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Marriage is a culturally universal concept dating back thousands of years, likely before even the earliest records of the legal and cultural ceremony. Although matrimony began as a transfer of property between families, it has transformed significantly through new traditions, societal changes and growing rights for women, who now engage in the bond at their own will in most developed societies. Still, marriage has continued to change both financially and legally in the U.S. and around the world, even over the last 300 years.

Marriage in the 1700s

Like most other things in the 1700s, marriage was much easier financially back then than it is now. During this time, marriage was still more of a social investment than a romantic endeavor, although the poor had more flexibility when it came to choosing a spouse. Still, it was the cultural norm for both the wealthy and common folk to seek a spouse that was in their same financial bracket.


The cost of a wedding, engagement ring and home must be weighted for inflation to get a true idea of how the economics of marriage have changed over the last 300 years. However, because there were often fewer people and friends to be connected to, the cost of a wedding simply accounted for the expenses of a small ceremony with a nice meal. There were no photographers or DJs to pay for in those days.


Up until the 1500s, wedding rings were simple, absent of diamonds and other precious rocks, which made them more affordable and easier to give as gifts. Since then, they have become more elaborate and go through a more streamlined process as they’re created. In the 1700s, diamonds were still finding their way into mass popularity, which meant they were more affordable than the 14 karat rings people purchase these days.


The 18th century was still a time of exploration in the U.S., with many people building their own homes from the ground up. Many homes were built using readily available natural resources and were often put together by the family themselves, perhaps with the help of neighboring families.


This made the prices of homes relatively inexpensive and was something newlyweds were often quick to invest in as part of their marriage. Although nice homes were still largely maintained for the rich, it was seen as the American dream to own a home — something that Thomas Jefferson insisted be made available to as many Americans as possible.

Economics of Marriage Now

Today, many guidelines exist for the amount of money couples spend on wedding rings, as well as every other aspect of their marriage. One of these guidelines is that a good engagement ring should cost three months of a person’s salary. Depending on how much money you make, that can be several thousands of dollars. In the end, however, an engagement ring is as much down to personal taste as it is personal budget.


One style making a resurgence is the timeless appeal of vintage style rings. These rings, along with true vintage styles, appeal to the history-loving bride and groom. Like modern rings, their prices range widely, so be sure to budget accordingly.


When it comes to homes for newly married couples, Americans today, particularly Millennials, are by and large foregoing home ownership as part of their life goals. According to Expert Insurance Reviews, “One primary reason that millennials aren’t buying houses is debt — student loan debt to be specific. The Federal Reserve Board of Division and Research & Statistics has found a direct correlation between the rise in student loan debt and the decline of homeownership among young adults.”


Today, stagnant wages, the cost of an education, and the cost of homes has made it incredibly difficult for many Americans to invest in the traditional American dream of owning a home. The new dream for many Americans is simply to attain an education, to have access to healthcare, and to have a stable job that pays well.

Growth of the Wedding Industry

The wedding industry is huge today, with many people wanting their weddings to be large celebrations they can share with all their friends and family. The industry has grown dramatically over the last several decades and is expected to grow an additional two percent this year. Gowns, cakes, venues, DJs, photographers, food, and rings are all more elaborate and expensive than ever.


While the changes between marriage now and in the 1700s have been largely positive in regards to social aspects, the economics have been difficult for many people to keep up with. There is a lot to be said for the simplicity of a time without the complexities of modern debt and income inequality, although a lot of these changes have simply been factors of societal growth. The economics of marriage have changed greatly, but like everything else, this is something that will continue to grow and transform in the future.

About the Author:
Frankie Wallace contributes to a wide variety of blogs and writes about many different topics, including politics and the environment. 
Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho and is a recent graduate of the University of Montana.