No, Your Huge Engagement Ring Won't Make You Divorce

Relationship_Status_Syd2 copyIllustrated by Sydney Hass.
A recent study suggests that a more expensive engagement ring could lead to a divorce, and the media has certainly run away with that headline. But, what's actually happening here is probably a little more complicated.
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The study in question was published last month on the Social Science Research Network by folks at Emory University. It surveyed 3,3150 heterosexual U.S. residents about their first or current marriage. Participants were asked 40 questions about their nuptials, including their age, honeymoon, and wedding expenses. The results suggested that couples whose engagement ring cost was between $2,000 and $4,000 were more likely to end up divorced, compared to those whose rings rang in between $500 and $2,000.
But, the statistics are a little bit messier than that. In bivariate analyses (looking at only two variables), the researchers found a slightly different effect: Couples whose rings were more than $8,000 actually had a lower risk for divorce, and those who didn't have a ring at all were more likely to divorce. So, this suggests that what you spend on an engagement ring might not really have all that much to do with the incredibly complex process that is divorce.
And, this is just a correlation, which means, as usual, that there's not necessarily any causation. We don't know that a large rock was involved in any of these couples' divorce decisions. It could be that if you're the type of person who cares a lot about having an expensive ring, you might simply have high standards that, if unmet, could lead you to eventually divorce. It's also worth noting that this study sample wasn't nationally representative, so we could just be looking at a subset of the population, not widespread trends. And, the sample only included heterosexual couples, so there's that.
In a previous study, researchers found that larger weddings (and, presumably, larger budgets) were actually correlated with happier marriages. So, maybe it's not that spending money on nuptials affects your marriage in the long-term. Maybe it's just how you spend that money — on a party or a rock.