Last year saw the lowest number of marriages in England and Wales for more than a hundred years. Just 231,450 people got married, a decrease of 3.3 per cent on 2006 and a drop of 34 per cent since 1981. The figures come from the Office for National Statistics and exclude civil partnerships. They confirm the trend of people waiting longer to marry, the average groom now being almost 37 years old and the bride nearly 34 — figures influenced by second and subsequent marriages.

The number of couples marrying in a religious ceremony has halved since 1991, while weddings taking place in officially “approved premises” such as hotels, stately homes and historic buildings have risen to 40 per cent.

Some say the fall-off in marriages is due partly to the cost of weddings, as the average amount lavished on the big day is now 20,000 pounds. The recession is expected to bring down the number of weddings further. The fact that some young couples “can’t get a foot on the housing ladder” is given as another reason.

The experience of parental break-ups deters some people from tying the knot, and then there’s the fact that the longer people live independently the more difficult it may be to give that up. Divorce lawyers claim that big divorce settlements awarded some wives puts men off marrying. Government taxation policy does not help, giving almost no recognition to the importance of marriage. ~ Guardian, Feb 13


Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet