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Not your lucky day: romantically and numerically special wedding date divorce risks

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Characteristics of couples on or about their wedding day and characteristics of weddings have been shown to predict marital outcomes. Little is known, however, about how the dates of the weddings correlate with marriage durability. Using Dutch marriage and divorce registries from 1999 to 2013, this study compares the durations of marriages that began on unusually popular wedding dates with marriages on ordinary dates. We identify several distinct types of popular dates, including Valentine’s Day and numerically special days (dates with the same or sequential number values, e.g., 9.9.99, 1.2.03), showing that on an adjusted basis, the incidence of weddings on such dates was 137–509% higher than ordinary dates. The hazard odds of divorce for these special-date weddings were 18–36% higher than ordinary-date weddings. Sorting on couples’ observable characteristics accounts for some of the higher divorce risks, but even after controlling for these characteristics, special-date weddings were more vulnerable, with 10–17% higher divorce odds compared to ordinary dates. These relationships are even stronger for couples who have not married before.

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  1. The administrative records of educational attainment come from municipal authorities. All municipalities provide records for people born on or after 1987, but municipal participation is incomplete for earlier cohorts, with the number of participating areas falling for successively earlier cohorts. The administrative records have been supplemented with national survey data for a small portion of the population. Overall, we observe educational attainment for 58% of women and 51% of men. The availability of education information does not appear to be associated with other personal characteristics except for birth cohort and region.

  2. Metals and engineering, which employed 7.3% of the grooms is the reference category for them; health care, which employed 19.9% of the brides, is the reference category for them.

  3. The baseline categories for men and women are chosen to be the employment sectors with the largest share of workforce of the respective gender.

  4. Limburg is the omitted province in Table 4.


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This research was supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course. The authors thank Andrew Cherlin, Robert Haveman, Jongsay Yong, colleagues at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, workshop participants at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. However, the authors’ findings and views are their own and should not be attributed to the Melbourne Institute.


Both authors were supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course.

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Correspondence to David C. Ribar.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Responsible editor: Junsen Zhang

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Kabátek, J., Ribar, D.C. Not your lucky day: romantically and numerically special wedding date divorce risks. J Popul Econ 31, 1067–1095 (2018).

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