Wedding Red Flags That Your Marriage Is Likely To Fail, According To Our Behavior Analyst

A wedding is not just a celebration but a grand stage where promises of a shared future unfold. Yet, amidst the laughter and festivities, subtle indicators may sneakily hint at the destiny of a union. In our quest to decipher these wedding red flags, we've exclusively enlisted the wisdom of physician, behavior analyst, and emotional intelligence and body language maestro Dr. Jack Brown. From the seemingly innocent lack of eye contact to the complexity of shared humor, Dr. Brown delves into the nuances that could either spell everlasting harmony or signal caution.


So, let's embark on this exploration into the intricate language of love and commitment together. Join us as we unravel the coded messages that may be woven into the very fabric of a wedding day, where gestures, expressions, and shared moments play a crucial role in predicting the course of a marriage. Will it be everlasting love or divorce in a matter of months? Here's how to tell!

Any displays of contempt through facial expressions

It's not surprising that contempt is a red flag, but the truth is that many of us aren't familiar with the facial expressions that could indicate it. At a wedding, a few facial expressions could reveal this potential red flag. "One of the most potent/most accurate predictors of failure of a relationship is feelings of contempt. Contempt is an extremely toxic emotion. Of course, in the context of a wedding, we would think a person who may normally express contempt may very well suppress [it], but you'd be surprised. Contempt has several facial expressions," Dr. Jack Brown exclusively tells us.


Further, he explains that the most common facial expression of contempt is a snarl, which can also look like a snarlish smile. Apart from that, an eye-roll may also be indicative of contempt. "Another manifestation of contempt," he adds, "is an elevated central forehead contraction coupled with a simultaneous mouth smile," – one that isn't sincere. Of course, if your partner displays contempt, it surely won't be on the wedding day that they use these facial expressions for the first time. Because of that, you might already be used to them and hence won't think much of it. However, they could be a major sign that your marriage might not last, and they might be very obvious to those who haven't spent much time with the two of you together until the big day.


The wedding is too small

Now, before you come at us (in case you had or plan to have a small wedding), we didn't make this up. Data scientist Dr. Randal Olson published a list of things that make your marriage stable, and one of them is also how many people attended your wedding. "Crazy enough, your wedding ceremony has a huge impact on the long-term stability of your marriage," Dr. Olson writes on his website. "Perhaps the biggest factor is how many people attend your wedding: Couples who elope are 12.5x more likely to end up divorced than couples who get married at a wedding with 200+ people."


Now, this seems to directly relate to the support the family and friends are giving a couple. The more people attend, the more support there seems to be. And even though deciding on your wedding guest list is stressful, it seems as if the more the merrier applies to weddings, too. But of course, this isn't a one-rule-applies-to-all type of thing. For example, if you're having a small destination wedding, this can be totally disregarded as it's completely normal that the guest list for such a wedding would be smaller.

Lack of (or relative lack of) eye contact during the wedding

Eye contact tends to be a prominent factor at the beginning of any relationship, but according to our body language expert, eye contact is crucial all throughout a relationship, including at the wedding. "Affectionate eye contact is a profoundly important behavior that is seen in healthy relationships — exceptions for those who are visually impaired and individuals on the autism spectrum," Dr. Jack Brown exclusively tells Glam. "Of course, all eye contact is not affectionate, and any accurate assessment depends strongly on the configuration of the rest of the face and body. Most people can instinctively detect affectionate eye contact vs. eye contact of anger, predation, fear, etc."


Now, while eye contact may naturally decrease later on as a couple gets out of their honeymoon phase, there should be a noticeable amount of it at the wedding ceremony. According to Dr. Brown, the newlyweds should frequently have eye contact during the wedding, and their eyes should lock for considerably longer than they do with friends and family. After all, eye contact is an indication of love — and those who are in love tend to be all about lovingly staring into each other's eyes.

There is an absence of displays of affection

While every couple is different, and their levels of public display of affection may vary, at a wedding, the newlyweds should share some noticeable intimate moments of affection. "When we have a high level of affection for another person, we touch our foreheads, temples, or periocular region to the other person's forehead, temple, or periocular region. This is a highly reliable sign of affection," Dr. Jack Brown exclusively tells us. "A couple that does not instinctively and routinely display this specific behavior has lower levels of affection (or none at all)."


Perhaps the most common display of affection is the act of hugging, which is why they provide a great glimpse into the couple's future. Dr. Brown explains that the way a couple hugs can be an indicator of their relationship and how long it will last. If they are barely leaning in with their feet further apart than their chest, that might be a bad sign. "Couples who lean in when they hug have much lower levels of affection. This is a huge red flag," Dr. Brown tells us. Apart from the hug itself, another major indicator of their love is their eyes during a hug. Dr. Brown tells us that those who close their eyes while hugging tend to be more in the moment, which is a major green flag. Those who keep their eyes open, on the other hand, aren't as affectionate, and that's not a good sign.


The whole cake-in-the-face smashing bit

We've all seen a few of these — if not in those rom-coms we all grew up on. However, it seems as if many aren't a fan of this wedding tradition. In fact, in 2023, a couple went viral after the cake-in-the-face smashing resulted in a divorce. "He took it, and he just smashed it, I mean, it was all over my face, it went down my dress, my $2,000 dress," the bride, Lori Baker, told Inside Edition. Barker admitted that she felt like leaving the ceremony after that happened, and eventually, the two ended up getting a divorce. "Ladies, if they cake you, it's time to make a break for it," she added.


Etiquette expert Jodi Smith weighed in on the tradition for Fox Digital News: "One's wedding day should not be the time to 'toughen' up one's brand-new spouse," she said (via New York Post). She also adds that trying to humiliate your partner in order to go viral is a huge red flag — and we couldn't agree more. It certainly seems as if, in some cases, the cake can predict whether the couple stays together

There are subtle displays of control or manipulation

Control and manipulation are huge red flags for any relationship, romantic or not. However, they are sometimes difficult to spot in a public setting. "Most all of these behaviors would indeed be displayed verbally — although they also would have accompanying body language displays," Dr. Jack Brown exclusively reveals to Glam. Now, manipulation has many faces, but according to our expert, the most common one is the "elevated central forehead contraction together with a subtle mouth smile."


It's worth noting that according to Psychology Today, manipulators are pros at hiding their true nature and motives, which is why it's often difficult to recognize them. One way to realize you're perhaps being manipulated, according to Psych Central, is if your partner makes you feel ashamed or guilty. Another red flag for this behavior, per the Berkeley Well-Being Institute, is feeling that you're dealing with a condescending partner. Needless to say, a marriage in which one partner is manipulative doesn't stand a great chance, as most likely, both sides are going to end up feeling miserable in it.

The partners fail to showcase sincere smiles

Your wedding day is often referred to as one of the happiest days of your life, and while the expectations are high and can certainly interfere with your emotions, at the end of the day you should be smiling at your wedding. In particular, you should frequently smile when you spot your partner. "While insincere smiles have many variations, sincere smiles of true joy-happiness all have the following components: relaxed forehead, partially closed eyelids, concave-up furrow in both lower eyelids, upturned mouth corners, and upward vectored cheek muscles," Dr. Jack Brown exclusively tells us. The expert also explains to us that, contrary to popular belief, a sincere smile doesn't have to show many teeth. "A sincere smile is actually suppressed so that no teeth are visible," he reveals.


So, even though the wedding can also be a stressful experience, the two partners should find comfort in each other's faces — and those moments should bring out their sincerest smiles. "A lack of sincere, true smiles of joy-happiness between the newlyweds is a very poor prognostic indicator of marriage longevity," Dr. Brown adds.

The newlyweds' wit or humor isn't matching

Humor plays an important role in any relationship, especially a romantic one. After all, if you can't laugh about the same things, there is bound to be a disconnect. "Couples who laugh together stay together," Dr. Jack Brown exclusively tells us. "But more specifically, couples who have similar types of wit have a higher level of cohesion. So when observing couples, it's important to watch their laugh dynamic. Do they laugh at similar moments? One way wit-laughter dynamics are not nearly as healthy as bilateral laughing."


According to Psychology Today, clever humor is often an indicator of intelligence and confidence — two things often considered to be attractive traits. Now, who is the funnier partner in a relationship remains a highly contentious topic. A 2022 study published in Personality and Individual Differences reported that out of 149 heterosexual couples, men judged their jokes to be better than the ones told by their partner. But at the end of the day — no matter who's telling the joke — there's no denying that a good sense of humor matters, and being able to share a good laugh on your big day bodes well for your relationship.

One of the newlyweds is touching their face frequently

According to Psychology Today, hand-to-face contact tends to increase if somebody is lying or being deceptive, as this is a common response the body has when it is in fight or flight mode. Our expert, Dr. Jack Brown, couldn't agree more. "By far, the number one reason for touching one's face is anxiety," he reveals exclusively to Glam. "While it depends on the type and it must be interpreted in context, excessive facial touching may very well indicate significant anxiety and/or deception — which both are poor prognostic indicators in the context of a wedding."


Now, as Dr. Brown explains, context and personal knowledge of the person are crucial for this sign. Someone who is easily stressed (and let's be real, weddings can be incredibly stressful) may experience plenty of anxiety during their big day — after all, some newlyweds hate having all the attention on them. Now, knowing if that anxiety is rooted in the fact that they're marrying someone they don't want to marry or simply the fact that there are hundreds of people they don't want to embarrass themselves in front of is hard to know. However, if the person is known to be a social butterfly, seeing them touching their face frequently during the wedding could be a red flag.

The newlyweds are avoiding each other during the wedding

It's no secret that weddings tend to be packed with family and friends, and greeting everyone and giving them some time can quickly result in hours passing by. However, even though it is important to be nice to everyone attending the wedding, it's not as important as spending time with your partner during the celebration. After all, the whole day is supposed to mark the beginning of forever for the two of you, and if you're nowhere to be spotted together, that's a huge red flag.


When BuzzFeed asked their readers about wedding day red flags, a wedding photographer revealed that not managing to see the couple together is a huge one. "In one instance, the bride and groom just could not be bothered to be seen together at the wedding," they wrote. "I had to virtually drag them for getting some photos of the two of them together, and they kept walking off [to] hang out with their friends."

The wedding is too expensive

You don't have to have a luxurious, expensive ceremony for it to be stunning and memorable, but most of all, you don't have to break the bank for your marriage to last — and now we have the science to back it up. "The more you spend on your wedding, the more likely you'll end up divorced," Dr. Randal Olson wrote on his website. Unfortunately, the trend of spending the big bucks on your wedding day is rising in the U.S. "Everything has increased at least 15 to 20 percent from where it was even last year," Heather Lowenthal of the wedding planning company Posh Parties explained to Brides in 2023. "People are throwing weddings and they are going all out." 


What's interesting is that plenty can be known way before the wedding, as the price of the engagement ring can also foreshadow the future of the marriage. "Spending between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring is associated with a 1.3 times greater hazard of divorce as compared to spending between $500 and $2,000," economics professors Andrew Francis-Tan and Hugo M. Mialon wrote in their 2014 paper, "'A Diamond is Forever' and Other Fairy Tales." So, if you plan to live your happily ever after, stop focusing on the material side and simply enjoy a wonderful day celebrating your love with family and friends. That's all a wedding should be about anyway. After all, there are plenty of ways you can make your big day affordable.


The in-laws body language/affinity for their new family member says a lot

This sign is only applicable if the newlywed is close to their family, as estranged family members usually tend to keep their distance. According to Dr. Jack Brown, the family's body language is a great indicator of the marriage's future. "In particular, how are each of the parents-in-law behaving with and when talking about their new family member?" Dr. Brown asks. "Any friction with one's parents-in-law at the beginning of a marriage is a poor prognostic indicator for the health of the marriage."


Dr. Brown also explains that the body language of the in-laws when talking about their new family member can reveal a lot about how they truly feel about them. "Fascinatingly, when speaking about another person who is not immediately present [although they may still be nearby], one's body language is often exaggerated. In this context, their nonverbal behavior is like a highlighter," Dr. Brown exclusively tells us. Of course, this sign is only important if there is a close relationship between the parents and their child. After all, it's not unheard of that a parent doesn't approve of their child's choice — but that doesn't necessarily mean the marriage will fail.