Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Cost of Marriage

I've often posted about the cost of relationships. Aren't you glad we Americans don't live in a country where there truly is a real, enforced cost to relationships? Check out this NY Times article about marriage in Egypt. Ok, it's not like there is officially a cost to have a relationship there, but in many cultures, particularly Islamic ones, it's just not acceptable to have a relationship outside of marriage. And if you want to get married, here's what it's going to cost you:

And this is in a country where a college graduate could have a job making $100 a month:

In the village of Shamandeel, not far from Zagazig, it took Walid Faragallah six years after graduating with a degree in psychology to find a job in a factory, and his pay was less than $50 a month. That is an average period of waiting — and average pay — for new entries in the job market. Mr. Faragallah kept that job for a year, and recently found another factory job for $108 a month, two hours from his home.
There was a similar story on NPR's This American Life, about matchmakers (listen here):
Miriam and her husband were development workers in Afghanistan. They'd had a whirlwind romance themselves, so when they heard that their driver was in love, but didn't have enough money to propose to the girl, they made a grand romantic gesture: they gave him $10,000 to pay for the dowry and the wedding. It was a move they probably should have known wouldn't work out so well.
Fortunately our society is a lot more flexible about these things! We may face peer pressure to have fancy weddings, but we can always just go to city hall and skip the ceremony, not to mention the fact that there is very little stigma nowadays to having relationships outside the traditional definition of marriage. Keep this all in mind the next time you're griping about having to buy a bridesmaid's dress you'll never wear again!


Anonymous said...

There is an enforced cost to marriage in the U.S. -- the so-called marriage tax. Tax bracket threshholds do not just get doubled for married couples, they are lower. For example, if we were to say $50,000 was the limit to the 25% tax bracket and anything above that was the 28% tax bracket for singles, for a married couple, $100,000 is not the limit between the two brackets, it's probably something like $85,000 (and I am making these numbers up, I have no idea what the real limits are). So a couple that each make $49,000 annually will be in the 25% marginal tax bracket as singles, but when they get married they will get pushed into the 28% bracket.

My fiance (a CPA) and I were considering a December wedding, but when he crunched the numbers it turns out we would save around $10,000 in taxes if we held off until January because we would have had to pay taxes as if we had been married for the entire year if we were married by December 31. So a January wedding it is. How romantic is that?

mOOm said...

Here (Australia) you must have a ceremony. No registry only wedding. But I guess you could cut it down to the $400 we are paying our celebrant if you just invited two witnesses and didn't use rings (not required). We're spending about $3000 probably in total.

Jon said...

Anonymous, that's not a marriage tax so much as a dual-income tax. Which they deserve. After all, your expenses don't DOUBLE when you get married, right? You don't keep 2 apartments or houses, 2 cable bills, 2 separate cell phone plans, etc.

Traditionally, of course, marriage was a huge tax CUT because if a guy got married and his wife didn't work (or had a low-end job) then his tax bracket would probably fall.

Anyway, I also wanted to comment on the article.

1. Why is this guy trying to BUY and furnish an apartment instead of renting?

2. Why isn't the dowry being factored in as an offset to this cost?

3. Don't you feel awful for young Muslim women? The article is basically saying that young unmarried Muslim men turn to extremism and violence. So to prevent that let's get them all married so that they vent their anger and frustration on their wives instead of society! Great!

Sam said...

I read Dave Eggers' "What is the What" a few months back and there was discussion about marriage and dowry in Sudanese culture. I thought the translation from USD to cows to be very funny. I found an excerpt online:
With the choice narrowed down to two girls “it came down to brideprice”. One of the girls is very beautiful and her family demands a high price for her, one of the highest ever heard of in Kakuma: two hundred and forty cows, which translates to approximately USD 20,000. “As you can imagine, a man like Gabriel, who is being paid USD 9.90 at a beef-processing plant, is lucky to have saved USD 500 over the course of two years.” So Gabriel decides to hear the price of his second choice, which turns out to be one hundred and forty cows or USD 13,000.

Then after the engagement the to-be-groom has to ensure that the prospective bride doesn't get raped or otherwise lose her virginity which lowers her value and would terminate the marriage contract (IIRC) which would mean that the guy is now out of his initial investment.

VixenOnABudget said...

Thanks for the link to the article. Quite thought provoking.