The number of men and women getting married has fallen to a new low, official government statistics show.
The latest figures for England and Wales show that there were a total of 242,842 marriages in 2017 – a decrease of 2.8% from 2016. The change was apparently driven by a 9.5% decline the number of religious marriages, together with a 0.6% decline in the number of civil marriages. Less than a quarter (22%) of all marriages in 2017 were religious ceremonies, which is the lowest percentage on record. Civil marriages have outnumbered religious marriages every year since 1992.
While opposite-sex couples accounted for the majority of marriages in 2017 (97%), the number of men and women marrying each other has decreased by some 45% since 1972. The average age at marriage of opposite-sex couples was 38.0 years for men and 35.7 years for women.
Reportedly, some 88% of opposite-sex couples cohabited before getting married. This figure was only marginally higher for couples who had a civil ceremony (90%) compared with those who had a religious ceremony (81%).
Kanak Ghosh, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) commented: “Marriage rates for opposite-sex couples are now at the lowest level on record. This continues a gradual long-term decline seen since the early 1970s, with numbers falling by a third over the past 40 years.
“The popularity of religious ceremonies also fell to historic lows for the second year running, with fewer than one in four couples choosing to get married through a religious ceremony.”
Same-sex ‘marriages’ ‘remain unchanged’
There were 6,932 ‘marriages’ between same-sex couples in 2017; 56% were between female couples, although other statistics from the ONS show that in 2018, 65% of civil partnerships were between male couples. A further 1,072 same-sex couples converted their civil partnership into a ‘marriage’. These figures have remained largely unchanged since the introduction of same-sex ‘marriages’ in 2014.
‘Forgetting the meaning of marriage’
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, commented: “God gave marriage as the basic building block for families, communities and even nations. As we have forgotten the meaning of marriage – a commitment between one man and one woman for life – our society has forgotten the beauty of that life-long commitment.
“The consequences hit children the hardest, who are robbed of the example and stable love only a father and mother can give. This faithful love models the love of Jesus for his people, and shows us how to love others, even when it is difficult. That is the love that makes societies thrive and the love that we need to build a future together.”