Weddings: Some Data on College Student Perceptions

By Knox, David; Zusman, Marty E. et al. | College Student Journal, June 2003 | Go to article overview

Weddings: Some Data on College Student Perceptions


Knox, David, Zusman, Marty E., McGinty, Kristen, Abowitz, Deborah A., College Student Journal


One-hundred and ninety-six undergraduates at a large southeastern university completed a confidential anonymous 47 item questionnaire designed to assess wedding attitudes and perceptions. Significant gender differences included that women would prepare more, prefer that a professional photographer be hired to document the wedding, and prefer to have a formal wedding. Other findings included that both parents were less likely to be invited if they were divorced and white students had higher expectations that their parents pay for the wedding than nonwhite students. Wedding expectation differences may be the first experienced by the engaged couple which provide an opportunity to test the couple's tolerance and negotiating competence.

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In spite of media attention to what is described as an "alarming" divorce rate, the divorce rate is actually decreasing and the marriage rate is increasing (National Center for Health Statistics, 2001). College students continue to value "having a family" (American Council on Education and University of California, 2002) and getting married continues to be the event toward which courtship eventually moves. Once a couple make a commitment to marry and become engaged, they begin to discuss the wedding which may occasion their first set of realized differences. While previous research on weddings has focused on the role of "white weddings" in popular culture (Ingraham, 1999), on traditional "white wedding" ideals and aspirations (Abowitz, 2000, 2002), celebrity weddings (Boden, 2001), and wedding norms (Schuster, 1997), this study documents the differences women arid men have in their attitudes toward weddings.

Sample

The sample consisted of 196 undergraduates from a large southeastern university who responded to an anonymous 47 item questionnaire designed to assess wedding attitudes and perceptions. Seventy percent of the respondents were female; thirty percent were male. The respondents' ages ranged from 18 to 41 with a median age of 20. Most (80.6%) of the respondents were white and the rest nonwhite. Almost two-thirds (66%) were first or second year students with 23 percent juniors and 12% seniors. Almost half (47.9%) were involved with someone at the time of the survey. The respondents generally came from intact families with 72.9% reporting that their parents were currently married and 27.1% reporting that their parents were divorced or separated.

Findings and Discussion

Analysis of the data revealed several significant differences between women and men college students in regard to various aspects of a future wedding. These differences were specific to sex differences and were not due to race, age, year in college, or grade point average. Among the significant sex differences were the following:

1. Women prepare more. Women were significantly (p<.000) more likely than men (55.9% vs. 17.6 %) to report that they were intent on preparing for their wedding by reading Modern Bride Magazine which they felt would be helpful to them in planning their wedding. College women also prepare by watching programs on television such as "A Wedding Story" which is replacing soap operas in the daytime viewing habits of many such women (Abowitz, 2000). Previous research has confirmed that women evidence more interest and concern for marriage and the family than men (Schroeder et al., 1993; Seccombe and Warner, 1994). Since the wedding marks the beginning point of the legal marriage (the partners may have been "married in their hearts" earlier), it would be expected that women might show more concern than men that their wedding be consistent with current cultural norms (Schuster, 1997).

2. Wedding for bride's family. In terms of who the wedding is for, 16.4% of the men compared to only 11.6 percent of the women see the wedding as being for the bride's family and not for the bride and groom. Hence, while both the potential groom and bride view the wedding as

being for them as a couple, male college students are likely to observe the influence of the bride's mother in suggesting certain arrangements and conclude that the wedding is for the brides' family. …

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