The Bigger Your Wedding, The Happier Your Marriage?

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We're all familiar with the judge-y idea that you shouldn't hook up if you're looking for something more serious. But, it turns out, while hooking up might feel pretty casual at the time, new research suggests it could lead to some pretty big commitments, including matrimony. (That is, if you're into that kind of thing.) In fact, over a third of the happiest marriages began as hookups, according to a recent study.

Compiled by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the study examines the premarital lifestyles of 418 people who got married over the course of a five-year study period. All of these participants were between the ages of 18 and 40 and got married to someone of the opposite sex. Once married, they were asked about the quality of their marriages (based on factors such as ability to confide in one another and whether or not they had thoughts of divorce). They were also asked whether their relationship started as a hookup. For a whopping 32% of participants, this was exactly the case.

So, while the majority of eventually-married couples didn't start quite that casually, there's a strong possibility that, if you so wish, your one-night stand may pave the way for something more. Of the "high-quality" marriage group (above the 60th percentile of mutual satisfaction), a similar 36% began as a hookup. Still, since researchers didn't look into the other ways people had met their partners, there's no real way to know what the non-hookup means of achieving a lasting meet-cute may be.

The hookup aspect isn't this study's only interesting finding; the researchers turned up a bunch of factors that were linked to better marriages down the line. For instance, a high number of wedding guests was correlated with happier marriages: 47% of the super-happy couples invited over 150 guests. And, only 35% of participants that ranked as a "happier marriage" had ever lived with a partner other than their spouse.

Keep in mind, though, that the "happiness" of these marriages was entirely self-reported, which means it was subject to how each participant wanted to appear. And, because this research only includes partners who got married over the course of the five-year study, it would be interesting to see a follow-up: How many happy marriages remain so after seven years? After 20? Alternatively, what about those who decide against getting hitched in favor of cohabitating?

These questions aside, the study authors do have a few helpful pieces of advice for those who are aiming for the aisle. Their number-one tip: simply be open about the past (especially when it comes to sex, love, and kids), because it can really can affect the future. Additional tips include: celebrate relationship milestones, rather than letting them slip by; and make rituals and community a priority. So, there you have it. The secret to marital success? Hook up, celebrate stuff, and invite all your extended family.