The New Normal: Timelines for Marriage & Kids

Zola and Modern Fertility survey examines nearly 1,400 people’s shifting views on marriage & family planning.

By The Zola Team

The First Look ✨

  • While most couples do want to be married before having children, alternate timelines and the idea of having a child without a partner are becoming much more widely accepted.
  • 1 in 3 couples who postponed their wedding have also postponed their timelines to have kids.
  • 81% of engaged couples are even more confident in moving forward with their wedding plans due to the vaccine rollout.

We didn’t exactly need a survey to tell us that couples have spent the last several decades moving away from the idea of the traditional life timeline of love → marriage → kids. But, while perceptions have been steadily shifting over time, the COVID-19 pandemic undeniably accelerated the trend by forcing us all to reassess what’s most important in our lives—whether that’s buying a home, having a child, or, of course, getting married.

To understand how attitudes have shifted around marriage and family planning since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zola teamed up with Modern Fertility, the reproductive health company making personalized fertility information and support much more accessible, to survey nearly 1,400 people who have gotten married or engaged since March 2020.

What we found is that while couples are hopeful that the pandemic will soon be coming to an end—with the vast majority now feeling even more confident about moving forward with their wedding plans—2020’s impacts on wedding and family planning will undeniably be lasting. Nearly half of respondents said the pandemic has changed their timeline to expand their families, but ironically, respondents were more likely to feel stressed and/or anxious in the past year about planning their wedding. Moreover, 1 in 5 respondents currently planning a wedding said they were open to having kids before getting married.

But, couples are still eager to meet at the altar. With the vaccine rollout well underway, couples are feeling much more confident and optimistic about the future, pointing to a return to the traditional wedding season with most respondents exchanging ‘I do’s’ between May and October 2021. And despite all the stressors of the past year, over 1/3 of couples say they’re more excited now about their upcoming reception and feel even closer together than ever as a result!

Read on for more insights and see the full report here:

Most people don't think it's taboo to become a parent outside of marriage—and 1 in 5 people planning a wedding say they're open to having kids first.

  • 7 out of 10 survey respondents don't think it's taboo to become a parent outside of marriage. This attitude has shifted significantly over the years, as only 3 out of 10 respondents said they felt it wasn't taboo to become a parent outside of marriage when they were growing up.
  • 1 in 5 people currently planning a wedding say they're open to having kids before marriage.
  • 2 out of 5 survey respondents say that marriage before a kid is not important to them—as long as they have the right partner.
  • And single-parent family consideration appears to be on the rise: About 1 in 4 (27%) said they don’t feel they need a partner to have a kid.

COVID-19 has had a lasting impact on wedding and pregnancy plans.

  • 93% of survey respondents changed their wedding plans due to COVID-19—opting for "microweddings" or "minimonies" (42%) or delaying their wedding and rescheduling (41%).
  • 46% of survey respondents said COVID-19 has changed their timeline for kids.

When it comes to the wedding reception, some couples are considering trade-offs.

  • 1 in 3 respondents (35%) are even more excited about having a wedding reception now than in 2020 — but some have had to shift plans:
    • 29% of survey respondents said that financial burdens from the past year have made their original wedding reception plans less realistic.

The vaccine rollout is boosting optimism and confidence overall, leading to the weddings boom of 2021 and beyond.

  • We sent out our survey at the beginning of March 2021, around the same time that the United States had begun administering more than 2 million shots per day according to NPR. 23% of survey respondents reported they had received the COVID-19 vaccine, and an additional 51% said they'll get it as soon as it's available.
  • In a follow-up survey on April 1, 2021 to 2,880 people in our community, 81% of those planning a wedding said they feel even more confident moving forward with their plans now that the vaccine rollout is well underway.
  • From our original survey:
    • Just over half (53%) say they want the majority of their wedding guests to be vaccinated before their wedding reception.

Wedding planning in 2020 was more stressful than planning for kids—but in the end, all of this is bringing couples together.

  • Wedding planning during a global pandemic is bound to be stressful—in fact, people reported being more anxious about planning their wedding than making family planning decisions. 81% of survey respondents reported feeling stressed and/or anxious when planning their wedding this year—compared to 45% of survey respondents saying they felt stressed and/or anxious when making decisions about expanding their family.
  • Despite emotions running high, the majority of people (70%) were on the same page about how to make wedding-related decisions with their partners and 45% said that wedding planning during COVID-19 "brought me and my partner closer together."
  • For 3 out of 10 (30%) couples, postponing a wedding also meant postponing their family planning. But only 14% of people reported tension and stress in their relationships due to fertility and family planning.

How Couples Are Feeling Right Now:

“Ultimately, the stress I was bottling up [about postponing our wedding and therefore our timeline to conceive] led to really wonderful conversations with my partner, a new degree of openness, less worry, and a decision to start trying before our rescheduled wedding celebration. If I’m six months pregnant as I walk down the aisle, so be it! In a way, pushing forward with our plans to grow a family–and potentially having big, visible evidence of those plans as we finally get to say “I do” in front of our long-parted family and friends–feels like the best “screw you” to COVID I could imagine.”

“We had originally planned to be married in the fall, honeymoon in the winter and then start trying for kids shortly after. Now, my wedding will be summer 2022 and we will try for kids after that. I am worried about how my age will affect our chances of a healthy pregnancy, but I also don't want to be pregnant before we are married, or pregnant at my wedding. We have considered getting legally married this year and having a party later instead of a wedding, and in that case, we may start trying for kids sooner rather than later.”

"We got legally married on our original wedding date (August 2020) in a small ceremony with our immediate family but postponed the reception to June 2021. We are holding off on trying to have a child until after I am vaccinated — if it weren't for COVID we would have tried right after the wedding."

“When it came to our wedding Covid-19 both ruined dreams and created beautiful memories. We postponed twice (June to September 2020, now October 2021) for the in-person big celebration, then ended up having a very-small 12-person wedding with my immediate family while Zooming in my husband's family and extended family in August 2020. Making the decision not to have his mom present brought great tension, grief, and sorrow to our journey — but it also brought us closer together, solidifying WE are each other's MVP. We are excited and hopeful to celebrate fully in October 2021."

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