Number of marriages in England and Wales falls for the first time since 2009

Published: 16th May 2016

New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the number of marriages that took place in England and Wales in 2013 fell for the first time since 2009. In 2013 there were 240,854 marriages, which is 8.6% less than the previous year (2012).

The decline ends the slow increase that was recorded between the lowest number of 232,443 in 2009 and its peak in 2012.

Some of the key points in the latest statistical bulletin include:

  • Of the 240,854 marriages in 2013, 72% were civil ceremonies and over 75% involved brides and grooms that were marrying for the first time.
  • The number of Religious ceremonies decreased by 14% and the number of civil ceremonies fell by 6% in 2013, compared with 2012.
  • The mean age when getting married was 36.7 years old for men and 34.3 years old for women, which saw a small increase compared with 2012.
  • People aged 65 and over were more likely to marry in 2013 compared with 2003, with the largest increase among women.

The statistics are collected from information recorded by registrars when marriages and civil ceremonies take place and do not include any marriages or civil ceremonies that took place abroad, nor any marriages which took place to non-residents of England and Wales. With the introduction of same sex marriages only taking place on 29th March 2014, no same sex marriages were included in the statistical bulletin.

The Office for National Statistics state that there has been a long term decline in marriage rates between 1972 and 2009, which is a likely consequence of increasing numbers of men and women choosing to delay marriage or opting to cohabit as an alternative to marriage.

"Fewer people got married in England and Wales in 2013, the first decrease in marriages since 2009. 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", said Elizabeth McLaren at the Vital Statistics Outputs Branch of ONS.

In recent years, the Government has tried to incentivise marriage with the introduction of the marriage tax allowance policy, which was introduced in April 2015.

The policy allows people to transfer £1,060 of their personal tax allowance to their spouse or civil partner and was supposed to be a signal of intent by the Government to encourage more marriages, however the scheme has been described as a failure as only 8% of those eligible have applied for the tax break.

Since the scheme came into force only 330,000 couples have applied, which is much less than the Government's target of four million couples applying to take advantage of the policy.

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