Number of marriages down 53% last year under Covid effect

Catholic services were less popular than civil ceremonies for the first time last year

Brides and grooms are getting older, figures from the Central Statistics Office show. File photograph: iStock

Brides and grooms are getting older, figures from the Central Statistics Office show. File photograph: iStock


There was a sharp decrease in the number of couples getting married last year, according to data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Friday.

Religious ceremonies accounted for just half of last year’s marriages, and year-on-year they have been in decline.

The number of marriages celebrated in 2020 was less than half of 2019’s figure, with 9,523 marriages taking place last year.

Some 9,209 of these were opposite-sex marriages, while 170 male same-sex couples and 144 female same-sex couples were also wed.

This is a reduction of 53.1 per cent when compared with 2019, when 20,313 marriages took place. The CSO said this reflected the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on wedding plans.

The figures also show that Catholic marriages were less popular than civil marriages for the first time last year. Some 42.1 per cent of marriages were in civil ceremonies in 2020, compared to 34.6 per cent in Catholic services.

In 2019, 43.6 per cent of marriages were Catholic, in 2018 47.6 per cent, and in 2017 50.9 per cent. In 1980, 95.4 per cent of all marriages were Catholic.

Almost half of couples last year (49.8 per cent) opted for a non-religious marriage ceremony last year - be it civil or humanist in nature.

This was up from 41 per cent in 2019, 38.8 per cent in 2018 and 36.9 per cent in 2017.

In 1980, just 1.53 per cent of couples opted for a non-religious marriage ceremony, according to CSO data from the time.

The majority of gay couples chose a civil marriage ceremony, which accounted for 228 marriages.

Education Equality, a campaign advocating for equal provision of education for children regardless of their religion, said the figures indicated a growing need for changes in school patronage.

Referring to the dominant role the Catholic Church has particularly at primary level, the group’s communications officer David Graham said: “Religious practice is a choice, not an obligation. Our taxpayer-funded school system is forcing religion on young families against their will, in breach of their human rights.”

Atheist Ireland echoed this sentiment, saying the CSO figures “show yet again that Ireland is no longer a Catholic country”.

The figures also showed that brides and grooms are getting older.

For opposite-sex couples, the average age of the bride was 35.7 years old and the average groom was 37.8 years old.

The average age of both men and women entering into same-sex marriages was 40 years old.

The groom was older than the bride in almost two-thirds of marriages in 2020.

Monaghan had the lowest average age for both grooms and brides, and Waterford city had the highest average age for wedded couples.

Some 83.5 per cent of opposite-sex marriages were the first marriage for both the groom and bride, and more than 90 per cent of same-sex marriages were also first-time.

Friday was the most popular day for a wedding and December was the most popular month to wed for heterosexual couples.

Wedding attendance

On Thursday the Government announced that more people will be permitted to attend weddings in the coming weeks.

From May 10th, there can be a maximum of 50 guests at a wedding service.

The maximum number of guests at a wedding reception will be increased to six people indoors or 15 people outdoors.

From June 7th, the maximum number of guests allowed at a wedding reception will increase to 25, subject to public health advice and the Covid-19 situation at the time.