Social Theory and Practice


published on September 21, 2021

Daniel HallidayOrcid-ID

Positional Consumption and the Wedding Industry

Recent decades have seen substantial increases in the average amount of money spent on wedding ceremonies in economically developed countries. This article develops an account of wedding expenditure as a form of positional competition where participation involves purchasing services in a market. The main emphasis is on the role that conspicuously expensive weddings can play in enabling certain kinds of signalling, most notably the signalling of commitment to a personal relationship and a distinct signalling of personal wealth. The analysis seeks to demonstrate how wedding expenditure is both similar to but distinct from the positional consumption associated with markets in other goods and services. While much of the work in this article is descriptive, it aims to complement more normatively engaged work on the moral status of marriage, and on the proper evaluation and response to excessive positional consumption.