Given the disparity in the protection provided by the legal framework to those who marry and those who cohabit, and recent discussion of the lack of awareness of these differences, this paper sets out to examine perceptions of risk amongst those entering into partner relationships with and without the formal status of marriage. In this small qualitative study we draw on personal interviews with 20 men and women aged between 25 and 40, who were identified through an ONS Omnibus sweep and agreed to talk to us about their attitudes to marriage and cohabitation, and in particular the risks they thought were associated with entering into either relationship. We expected that assessment of risk would be related to civil status. But this was not the case. Both the men and women we spoke to consistently related risk to gender, and in particular to motherhood. The interviews were carried out in late 2003 and early 2004.