Fall is a season of seasons. Football season, harvest season and pumpkin-spice deodorant season. This also is the season for pumpkin-spice lattes, pumpkin-spice shoelaces and everybody's annual favorite, pumpkin-spice toilet paper.
I wasn't aware, however, the fall also is Engagement Season. According to wedding experts, Engagement Season runs from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day. Wedding-products site WeddingWire.com notes that 43 percent of engagements happen between November and January, as happy couples spend time with family and friends, all while pop culture ladles on the romantic holiday hokum.
Just look at one of the early scenes from the Christmas classic, "It's a Wonderful Life" (as if you could avoid it in the next few months). Jimmy Stewart roughly tells Donna Reed, "Now, you listen to me … I don't want to get married — ever — to anyone! You understand that? I want to do what I want to do!"
And then he gets married. Probably because she was wearing eau de pumpkin-spice.
Hey, young lovers — duck!
Naturally, the arrival of fall in all its pumpkin-spiced glory means that the Wedding-Industrial Complex shifts into high gear, which makes Engagement Season nearly as dangerous for the soon-to-be affianced as Duck Season is for mallards.
That's not just because the average wedding cost $29,858 last year, or because one out of every eight couples end up with significant wedding debt (and corresponding money squabbles) because of overspending on their Perfect Day. Or even because nearly half of all weddings now end in divorce, which guarantees both parties will be poorer than if they'd stayed single, and also are likely to die sooner.
No, it's because the actual things you do during Engagement Season could very well doom your marriage before the flower girl drops the first perfect satin rose petal ($12.50 per package) from her $65 Isabella Flower Girl Basket while also bearing the $54 Here Comes the Bride Canvas Wedding Banner.
Exhibit A: The engagement ring.
According to new research from Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon of the economics department at Atlanta's Emory University, the more expensive the engagement ring, the shorter the marriage. Their survey found that men who spent $2,000 to $4,000 on the ring had a 30 percent greater risk of divorce than if they'd spent $500 to $2,000.
Why, you ask? Well, maybe it's because of the financial stress that comes from buying an expensive rock and the fact that a guy who drops four grand on a ring will likewise spend like crazy on the wedding, which is another factor associated with short marriages. Or it could just be that his new bride comes to her senses when she realizes she married the kind of chump who spends $4,000 on an engagement ring.
Despite all that, getting — and staying — married is an investment that means you'll be more prosperous, happier and live longer than singletons. So, if you do pop the question this Engagement Season, make sure that instead of blowing your dough on a big wedding bash or a shiny finger bauble, you spend your money on the important things — like a home with separate bathrooms.
With, of course, pumpkin-spice air fresheners.
Brian O'Connor is author of the award-winning book, "The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed
Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese."