Many church leaders hate that question. Read why below.
Word count - 900 words. Reading time – 4 minutes. But it might make you mad and take longer.
My oldest niece is getting married this week. We are pleased with her choice of husband. They met through the church they both attend. It will be a grand affair with many guests.
But they aren’t the only couple getting married this year. Wedageddon is upon us. [Wedding means ceremony, marriage means civil, though they are almost equivalent in statistics.] Some statistics for your consideration:
Weddings were down last year by 40%. That followed a multi-year decline. Some of that decline is demographic, and some are attitudinal.
I am just happy people are still getting married.
But 2021 is seeing not only a rebound but a rise by 50% in the number of weddings. This year close to 2.5 million couples getting married, the most since 1984.
To give a sense of pattern.
By age group, the most significant percentages are those between 25-29 years old – 24.1%; Next is 30-34 years old at 19.0%; Next is 20-24 years old at 13.3%. But if you take all those that over 50 years of age you would get 15.6% of the weddings.
First marriages are 74.2%, second marriages 19.9%, and third marriages (or more) are 5.9%.
Interesting factoid – couples spend slightly more on average for second marriage and third marriage than first marriage festivities.
By percentage, in 2020, December was the biggest month for engagements, almost double the second month of July (8.5%), followed by October and February.
On average, in 2020, $3734 was spent on location. In 2021 that rises to $3956, and the 2022 projection is $4024.
Reading through the wedding report and some others related to weddings, marriages and the like will show this is big business in total. Ceremonies get grander and more expensive across almost all demographic groups.
There was a brief trend during the pandemic for micro weddings and virtual experiences. But it doesn’t appear that it will last.
What are the implications for church leaders?
First, my comment in the introduction reflects the challenges church leaders face when it comes to wedding ceremonies. In numerous conversations with more prominent church pastors over the last 25 years, wedding issues cause much consternation and relational issues at times within a fellowship.
This led to many churches “getting out of the wedding business” and encouraging couples, their parents, and friends to seek other arrangements when it comes to ceremonies, receptions, and even marriage counseling.
Some had attractive venues for weddings but limited-time options due to Saturday evening worship time setups. Some had guidelines and limitations on who could be married in their facilities concerning membership and behavioral policies. These are understandable and proper in most contexts, though many pastors also made some exceptions in some instances.
As many have said, including me, “Funerals are much easier than weddings. Everyone appreciates you at a funeral, and in a wedding, you tend to be unappreciated and a side issue.”
But what can we take away for now and moving forward?
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1. The pandemic may have created a positive desire for companionship, love, and a new sense of home. The lockdown season drove many people to examine their lives and their futures. Some discovered they didn’t want to walk forward alone.
2. While many churches have exited the venue business for 90% of weddings (creating a huge industry of other venues), it’s essential to stay in the marriage business through various means, including marriage preparation. Some may want to raise fees to use venues to match other competitors and get back in the venue business.
3. Marriage preparation and first-year mentoring could be a significant outreach opportunity for churches. Marriage preparation can be classes and can add couple mentoring to connect people to the church in the first year. It can even serve as a primary evangelism method for some. This approach could build on the post-pandemic desire to ground oneself in “what’s real,” as many found a lack of meaning in the last year and have struggled to find it.
4. Numerous past studies show that significant life changes and rites of passage are important times to reach people. With the statistic above that just over 43% of the marriages are between 25 and 34 years of age, this may be a great opportunity. But many leaders have a mental model that thinks of younger generations (below 25.) Adjust thinking to fit this larger segment of slightly older adults marrying. The preparation and guidance could look different.
And don’t forget the 15.6% over 50 either. That is a new frontier for some churches to connect with that demographic.
5. As many of you have already discovered, virtual meeting tools can be invaluable for cultivating couples planning to be married or in the first year of marriage. A class, a group, even and mentor relationship can be nurtured in this way.
6. And one final one from me, with the timing of engagements factor above, I would be thinking intake to group programs the month after each of those months as a way to build momentum.
This issue will undoubtedly create some pushback and feedback. Don’t be afraid to speak up and reply.
For all those single adults out there in our group, a future issue will address singles and the church. (remember – almost 50% of American adults are single)
Coming up on the GREAT THINGS GOD HAS DONE podcast:
Eight new episodes dropping soon with a variety of pastors with their life stories.
But check out last week’s episode with Beth Nelson or Prairie Heights Church in Fargo, North Dakota.
Or in your favorite podcast app.