Company Will Give Weddings $10,000, But You'll Have To Pay The Price If You Break Up
Most people who get married do so believing that their marriages will last, but a new startup, called “Swanluv,” asks, “Are you willing to bet on it?” Swanluv has a potentially controversial business plan: The company will pay $10,000 for your wedding, but with a major string attached. If you get divorced, you owe all the money back — with interest.
According to GeekWire, SwanLuv CEO Scott Avy says that the Seattle-based company is “like a casino for marriages.” Couples start by applying for a loan (up to 10 grand). Swanluv then evaluates the couple’s relationship and sets an interest rate based on how strong it is — the stronger the relationship seems to be, the higher the interest rate they’ll get. If the couple gets married and stays together for the rest of their lives, they never have to pay back the loan. But if they do get divorced at any point, they’ll have to pay back the money and the interest they’ve built up.
At first glance, Swanluv seems to be built on a cynical premise. After all, the company, which launches in February, would seem to need a lot of people to get divorced, simply to break even. Avy insists, however, that the company supports marriage, telling The Washington Post, “Swans, they mate for life. That’s what we’re trying to get behind, everlasting marriage.” He says that money that Swanluv makes from divorces will go toward funding future weddings, and that the company’s real profits will come from advertisements. (Just how the company will generate ad money isn’t clear). He declined to tell The Washington Post if Swanluv had already drawn in outside investors or how many weddings the company will fund when the site launches.
Avy told GeekWire that Swanluv gives couples “a chance to gamble on themselves.” He admits that many people may choose not to take the money, but adds that even that choice raises a vital question: “Should we be getting married if we’re not willing to sign up?”
From that perspective, Swanluv seems like a potentially good idea: If you have faith in the strength of your relationship, why not take free money? And if you don’t think your marriage will last, then why get married at all? But, of course, marriage is a lot more complicated than that, and even the strongest couples will face challenges and life changes that they couldn’t have foreseen when they got married. The idea of everlasting swan love is great and all, but humans live a hell of a lot longer than swans do, and, you know… they’re birds. They eat algae and peck at people who get too close to their nests. I’m not sure it makes sense to look at them as life models.
Avy told GeekWire that Swanluv will offer free marriage counseling to its couples, and that, in cases of marriages ending because of abuse, only one partner will be liable for paying back the debt. That’s a good stipulation, but how that will work in practice isn’t yet clear: Will that measure only go into effect if a spouse is convicted in court of domestic abuse? Will it only work in cases of physical abuse? What if a partner is abused but chooses not to press charges? Who will decide whether this clause applies to a marriage?
As The New York Times points out, the divorce rate in the U.S. has been declining for thirty years (despite the persistent myth that half of marriages end in divorce). There are many reasons for this decline, including that people are getting married older and that they’re more likely to live together before marriage (and therefore break up before marriage if it’s not a strong relationship). Gendered expectations for partners in marriage have also shifted significantly.
Nevertheless, even though people who got married in the 2000s are divorcing at lower rates than in the 70s and 80s, there are still plenty of people who get divorced, and it’s hard to imagine anything worse than being in the middle of a divorce — paying legal fees, dividing up assets, possibly wrangling over child custody issues, and dealing with the collapse of a relationship — and then also getting a bill for ten grand or more.
Although some might be skeptical of Swanluv, Avy says that many people are excited about the wedding loans, telling The Washington Post, “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve gotten hundreds of emails telling me how meaningful this is.” And just as people can choose to gamble with their money or property, they can choose to gamble with their personal lives. As he tells GeekWire, “We’re not forcing them. It’s all by choice.”