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Lowest marriage rates since records began

Date:13 FEB 2009

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that marriage rates are the lowest since records began.

According to the ONS, there were 270,000 weddings in the UK in 2007, a fall of 2.7 per cent since 2006. Marriages registered in England and Wales fell by 3.3 per cent in 2007 to 231,450, which is the lowest number of marriages since 1895 (228,204). In Scotland, marriages decreased slightly from 29,898 in 2006 to 29,866 in 2007, while in Northern Ireland marriages increased 5 per cent to 8,687. The long-term picture for UK weddings is one of decline from a peak of 480,285 marriages in 1972.

In England and Wales, the number of unmarried adults rose in 2007, but the number who chose to marry fell, producing the lowest marriage rates since they were first calculated in 1862. In 2007, the marriage rate for men was 21.6 men marrying per 1,000 unmarried men aged 16 and over, down from 23.0 in 2006. The marriage rate for women in 2007 was 19.7 women marrying per 1,000 unmarried women aged 16 and over, down from 20.7 in 2006.

The number of marriages in England and Wales that were the first for both partners peaked in 1940 at 426,100 when 91 per cent of all marriages were the first for both partners. This number has since fallen to 143,440 in 2007, accounting for 62 per cent of all marriages.

Remarriages rose by about a third between 1971 and 1972, following the introduction of the Divorce Reform Act 1969 in England and Wales, and then levelled off. In 2007, 88,010 marriages were remarriages for one or both parties accounting for 38 per cent of all marriages.

Since 1992 there have been more civil ceremonies in England and Wales than religious ceremonies. In 2007, civil ceremonies accounted for 67 per cent of all ceremonies which is an increase from 61 per cent in 1997.

The Marriage Act 1836 and the Registration Act 1836 came into force in 1837 in England and Wales and provided the statutory basis for regulating and recording marriages. There were 118,000 marriages in 1838, the first full year of civil registration in England and Wales. Annual numbers of marriages rose steadily from the 1840s to the 1940s apart from peaks and troughs around the two world wars.