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Family Law

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Court of Protection Practice and Procedure Conference 2016

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27 APR 2016

Marriage rates decline for the first time since 2009

Amy Royce-Greensill

Professional Support Lawyer


Marriage rates decline for the first time since 2009

The Office of National Statistics has released a bulletin analysing marriage statistics for the year 2013.

There is a decline in people getting married

In England and Wales there was a decrease in the number of people marrying in 2013 compared with 2012. There were 240,854 marriages in 2013, a decrease of 8.6% from 2012, the first decline since 2009. Speculating on what may have caused the 2013 decline Elizabeth McLaren from the Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, Office for National Statistics, said ‘The fall could indicate the continuation of the long-term decline in marriages since 1972 or could be due to couples choosing to postpone their marriage to avoid the number 13 which is perceived as unlucky by many cultures.’


The long-term decline in marriages and marriage rates between 1972 and 2009 is a likely consequence of increasing numbers of men and women delaying marriage, or couples choosing to cohabit rather than marry, either as a precursor to marriage or as an alternative. Cohabitation continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK, as figures released in November 2015 revealed. Many have called for reform in this area of the law and the Commons Library produced a briefing paper on the subject earlier this year.

People prefer civil ceremonies over religious ones

The general trend for couples to choose civil ceremonies over religious ceremonies continued with civil ceremonies accounting for 72% of all marriages. The percentage of civil ceremonies has increased steadily over time. Civil marriages first exceeded religious ceremonies in 1976, and have consistently outnumbered religious marriages every year since 1992.

First-time marriages continue to rise while remarriages decline

In 2013, 77% of brides and 76% of grooms were marrying for the first time. Over two-thirds (67%) of marriages were the first marriage for both partners. Remarriages for both parties accounted for 15% of all marriages. The remaining marriages were to couples where only one partner had been previously married. The percentage of marriages which are the first marriage for both partners has increased steadily from a recent low of 58% in 2000. In contrast, remarriages for both have decreased steadily from a recent high of 19% recorded between 1995 and 2000.

People are getting married at an older age

For those entering their first marriage in 2013, the average age was 32.5 years for men and 30.6 years for women, representing increases of almost 8 years since 1973. The average (mean) age for men marrying in 2013 was 36.7 years, while for women it was 34.3 years. This represents a slight increase compared with 2012 (36.5 years for men and 34.0 years for women) and continues the overall rise recorded since the 1970s. The statistics also showed that those aged 65 and over were more likely to marry in 2013 compared with 2003, with the greatest increase among women.

Statistics  released in November 2015 showed that the number of divorces occurring in 2013 had also fallen.

The full ONS statistical bulletin on 2013 marriage rates is available to download here.


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