Kids are a bargain: it's your other half who is costing you dear

Low angle view of newly weds cutting a wedding cake with friends and family.Creative image #:  57449768License type:  Royalty-

If you're still reeling from the news that it costs more to bring up a child to the age of 21 than it does to buy the average semi-detached home, then there's more bad news today - the cost of maintaining a happy marriage is even higher.

A study by LV= last week put the cost of kids at £231,843 - and absorbing more than a third of the average household's income. It revealed that the time that this was more than the cost of the average semi-detached property.

Now, a separate report from Quidco has put the cost of a happy marriage at £267,357. The incredible cost starts with the average cost of a wedding and honeymoon - at £21,257. Of those who took part in the study, 52% said it was worth investing in, because a dream wedding would set them up for a happy marriage.

But the meringue dress and Caribbean holiday are not enough to keep your other half sweet for the next five decades or so. The study claimed that the happiest couples were those who had an average of three date nights together a month - including meals out, drinks and cinema trips. They calculated that this costs around £39 each time the couple goes out - £117 a month or £1,404 a year.

As if this wasn't expensive enough, the happiest couples also said they had at least three romantic nights in together each month - with movie downloads, takeaways, and a bottle of wine. This sets them back an average of £15.50 per night - or £558 a year.

These couples don't just show up on these romantic evenings in their baby-food-covered jeans or the trainers they trudged across a field in to watch the kids playing sport. To get 'date ready' for one another they forked out an average of £267 a year.

The study also showed that the odd night in or out wasn't enough to keep the dream alive, though. Couples also need holidays away from the kids - with the average couple saying that going away for one holiday and three mini-breaks a year was the ideal balance. This comes to a total of £2,337 a year.

Then there's the vexing issue of presents. Couples claimed that a gift twice a month kept them sweet - at a cost of £305 a year. They also said they spent £477 on jewellery each year for their other half; and happy wives usually received a bunch of flowers a month.

It's easy to see how these lavish gifts and treats add up - and make the average marriage more financially draining that having a child or buying a home.


However, this is, of course, absolute nonsense. The researchers themselves pointed out that you can get all these things far cheaper through canny shopping, deals, vouchers and cashback - but that's missing the point slightly.

Of course, we'd all be happier than we are right now if we could jet off for a relaxing break four times a year, and receive lavish gifts every week, but an unhappy couple that does all of these things won't make themselves happy. Likewise, a happy couple doesn't need to do any of them.

A couple that spends £1,000 or less on their wedding is no less likely to have a happy marriage than one that insists on blowing the best part of £25,000. And the vast majority of the rest of these findings are patently pipe dreams. If a researcher asked you how many holidays a year would make you happy, you may well say four, but you don't need them.

Likewise, we'd all love a life of lavish gifts, but the vast majority of couples can't remember the last time they received a gift out of the blue from one another - unless you count the time the garage did a BOGOF on de-icer and they gave you their spare.

And while we'd all love date night to be an expensive affair, most people would be happy to spend it on the sofa re-watching a favourite old DVD and eating a fakeaway they knocked up in the kitchen.

A separate part of the Quidco research actually found the important stuff. It said that happy couples were likely to say 'I love you' to one another, that 82% of people said a strong marriage takes work, and that 73% said each member of the couple needed to put equal effort into the relationship to make it work. Some 84% agreed that money couldn't buy a happy relationship.

So £267,357 might buy you some nice gifts, and great holidays, but a happy marriage is something that's simultaneously far cheaper - and much more expensive.

£20,983 wedding: where the money goes
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Kids are a bargain: it's your other half who is costing you dear

This is the biggest expense, and accounts for 16% of everything couples spend on the wedding. There are endless dramatic places to splash the cash, and if you want to get married in a castle, on a beach, or in a major historic property, it’s all perfectly possible - for a price.

However, there will be those who wonder why the wedding can’t take place in a church or a smart registry office - and the reception in a village hall. These places certainly exist, and could cut the venue hire cost down to a couple of hundred pounds.

It’s not hard to see why couples fancy blowing a fortune on an incredible holiday, but it begs the question of whether it’s such a practical idea.

There’s no earthly reason why two such enormous costs have to be bunched together like this. Surely a wiser approach would be to get married, and then start saving for a great holiday. You don't have to be on a white beach in the sun for it to be romantic or memorable.

This is a huge sum for feeding a few people, and is often the result of the fact that when you are booking a venue, you will be tied into using their caterer.

It’s one reason why a fantastic way to cut costs is to find a venue that lets you do it yourself. That way you can choose between setting out a cold buffet in the morning on a shoestring, or hiring in a cut-price catering option, like a gourmet burger or pizza van.

This includes the cost of an engagement ring and two wedding rings. There will be couples who argue that this is something that you’ll wear every day for the rest of your life, so is worth investing in.

There will be others who highlight that by shopping around you can get the lot (including the obligatory diamond) for less than £400, and anything else is pure vanity.

This includes a heart-stopping £1,098 for the bride’s dress. Just to be clear, that’s a grand for a dress you wear once.

There are hundreds of second hand dresses on sale on sites like preloved if you’re after the big meringue, or you could get one made from scratch for a couple of hundred pounds. Then if you sell it on again afterwards, your dress could cost you less than 20% of this insane figure.

If you’re stuck buying the overpriced booze offered by a posh venue, you’ll easily bust the budget, and if you bring your own to a venue like this they’ll sting you for corkage instead.

A much better idea is to find somewhere that lets you bring your own - and after the first few drinks, ask a local pub to run a bar for you.

The argument in favour of spending a fortune on photos is that this is one aspect of the day that really will last, and if you skimp on the photographer, you won't have a beautiful album to linger over for decades to come.

That said, you'll probably have one hour of looking at your best during your wedding - from when you walk down the aisle, to the moment you have finished taking the obligatory formal photos. There’s nothing stopping you bringing in a professional for that hour, and then setting up a Facebook page for your friends to post all the photos they take throughout the rest of the day and night.

The live band feels vital for some couples, but ask yourself, when was the last time you were blown away by the live band at a wedding?

A far cheaper option is to make your own disco. It’s easy enough to hire some speakers and lights, switch it all on, plug an MP3 player in, and get your favourite music all night for next to nothing.


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