Provisional 2020 marriages data

Provisional data for January to June 2020 highlighting changes in patterns of marriage associated with the COVID-19 pandemic

Released
27/11/2020

Introduction

Marriage and divorce statistics provide insights into the formation and dissolution of family units within Australia. In most years changes in these statistics are minimal, highlighting gradual changes in the age at which people seek to marry for the first time, whether they would want a civil or religious ceremony or whether they might instead opt for simply registering a relationship. 2020 has been a year of exceptions, making information on 2020 marriages of increased public interest.

On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Over the following weeks, measures to suppress the spread of the virus were progressively implemented in Australia. Social distancing requirements, size limits on gatherings, and restrictions on travel are all factors that would have forced couples to reconsider their wedding plans.

This article provides provisional statistics on Australian marriages that occurred in the first half of 2020. Data presented in this article include those marriages that occurred between January and June 2020 and were registered by the end of August 2020. 

Number of marriages, January to June 2020

Between January and June 2020, a total of 37,813 marriages occurred in Australia that were registered by the end of August 2020. This constitutes a 31.9% decrease when compared with the average number of marriages for the same six-month period in the past five years (55,492).

A significant decrease in the number of marriages began in late March, coinciding with the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions. Numbers of marriages remained low throughout April, May and June.

When comparing counts of marriages between April and June with averages for the same period over the past five years (2015-2019):

  • Numbers of marriages were lower by 62.2%.
  • Marriages decreased the most in April (71.4%), followed by May (57.6%) and June (51.8%).
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  1. Data is based on the date on which the marriage occurred, rather than the date on which it was registered. Care should therefore be taken when comparing 2015-19 data with data presented in the Marriages and Divorces, Australia publication.
  2. 2020 data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received. 
  3. Weeks in this graph always have 7 days and the date represents the week ending. Leap years result in slightly different dates being included in each week from week 9 on and only full weeks have been included.

States and territories

When comparing counts of marriages between April and June with averages across states and territories:

  • Victoria recorded the largest percentage decrease in marriages at 65.1%.
  • The Australian Capital Territory recorded the smallest percentage decrease at 42.7%.
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Number of marriages that occurred April to June, state and territory, 2020 vs 2015-19 average (a)(b)
NSWVic.QldSAWATas.NTACTAus.
202035182105211656410841431161779823
2015-19 average8782602959481515278936023530925968
Change (no.)-5264-3924-3832-951-1705-217-119-132-16145
Change (%)-59.9-65.1-64.4-62.8-61.1-60.3-50.6-42.7-62.2
  1. Data is based on the date on which the marriage occurred, rather than the date on which it was registered. Care should therefore be taken when comparing 2015-19 data with data presented in the Marriages and Divorces, Australia publication.
  2. 2020 data is considered to be provisional and subject to change as additional data is received. 

Characteristics of those getting married April to June 2020

For the most part, characteristics of people and couples who proceeded with plans to marry between April and June 2020 were representative of marriages outside of the pandemic:

  • The median age at marriage was 32.6 years for males and 30.7 years for females.
  • 80.0% of ceremonies were performed by a civil celebrant.

There were some differences of note:

  • For both males and females, it was less likely to be their first marriage. 75.6% of males and 77.4% of females who married between April and June 2020 were marrying for the first time. This compares to 80.0% for males and 81.4% for females in 2019. 
  • It was less likely that both partners were born in Australia. Between April and June 2020, 38.7% of marriages were of couples where both partners were born in Australia, compared to 53.9% in 2019.

Registered relationships

Most state and territory Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages provide couples an alternative to marriage, in the form of a relationship register. Numbers of registered relationships have been increasing steadily over time.

The option to legalise a union through a relationship register has remained available throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. According to numbers provided to the ABS, numbers of relationships registered in the first 6 months of 2020 appear comparable with those for 2019. 

Release of final 2020 data

A complete dataset including all marriages and divorces for 2020 will be released in 2021.