Thursday, October 15, 2015

Reverse Weddings: Should We All Pay for Performance?

This is a thought exercise. It is not meant to offend.

If you get offended by things that challenge convention, may make you feel uncomfortable, or may make you feel criticized for past or present decisions, stop reading now.

It’s just an intellectual exercise. If you don’t like that, please move on.

Initial Assumption: Marriage is a good thing and that marriage to the same person is preferable to multiple marriages for both the individual and for society.

I was talking to someone the other day (I really wish I could remember who) and s/he said, “you know, we shouldn’t have big weddings right when people decide they want to get married, we should do it after 10 years…that way, we know it is working.”

I started to mull about that and shared it with my pal, Brian. 

We both hypothesized that the current wedding model may be outdated, flawed, and overdue for a change.

Some things to consider:

1.     Most people agree that the wedding experience is fun and great.
However, in hindsight, many people when asked the question of “would you rather have a big wedding or get the same amount of money to jump start your lives together?” many would opt for the money.

2.     Divorce used to not be socially acceptable. Now, it is.
There is a decent percentage (say 50%) of weddings where everyone is paying to celebrate something that won’t last. Almost everyone attending the wedding wants it to work, so attending/buying a gift/paying for a wedding is an investment in that couple’s future.  However, very few people would consistently make an investment where 50% of the time, they lose their initial investment.

3.     Marriage is really, really difficult.  Taking the same amount of money that parents/friends/family would invest in a wedding and putting it in escrow provides an additional financial incentive to stay married. Obviously, some marriages will end, no matter what, but a feeling of “we’re in this together to get the prize” may save some. Heck, the conservatives will love this one.

4.     Deferring the party allows couples to focus on the right things at the beginning.
Planning a wedding is stressful. Planning a life together is even bigger. However, by making the commitment to spend the rest of your lives together and then immediately jumping into planning what is essentially one big party, couples may be distracted from the more important task of figuring out what their true long range goals are and how to get there.

Perhaps the pre-marriage time could be better spent on getting the right habits in place to set up more couples for success more quickly?

So, what can be done?
Like  a “reverse mortgage” that pays out over years, we said, “what if you had a reverse wedding?”

All your friends and family could buy you a gift (cash or some item) but it is held in escrow.

Then, as you hit milestones (say 1 year, 3 year, etc.), a portion of the Wedding Fund is paid out…maybe it’s amortized over 30 years. And the couple has the option to just take the cash or, if they want, have a wedding at year 10 (or some actuarial tipping point that says “couples that stay married for more than x years are 80% more likely to stay married.”

Simultaneously, I recognize that the wedding and divorce industries would likely resist this move as they have the most to lose.

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