. The couple split up a mere 18 months later — and all Barowsky got was a lousy embroidered beach towel.
At some point in many Americans’ lives — during your 20s or 30s, say — the pace of gold-embossed invitations accelerates from a trickle to a flood, and even if you love Champagne, cake, dancing and your friends, you might also love your bank account. Which is why we, like Barowsky, argue that destination weddings should come with a money-back guarantee: If the couple gets divorced within two years of the wedding, the exes must refund their guests’ expenses — like a financial “bond that expires after two years,” says Barowsky. And we’re talking the whole enchilada: flight, hotel, the occasional new dress or suit, bartender tips and Uber rides.
We don’t mean to sound callous — despite a previous broadside, we’re all in favor of lifelong love. Duh: We wouldn’t invest our time, money and emotions on weddings otherwise. As we see it, wedding guests are stakeholders in a legal human bond, which is clear in some traditions: The Jewish chuppah, for instance, is held up by four members of the community, representing their stake in and responsibility for the union. When the couple opts for early divorce, it’s not unfair for guests to wonder why their thoughts and feelings aren’t being considered too, says Claudia Luiz, psychoanalyst and author of Where’s My Sanity?, about strong marriages.
The specter of paying for guests’ travel might even stave off marriage altogether — at least until the couple is really sure about it.
Naysayers, and there are some, argue that wedding guests shouldn’t get off so easily: If marriages are like a startup, inherently risky but potentially game changing, we shouldn’t expect investment returns when the enterprise goes belly-up. Besides, argues Daniel Senning, an etiquette expert with the Emily Post Institute and co-host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast, it can seem pretty insensitive. We should assume couples enter marriage with genuine intentions and that divorce is “even more difficult on the people experiencing it,” Senning says.
Which is why we’d like to point out that the guarantee isn’t meant to benefit only wedding guests. Call it a ploy if you wish, but it’s a mechanism to force the couple to work out the kinks instead of abandoning ship before those critical 730 days. In fact, Beverly Willett, co-founder of the Coalition for Divorce Reform, advocates for longer wait periods before divorce, pointing to some evidence that suggests this might deter divorce. The specter of paying for guests’ travel might even stave off marriage altogether — at least until the couple is really sure about it. After all, up to half of all American marriages end in splitsies. The moral of the story, says Barowsky, is that marriage is a serious commitment, so “don’t waste everyone’s time and money if you’re not absolutely sure.”