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How Kate Middleton and Prince William could hurt marriage in the US

The lavish wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William comes as reality TV is fueling the appetite for 'perfect' (and expensive) weddings in the US. But most people can't afford them.

By Staff writer / April 27, 2011

Soldiers of the Household Cavalry wait for orders outside Westminster Abbey in London Wednesday as they take part in an overnight dress rehearsal for the royal wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Alastair Grant/AP


Los Angeles

The wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William may be British, but it fits squarely into the burgeoning “fairy-tale wedding” craze that has thrived on American reality TV and helped drive the cost of the average American wedding to $30,000.

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The lavish spectacle sets the bar at a precarious new height for another generation of young brides aspiring to a “dream wedding,” normalizing the most expensive in everything bridal, from a couture gown to real diamond tiaras.

Some in the wedding industry suggest that the phenomenon is contributing the continued decline in the US marriage rate – from 72 percent in 1960 to 52 percent in 2008. As the cost of a wedding rises, some young couples are choosing to defer or forgo the institution altogether, says Allison Wisnefski, CEO of the online resource site,

“We are in an age of reality television, particularly including lavish Hollywood-type weddings," such as those on “Real Housewives,” “The Bachelor,” and “The Royal Wedding,” she says via e-mail.

The amount of reality television portraying the “perfect” wedding (with an unaffordable price tag) “is one of the biggest causes for the drop in marriages,” she suggests. She sees clients that are “not even getting married, and using the $30,000 toward their living, whether they buy a home in the down economy or rent."

Census figures show that the number of singles cohabiting has doubled during the past decade to 7.5 million in 2010.

This is a new kind of haves and have-nots, says University of Pittsburgh marriage expert Christine Whelan. “Ninety-nine percent of us will never have a marriage like the royal wedding,” she says. “But just setting up a standard like that even to aspire to begins to be an obstacle to taking the step across all demographics.”

She points out that throwing the resources of a young union into a splashy event can undermine the stability of the marriage. But she acknowledges the growing pressure to do so. “It’s getting to the point where throwing a $100,000 wedding is a sign of your commitment, and you have no choice.”

Concordia Univeristy Chicago professor Karin Anderson found herself in that precise situation six years ago, just after turning 30.


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