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Marriages Are Up, Weddings Are Down: What Officiants Should Know About the 2024 ‘Wedding Gap’

Published Thursday, Mar. 21st, 2024

Wedding ceremony set up outside, showing white chairs decorated in flowers set up in front of a wedding altar, but there are no people, the chairs are all empty.
Photo: momcilog / iStock

5 Potential Causes for the 2024 ‘Wedding Gap’ And What Professional Wedding Officiants Can Do About It



Many wedding officiants are telling us that 2024 is a ‘slow year,’ with fewer couples booking officiants for wedding ceremonies this year than last year. 


But recent data also shows that the number of couples getting married has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and that the marriage rate is actually the highest it's been in five years. (According to this report released last week by the CDC.)


So, what gives? What’s causing the difference in the data – More marriages, but fewer weddings? 


It’s a phenomenon that some people are calling the ‘wedding gap,’ and we think a few things are behind it.


We cover a few potential causes below, and what professional wedding officiants can do to combat them – and book even more weddings this year than last. 



Young newlyweds pose in leather jackets holding a sign that says "Just eloped", they are smiling and happy in the sunshine

Photo: pixdeluxe / iStock

Many couples have learned that they don't need to have a traditional wedding to get married, and are seeking out low-cost and eco-friendly alternatives.



5 Potential Causes of the 2024 ‘Wedding Gap’
And What Professional Wedding Officiants Can Do About It


1. Money, money, money


The leading cause behind this year’s slower wedding season is probably cost. The average wedding in the U.S. costs couple’s a staggering $30,000 (via The Wedding Report), making a big bash unaffordable for most. Add in inflation, rising housing costs, grocery bills, student debt, and childcare costs, and well, weddings just don’t fit in many families’ budgets anymore.


This means that many couples are choosing to skip the wedding ceremony altogether, or are postponing the ceremony for a vow renewal sometime down the road. 


Related: How to Get Married Without a Wedding Ceremony


Couples are choosing civil courthouse ceremonies, signing marriage licenses over brunch, hosting ‘micro’ weddings, and planning destination wedding-and-honeymoon combo celebrations, instead of traditional wedding ceremonies. 


How can officiants appeal to cost-conscious couples? 


  • Offer a variety of services at different price points
  • Offer ‘make it legal’ signing ceremonies  (Click the link below to learn how!)
  • How to Officiate a Sign & Go Marriage Ceremony
  • Network with venues and other vendors to connect with couples who still want traditional ceremonies


2. Return to pre-COVID baseline


Some of the ‘slow down’ is probably a return to the pre-pandemic baseline and not an overall decline in bookings. (This theory also lines up with the high marriage rate.) 


Related: The wedding boom is real, and Las Vegas leads the way


If this is the case, what officiants are seeing is the end of the ‘wedding boom,’ a period of time following the end of COVID restrictions in late 2021 and throughout 2022, in which many more couples were married than usual. This ‘boom’ was the result of earlier postponements and cancellations: When couples could finally marry again, they did, all at once, and 2022 saw a record number of weddings. Many new vendors who entered the industry during the ‘boom’ might experience this year’s return to baseline as a ‘slow season.’


Essentially, the theory is that the bubble has burst, or, what goes up must come down. 


How can officiants adjust to the end of the wedding boom? 


  • Take advantage of downtime to network with other vendors, learn new skills, and update or improve your online presence 
  • Adjust expectations, expenses, and rates to make your business sustainable
  • Add new services, such as officiant coaching, ceremony writing, and relationship coaching or counseling
  • Consider officiating other rites, such as funerals, baby blessings, quinceañeras, name change ceremonies, living wakes, and more (Click the link below to get started!)
  • Learn How to Officiate Other Life Rites 


Related: How to Officiate a Funeral or Memorial Service



3. Streaming and technology options


In a recent article, Wedding Planner and Consultant Ruth Mundy cites virtual wedding streaming services and online wedding technology for a decrease in wedding bookings, and this is worth considering. 


Although private fully-online wedding ceremonies are only allowed in Utah at this time, couples can get married with a Utah County marriage license from anywhere in the world – as long as they have a Utah officiant to marry them. This means that couples who want to get married on a virtual platform like Zoom, Google Meet, or Skype, must be married with a Utah County marriage license by an officiant physically located in Utah. 


Demand for fully-remote wedding services has decreased since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, so online options are probably not a leading cause of the ‘wedding gap.’ Still, it’s important to keep hybrid weddings and virtual client meetings in mind to serve couples better.


How can wedding officiants take advantage of online wedding options? 


  • Officiants in Utah should familiarize themselves with online marriage services and consider offering streamed and virtual wedding ceremonies for clients around the U.S. and around the world (Click the link below to get started!)
  • How to Officiate a Remote Wedding Ceremony in Utah
  • Officiants in other states may offer hybrid wedding services, in which guests can join the wedding remotely from other locations
  • Offer virtual consultations to accommodate the needs of busy clients


Related: Officiate a Virtual Wedding Like a Pro!



Groom and bride are wearing casual hiking gear including hiking backpacks, outside in an evergreen forest. The groom places a ring on the bride's finger.

Photo: skynesher / iStock

Some couples are choosing eco-friendly experiences and nature-themed wedding alternatives, including outdoor-recreation and 'adventure' weddings. 



4. Climate Change and Environmental Awareness


This one might be a bit of a downer, but climate change is impacting more families than ever before, and causing more people to reconsider their relationship with the natural environment. This means that a typical 130-guest wedding – which produces 400 to 600 pounds of waste and 63 tons of CO2 – is no longer appealing to younger and environmentally-conscious couples. (Stats via The Green Wedding Guide)


Instead, couples are choosing eco-friendly weddings or wedding alternatives. These include smaller ‘micro’ ceremonies, ‘just us’ elopements, adventure weddings, and civil courthouse ceremonies, as well as nature-themed weddings that include hiking, camping, or underwater ‘I do’s. Other couples are skipping the wedding, and following a ‘signing ceremony’ with a low-key honeymoon instead.


How can wedding officiants appeal to environmentally-aware couples? 



Related: How to Add a Tree Planting Ceremony to Your Wedding



5. More competition for bookings


With more wedding officiants entering the industry each year, it’s important to acknowledge that there will be more competition for a similar number of weddings. With wedding bookings spread out between a larger pool of officiants, some officiants will inevitably experience what feels like a ‘slow down’ in business. 


While this might sound scary to full-time professional officiants and those just starting out, we believe there’s still plenty of room in the industry for everyone – including part-time officiants, friend and family officiants, and full-time professionals. With over 2 million marriages solemnized in the U.S. each year, there’s enough love to go around! 


The key, as always, is standing out, offering strong services, finding your niche, and connecting with couples through a variety of channels.


How can officiants remain competitive in a crowded market? 


  • In addition to all of the tips given above…
  • Find what makes you ‘stand out’ and make it your brand
  • Continue to educate yourself and improve your skills
  • Provide a few specialty services that will attract unique couples and increase word of mouth / referrals
  • Network with other vendors to build strong industry relationships
  • Avoid ‘badmouthing’ other vendors and keep a positive attitude
  • Emphasize professionalism with a clear contract, a good website, and excellent communication with clients and other vedors
  • Learn more Officiant Business Tips 


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Close up view of the bride and groom's wedding shoes, with a bouquet sitting on the ground beside them.

How can officiants best serve reluctant couples during this year's wedding season? Read the full article here. 



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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