Marriage figures in England and Wales hit record low
Rising numbers are opting for civil partnerships or same-sex marriages
THE proportion of people in England and Wales who are married or in a civil partnership has fallen below 50 per cent for the first time, latest figures show.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics, published on Thursday (25), estimate that in 2022 only 49.4 per cent of the adult population were in a legal union.
The figure for 2021, also just published, was 49.7 per cent.
Despite the downward trend, however, rising numbers are opting for civil partnerships or same-sex marriages.
The number of same-sex marriages rose from about 26,000 in 2015 to some 167,000 in 2022.
Similarly, the estimated number of civil partnerships almost doubled over the last decade, from 120,000 in 2012 to 222,000 in 2022, the ONS said.
The record low figure for marriage or civil partnerships overall was down from 51.2 per cent a decade earlier in 2012.
The ONS said comparable records go back to 2002 but other data going back to 1972, though not directly comparable, showed the percentage married had never before dropped below 50 per cent.
David Thompson, a partner at law firm Seddons, said that despite the figures most people “perhaps surprisingly still want to marry”.
“If anything, people are waiting longer to get married. People put off settling down for longer, looking at settling instead for when the time is right,” he told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“The big decisions, like the cost of buying a house and bringing up children, push weddings down the list until the couples can afford it,” he added.
Family law firm Grayfords attributed the decline to changing social attitudes to and expectations of relationships, with marriage no longer seen as an end point.
At the same time, marriage is seen largely as a primarily religious practice, at a time when rates of belief are also on the wane.
The ONS figures show people aged under 30 accounted for just 3.2 per cent of those getting married or entering a civil partnership, down from 4.9 per cent in 2012.
“Attitudes to cohabiting prior to marriage have changed dramatically over the past few decades and as a result, more and more couples are choosing to live together first whilst still intending to marry in the future,” according to Grayfords.
“Cost can also be a factor. The average wedding now costs almost £30,000 ($38,000).”
The civil partnership for gay couples, which confers essentially the same rights and responsibilities as civil marriage, came into force in England in 2005.
It was expanded to include opposite-sex couples in 2019.
Full same-sex civil marriage was eventually introduced in 2014, with the first ceremonies taking place in 2015.