True, more couples will marry this Saturday than any other day this year because of May wedding superstition. June is high season for weddings and all the goods and services that go with them. But if demographic trends continue, marketers may be singing the wedding-bell blues.
The marriage market is getting older, and smaller. There are now more than 2.5 million unmarried couples living in the U.S.-about 5% of all couples. Surely most of these unions, in the delicate words of the Census Bureau, “involve close personal relationships.” The number of unmarried-couple households has risen more than 20% since 1970.
Marriage is a personal milestone and a consumer turning point. By age 35, the vast majority of Americans have been married at least once. Beyond the boost to industries related to the ceremony and honeymoon, marriage has a significant effect on the housing market, durable goods and financial services, to name a few.
Along with college graduation, marriage is one of marketing’s greatest determinants of consumer needs and attitudes. Who marries, at what age, where marriages occur, and whether they are first or subsequent marriages can be as important to companies as to the couples themselves.
“Whether one is marketing household goods and services or providing public assistance to families, knowledge of the timing of events is critical,” says Arthur J. Norton of the Census Bureau.
Not only do more couples choose not to marry, but those who do marry are getting older. Society’s acceptance of couples living together outside of marriage has removed one of the compelling reasons to marry young.
The median age at first marriage has risen to nearly 26 years for men and 24 years for women. About 20% of men aged 20-24 have married, as have 40% of women in this age group.
ironically, more than a third of the marriages in this country involve one or more divorcees. About half of all marriages end in divorce, but divorces are even more likely to marry than single people. But even with this group, the The marriage rate for divorced people has steadily dropped in the past two decades. Meanwhile, the interval between divorce and remarriage has risen. In 1987 men waited a median 2.2 years to remarry and women waited 2.5 years. In 1970 the gap was about a year for both.
Since divorced people still account for so many marriages they also contribute to the rising age of marrying couples. As a percentage of all marriages, the age of remarriage peaks between 30-39 for men and 25-34 for women. The median age of divorced men who remarry is 37 years; for women it’s 33 years.
Age is just one of the demographic differences between couples in first-time marriages and those in remarriages. First-timers generally marry someone with a similar educational background, but in remarriages there is less educational equality.
In 1987 half of the wives in first marriages had the same educational background as their husbands. But where both spouses were previously divorced, only 42% of the partners had similar education, and nearly two-thirds of the brides had less education than their grooms. Less-educated women have a greater tendency to get divorced, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Despite all the demographic shifts, one thing remains constant: June is wedding month. There are more than twice as many marriages in June as in January, the coldest month for marrying. August is the second most popular. Of the 2.4 million marriages recorded in the 42 states comprising the federal marriage registration area in 1987, 22% took place in June or August. The six months from May through October saw 60% of all marriages.
Saturday is the most popular day of the week to get married. According to a recent Monthly Vital Statistics Report from the National Center for Health Statistics, more than half of all marriages in 1987 occurred on a Saturday. In most years since 1970, the last Saturday in June is the single most popular day.
There is one exception. When Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday, more marriages take place that day than any other. This was the case in 1987, when 46,000 couples married on Feb. 14. The next year Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday will be 1998. And if current trends continue, there will be far fewer couples taking the plunge.