- 9 years ago
- Wedding: November 2008
I am an editor by trade, and currently I’m editing a fascinating psychology article that’s so relevant to wedding planning. The subject is the relative enjoyment of material possessions versus experiences. The authors did a bunch of experiments to determine that people are happier in the long term with their significant experiential purchases than with their significant material purchases (controlling for type of purchase, cost, time since bought, etc.; experimentally manipulating purchase type as well as getting correlational data).
Our long term happiness has to do with how much we experience decision regret after the fact, which is tied to our decision-making strategy. They state that we tend to use different decision strategies when purchasing material things or experiences (they were looking at major decisions—things you were spending at least $50 on). For material goods, we are more likely to maximize our choices—-evaluate every option and try to pick the absolute best one. For experiences, we are more likely to satisfice—pick the first or any option that meets our baseline criteria (which may be stringent, mind you). The maximizing strategy leads you to agonize over little details, even after the decision is made, and even if you can’t take it back. The satisficing strategy leads you to make a good decision and then not worry about the rest. This divide happens because it’s easier to compare two material goods than it is two experiences. You can’t really imagine what it would be like to have a different wedding day, but you can easily imagine what another dress would be like (hello, two-dress brides!). Memories are also more precious and a part of us, so we’re less willing to potentially give them up or seriously think about alternatives.
This got me thinking about weddings….how we agonize over little details. For me, especially how I agonized over my dress. I bought the first dress I loved, but then afterward I was seized with dress regret. What if there was a better dress out there? I still look at wedding dresses and I’ve been married for almost 9 months! Yeesh, it’s shameful. But then I think of my overall wedding day and declare it one of the most wonderful days of my life and that I wouldn’t change a thing!
I started feeling better about my dress when I changed how I looked at it. When I viewed it more as an experience—as the dress I wore on that wonderful day—than as a possession, I feel so much more fond of it! (The authors studied this phenomenon too, and concur). When I thought of the other details too as more “experiences” than possessions, I also feel happier about my choices.
What about you? How do you see “things” versus “experiences” as being a part of your wedding day? Does one make you happier than the other?