What Wedding Bliss Can Tell Us About Economic Recovery
Signs that the U.S. is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic are all around. On the corporate front, Walmart executives said rising sales in travel and personal care items show people are getting out and about again. Macy’s CEO said sales of prom dresses are improving too.
With wedding planners predicting higher demand for ceremonies this year, U.S. cities can watch another line item to gauge recovery: marriage license revenue.
A wedding recovery
In Colorado, the number of marriage licenses issued in the city of Denver grew for 12 straight years until 2020. The city issued more licenses on Valentine’s Day 2020 than any other Valentine’s Day, according to Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul D. Lopez. The next month, pandemic restrictions kicked in, and numbers started dipping.
The city ended up issuing 5,574 licenses in 2020, down 36% from 8,692 in 2019. Numbers through early 2021 are still behind what they were in 2019, but the pace could pick up as pandemic restrictions ease and nervous guests no longer appear in wedding photos with masks on.
“As the doors reopen, I think we could be looking at a record year just the same,” said Lisa Sandoval, Senior Accountant in the Denver Office of the Clerk and Recorder.
Wedding venues watch for a recovery
Rita Rollman is the director of the Grant-Humphreys Mansion, a state-run venue in Denver that hosts an average of 88 weddings per year. She expected the mansion to top 100 weddings for the first time in fiscal 2020, but instead the mansion lost about 75% of its revenue after pandemic restrictions kicked in.
This spring, business is picking up. “I’m not used to this. I feel like I have a fire hose in my face,” Rita joked.
Though some couples are still canceling or postponing ceremonies scheduled for this year, the mansion is already booked for every Saturday night in September and October of 2022. “2021 is not back to normal, but fall 2022 is kicking so much ass,” Rita said.
Rita typically provides a yearly revenue forecast for the mansion, sometimes supplemented quarterly. After COVID-19 struck, she was reviewing forecasts monthly. The mansion’s revenue for fiscal 2020, which ran from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, was about $340,000. Fiscal 2021 revenues will be about $153,000.
She projects fiscal 2022 revenue will be about $380,000. That’s lower than pre-pandemic revenue of $420,000 in fiscal 2019, but it’s still a hint that marriage license numbers could recover somewhat in Denver this year.
Of course, there’s no guarantee of how 2022 will look. “Everyone should have a Plan B,” Rita advised couples. “Understand your contract—and get wedding insurance."
Keep on keeping on: operational resiliency
The number of marriage licenses didn’t dip even further in 2020 because of the recorder’s office's ability to meet virtually with couples online and deliver licenses curbside, or via mail, to a Colorado address. Just as some fine dining restaurants are still offering online ordering so customers can pick up gourmet meals to go, Paul is an advocate for allowing remote licensing to continue.
He supported state legislation to extend electronic filing options for documents beyond this year. Legislators later revised Colorado House Bill 1100 to study electronic filing capacity across the state.
“Even as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, electronic filing and electronic publishing of information is an opportunity to modernize government operations, reduce waste, save the taxpayers time and money, and increase the accessibility of government services, information, and functions throughout the state,” the bill said.
Paul said that could be helpful for couples in Colorado, where May snowstorms aren’t uncommon. "If you can't be there in person, then we can get it done virtually,” he said.
“It's an innovation that has people wondering, ‘Is this just a pandemic thing, or can we do curbside pickup, like everything else?’ People love the margaritas to go,” he joked.
The big takeaway
Across state and local governments, agencies and departments are looking to modernize various systems to improve resilience to disruptive events, with 30% looking to make it happen in 2021, according to a recent survey by the Center for Digital Government and Governing
Instead of “going back to normal” as pandemic restrictions fall away, embrace the changes that helped employees work more efficiently while serving the public better.
Looking for ways to help your team keep going through disruptions? See how Workiva can help.