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Feb 12, 2018

The Business of Valentine’s Day: Love Inc.

By Lindsay Goldwert

We break down the numbers behind the industry of romance.

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The business of romance is an industry to be reckoned with.

Valentine’s Day, as an annual romantic celebration, was invented by Hallmark about a hundred years ago to sell greeting cards. Since then, it’s expanded into a $20 billion industry. That’s how much people spend on Valentine’s every year, according to the National Retail Federation.

We break down Love Inc., by the numbers.


Gold, the key ingredient in wedding bands, has been in use since ancient times, as jewelry and also as money, because everybody recognized the value of the glinting, yellow metal. It has industrial uses as well, that have nothing to do with ornamentation. Your cell phone contains bits of gold. It’s also in cars, circuit boards, dental fillings and NASA space equipment.

All the gold in the world totals about 170,000 metric tons, if it were all gathered together in one place. If all the world’s gold were melted into a cube, that cube of solid gold would measure 20.7 feet to the side.

Americans eat $18 billion worth of chocolate per year, which amounts to 18 percent of the world supply.

So how much is gold worth? We normally weigh it in ounces, not tons, and it’s currently trading at about $1,300 an ounce. Gold is volatile, and it increased increasing 12% in December and January, before dropping to its current level, as the stock market roiled through its extreme sell-offs since last week, including the Dow’s biggest single-day point drop ever (down 1,175) on Monday.

With gold priced at about $1,300 an ounce, now might not be a bad time to buy a wedding band. Yet,  the price of gold has gone way down since hitting its peak in 2011 of $1,889.70 an ounce.

Fortunately most wedding bands weigh no more than 0.35 ounces. That little band around your finger doesn’t amount to much weight. But here we are, paying $300 to $3,000 for a wedding ring. Why? Because it’s “platinum”? No. It’s because of the sentiment.

But that pales compared to engagement rings, which can cost more than $6,000, on average. Remember, there’s no rule that says you have to spend that much. Or even that a ring must have a diamond at all.


Americans love chocolate. Those $5 heart-shaped Russell Stovers at Walgreens and those $125 gilded boxes of Godivas really add up to billions and billions of dollars of consumer spending.

Americans eat $18 billion worth of chocolate per year, which amounts to 18 percent of the world supply.

Valentine’s Day spending gets a big piece of that. We’re expected to spend about $1.8 billion on candy on February 14. And that includes a lot of chocolate hearts with gooey centers.

Where does all this chocolate come from? Big Chocolate is dominated by Nestle, a Swiss conglomerate, and Hershey and Mars Inc., and also Ferrero, the maker of Nutella.

One of the biggest business stories of the year so far is when Nestle sold $3 billion worth of candy brands, including Butterfinger and Babe Ruth to Ferrero. Chocolate is big business.


Weddings are a $76 billion industry. There are more than 300,000 wedding-related businesses employing 1.2 million people and the industry is growing 2.8% every year.

How much does the average wedding cost? About $35,000, according to recent survey from The Knot, a site devoted to the wedding industry.

The venue where the wedding actually takes place gets the lion’s share of the take, about $16,000, followed by the band, who typically earn about  $4,000. Overall wedding prices vary widely depending on the location, with Manhattan being the most expensive, at $78,000. For those on a budget, Arkansas is the cheapest, but even in Little Rock the typical wedding costs $19,000.

That doesn’t even count the cost of the honeymoon.

The average cost of a honeymoon is harder to nail down, because it depends on the destination. A 2015 report from WeddingWire, a company that works in the wedding retail industry, puts the average honeymoon cost at about $3,882.

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One classic honeymoon is the ocean cruise, and cruises are a big business, creating a $117 billion industry annually, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. How much does a cruise cost? A website for cruise line might list packages starts at $1,000 for two, but the travel guide Frommer’s says the average is closer to $4,000.

Remember: Food is included, but many times, the drinks are not

Starter homes

The term “starter home” seems to suggest something cheap purchased by newlyweds, in the hope that it will appreciate in value and they’ll someday sell up to something bigger. The median price of a home sold in the U.S. in December 2017 was $335,400, according to the U.S. Census. So a starter home is likely to  be cheaper than that, on average.

Hundreds of thousands of people are buying these lower-cost homes. In tracking real estate deals by price, the Census Bureau says that 18,000 units sold for less than $150,000 in 2017. Another 62,000 houses sold for between $150,000 to $199,999, and 187,000 abodes sold for between $200,000 and $299,999.

Beyond that, as the price of houses get more expensive, the number of buyers drops.

Who says you can’t put a price on love?


Written by

Lindsay Goldwert

Lindsay Goldwert is an author and freelance personal finance writer, as well as the host of Spent podcast


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