When everything shut down in 2020, and most major celebrations like marriages seemed to take a backseat, most thought the floodgates would open in 2021 for hundreds more weddings and marriage ceremonies – perhaps those that were delayed, postponed, or had already happened with the party on the docket for “next year.”
So far, according to data from the City of Boston, marriages and weddings are still more than 50 percent below the 2019 levels for statistics from March, and don’t seem to be picking up for the summer either.
A June bride they likely will not be.
Looking at City statistics for the month of March in 2019, 2020 and 2021, the numbers of marriages filed with the City are only slightly higher than they were in March 2020 – when everything shut down completely.
In March 2021, there were 563 marriage certificates granted, and in March 2021 there were 592. That is compared with the relatively normal level in March 2019 of 1,229 certificates. Marriage intentions were down in 2021 as well, going from 370 filed in March 2020 to 171 in March 2021.
That is compared to other Vital Statistics such as births, which are up by nearly 1,000 compared to March 2020, but also still down by more than 1,200 compared to March 2019 – a statistic that is probably in line with lower numbers of marriages and weddings.
The one Vital that has recovered is death certificates, which in March 2021 were higher (3,809) than both March 2019 (3,528) and March 2020 (3,005).
When it comes to marriages, priests and pastors in Charlestown said the fact is they are performing fewer weddings, but all said it was likely due to the uncertainty over gatherings and also the lack of facilities that are available for functions.
Father Jim Ronan of St. Mary’s-St. Catherine’s Catholic Church said there is beginning to be an uptick of couples looking to get married at the church, but their wedding dates are much later in the year or in 2022.
“I had two weddings last weekend, and another one is scheduled for this coming Saturday,” he said. “There are couples who are now approaching the church looking to schedule weddings in late summer or fall and into next year. So there is an uptick, but the overall number spring and summer of 2021 is low. And that’s not a surprise, for it has been impossible for couples to make plans because of the pandemic. What it’s going to look like a year from now is anybody’s guess.”
He said couples are telling him that many weddings were canceled, postponed or even moved to other places in 2020. This year, he said re-scheduling those weddings has been hard because no one knows if guests can make the trip for out of town, and how many people will be allowed at the wedding. The other part is it has been impossible to find a venue for the reception, as most have remained closed due to the gathering limits that are in place, but are being lifted on May 29. Prior to that lifting of restrictions announcement last week, venues had no idea when they might be able to host a reception.
That, he said, has led to more postponements of nuptials in 2021, opposite what many expected.
Pastor JD Mangrum of Christ Church Charlestown said he has noticed four factors that have been involved in the decisions to delay weddings.
First and foremost, he said he has heard of many couples that got married outside or in their living rooms in 2020, with plans to celebrate this year – only to find the pandemic still at hand.
“I know a couple of folks who basically had living room ceremonies in Boston and planned a party post-pandemic — but that was 14 months ago that they got married,” he said, noting that many like them may just choose to move on with life and not have a large celebration.
A second consideration he noted was the lack of adherence to religion by younger people, who are less interested in the religious aspects of marriage and more interested in the aspect of gathering family and making memories. Without the pomp and circumstance available, he said many younger couples are willing to put it off to another time.
One major factor is the fact that many families are more spread out than they were before. Getting everyone together is more impossible than ever, he said, especially with travel restrictions for COVID.
“In the pandemic when travel was impossible, getting family in or going back to where you’re from has been tough – so I think that’s contributed to the slowdown,” he said. “People here seem to get married more in Catholic Church buildings than in the South where I was, where people got married in barns, fields, estates’ lawns, etc. I think the culture of weddings is just different in Boston.”
Finally, he said many have realized in the interim that the whole wedding industry had gotten out of hand when it came to the cost and expectations for a wedding. Like so many things, Mangrum postulated that couples are seeing their “bid day” through a new lens.
“It’s pretty outrageous what people pay now,” he said. “I think many can’t afford it or don’t want to pay it and just keep living together. Going back to the last point, when you take out the religious motivation and add in the overpriced cost, I think a lot of folks are just saying, ‘It isn’t worth it.’”
Mangrum said he has a hunch that many couples getting married, whether religious or not, might turn back to more of the simple weddings with smaller guest lists and lower costs.
On a side note regarding the Vital Statistics from the City, far more are sticking with getting their certificates for marriage, birth and death online. Previously, online certificate applications were available, but many more chose to come into City Hall than to take care of it online. That has completely switched following the shutdowns of 2020.
More than 90 percent of all birth, death and marriage certificates were taken care of online for March 2021, which is far more than in 2019 or 2020.
For births, in March 2019, 32.9 percent were done online, while 48 percent were done online in March 2020. In March 2021, 95 percent of birth certificates were done online. The same increases were seen for deaths and marriages as well, and it is believed that will continue well after COVID-19 is but a memory