Statistics provide a look at marriage
Some trends are detected anecdotally, others are noted through solid numbers. Wedding and marriage trends are among them.
Take the age at which people marry.
Without numbers in front of him, Peter Kennedy, the interim director of the archdiocese’s Center for Family Life Formation, said it is clear people are getting married later in life. Many first-time marriages in the archdiocese are among people in their 30s. Decades ago, people married in their 20s or younger.
Reasons are many, he said. Cohabitation is increasingly common, delaying marriages, and divorce rates have risen, which means young people see their parents, siblings and others suffer from broken marriages and hesitate to face the same challenges, Kennedy said.
Time is a factor, he said. As specialties develop in professions, it takes longer for people to finish higher education, and many delay marriage until they get those degrees, he said. And people work more hours each week, leaving less time to meet and date people, he said.
For those choosing marriage, another more-anecdotal-than-pure-number phenomenon: Fall weddings, rather than the traditional summer, are becoming more popular. One reason could be the rising costs and summer demand for rental halls, catering, flowers and other popular aspects of a wedding, he said.
A fall wedding – still considered off-season – can make rental halls and other items easier to find and less expensive, Kennedy said. And the weather is cooler, making the ceremony and festivities more comfortable, he said.
One archdiocesan trend that is backed by the numbers: St. John Church on the Creighton University campus in Omaha annually is the site of the most weddings, dating back at least 15 years.
In 2016, 88 weddings were held at St. John, while second-place and third-place Omaha churches St. Wenceslaus and St. Vincent de Paul had 39 and 36, respectively. In 2001, 94 weddings were performed at St. John, St. Columbkille in Papillion was at 51 and St. Cecilia Cathedral and St. Margaret Mary, both in Omaha, were tied for third with 50.
An unfortunate trend is the drop in the number of people marrying across the country, Kennedy said. In the archdiocese, the number of Catholic weddings performed has dropped 25 percent over the last 15 years, from 1,468 in 2001 to 1,094 last year.
At the same time, the number of people in the archdiocese identifying themselves as Catholic has risen 6.6 percent, from 219,893 in 2001 to 235,584 last year.
Catholics not taking advantage of the sacrament of matrimony are missing a great deal, including a relationship strengthened by a professed commitment to one another, to accepting children and to being a living sign of the faith, Kennedy said.
Catholics not participating in the sacrament of marriage also miss the opportunity for marriage preparation in the church, Kennedy said. One study indicated that without marriage preparation, the chance of divorce increases 45 percent, he said.
People not married in the church also cannot participate in the sacraments of holy Communion and confession, opportunities that can deepen their relationship with Christ, he said.
But couples can come back to the church and the graces of the sacraments, he said, by having their marriage convalidated.
And with the sacrament of marriage, the relationship also becomes a sign of Christ’s love for his church, "an evangelical sign for the rest of the world to see," he said.