The number of heterosexual couples marrying in England and Wales and those opting for a religious ceremony has fallen to an all-time low.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that there were 234,795 marriages in England and Wales in 2018, down 3.3% from the previous year and the highest low since 2009.
Marriage rates for opposite-sex couples in 2018 were the lowest on record, with 20.1 marriages per 1,000 unmarried men and 18.6 per 1,000 unmarried women.
The ONS said this could be explained by more people choosing to cohabit or marry later in life.
“This long-term decline is a likely consequence of the growing number of men and women delaying marriage, or of couples choosing to cohabit rather than marry, either as a precursor to marriage or as an alternative,” he said. he declares.
Commenting on the data, Kanak Ghosh, of the ONS Vital Statistics Directorate, said: “Marriage rates for opposite-sex couples were the lowest on record in 2018, while the total number in marriages fell for the third year in a row. .
“This continues the long-term gradual decline in numbers and rates since the early 1970s. Despite this overall decline, more and more people are choosing to marry at an advanced age, particularly those aged 65 and over. . “
The figures also suggest that fewer people are opting for traditional religious marriage, with only about a fifth (21.1%) of heterosexual couples in 2018 choosing a religious ceremony – the lowest on record.
“The popularity of religious weddings has steadily declined over time,” the ONS said.
“In 1900, religious ceremonies accounted for 84.7% of all marriages; by 1980, this figure had fallen to 50.4%. Since 1992, civil marriages have outnumbered religious marriages each year.
Responding to the numbers, Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation said the drop was “disappointing” but “needs to be put in context.”
“These numbers look worse because of the increase in marriages we saw in 2016 and 2017,” he said.
“The divorce rate is at its lowest level in 30 years, suggesting that those who marry are much more likely to stay together and that marriage remains the most stable form of relationship, especially when you factor in children. “
He added: “Marriage is a good idea and it works better than any other alternative. Yet successive governments have exacerbated the trend to move away from marriage. They should be ashamed of this national scandal and do the reversal. of this trend a national priority. “