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The bigger the wedding, the happier the marriage study finds

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Keeping the guest list down is the perennial headache known to couples the world over when they're planning a wedding.

But perhaps instead of agonising over which remote relatives or old school friends to leave off the invites, you should simply make like Kim and Kanye and throw the party open.

According to a new study from the University of Virginia, couples who opt for large formal weddings with 150 guests or more stand a better chance of having a happy marriage than those who celebrate their nuptials with a more intimate affair.

Researchers from the university's National Marriage Project examined data from 1,000 unmarried Americans aged 18-34, taken between 2007 and 2008 as part of a Relationship Development Study.

The team followed the romantic trajectory of these participants over the next five years, during which time 418 individuals had tied the knot.

A graph showing results from the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project

Asking volunteers questions about "marital happiness, confiding in one another, believing things are going well in the relationship, and thoughts of divorce", researchers found that among couples with 150 or more guests at their wedding, 47 percent reported having a high quality marriage in the years that followed.

In contrast, only 31 percent of couples with weddings attended by 50 or fewer people said they were happily married later on.

Couples that held medium-sized weddings - 51 to 149 guests - did not fare much better; only 37 percent of this group felt their marriage would endure.

It's not clear exactly why couples who had bigger weddings would enjoy a greater quality of marriage.

Contrary to our perceptions of smaller weddings being more intimate and authentic, the study's authors, Galena K. Rhoades and Scott M. Stanley, hypothesized that bigger weddings might reinforce a couple's subsequent relationship and marriage because their commitment is reinforced by so many people witnessing it.

This in turn makes the need to stick to such a public, ceremonial state of intent greater.

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise tied the knot in front of 150 guests in a lavish Italian castle ceremony 2006. They split five years later

"There is some reason to believe that having more witnesses at a wedding may actually strengthen marital quality," the team wrote. "According to the work of psychologist Charles Kiesler (Kiesler, 1971), commitment is strengthened when it is publicly declared because individuals strive to maintain consistency between what they say and what they do. We try to keep our present attitudes and behaviors in line with our past conduct.

"The desire for consistency is likely enhanced by public expressions of intention. Social scientist Paul Rosenblatt applied this idea specifically to marriage (Rosenblatt, 1977). He theorized that, early in a marriage, marital stability and commitment would be positively associated with the ceremonial effort and public nature of a couple’s wedding. Rosenblatt specifically suggested that holding a big wedding with many witnesses would lead to a stronger desire - or even need - to follow through on the commitment. Our findings suggest that he may have been right."

When analysing the data, the research team took into account potential variables such as participants' income, race, gender and sense of religion. But they didn't make a note of factors such as the price of the wedding or parental income.

This latter factor, in particular, could influence the subsequent quality of a marriage; if a wedding was more expensive or parents were unable to ease the financial burden of it, the subsequent stress could easily cause problems in a relationship.

Kate Moss married Kills guitarist Jamie Hince in the picturesque Cotswolds village of Southrop in 2011. There were 15 bridesmaids, and guests including Naomi Campbell, Jude Law, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood partied for three days

Other factors aside from the size of a couple's wedding were also found to affect their subsequent marriage together.

The authors did take into account the issue of children and identified it as an influencing factor. They found couples who already had a child together or who had a child on the way at the time of their marriage were less likely to have had a big formal wedding - and that having a child before getting married was also associated with lower marital quality.

People who had already been through a divorce or who had lived with someone before meeting their current spouse were also less likely to have a high-quality marriage, the study found.

"What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, so to speak," the authors wrote. "Our past experiences, especially when it comes to love, sex, and children, are linked to our future marital quality."

Come remind yourselves of large and lavish weddings from the world of celebrity - some of which didn't last the distance - by clicking on this link.

Photos: Rex Features

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