Marriage is less popular in England and Wales than at any time since records began in 1862, as statistics reflect the sad story of what is happening within our nation.
Statistics for opposite-sex marriages in 2015, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 28 February 2018, show that only 2.17 per cent of eligible men (unmarried men over the age of 16), and 1.98 per cent of eligible women, married in 2015.
The popularity of marriage was at its peak in 1972, when the equivalent figures were 7.84 per cent for men and 6.05 per cent for women. This means that the proportion of men and women in the population who chose to marry in 1972 was more than three times what it was in 2015.
In the 43 years between 1972 and 2015, the marriage rate percentages have been in steady decline (4.21 per cent and 3.61 per cent in 1990; 2.36 per cent and 2.13 per cent in 2010). There were 239,020 opposite-sex marriages in 2015, a decrease of 3.4 per cent compared with 2014. However, the lowest annual total on record is still the 231,450 in 2007. Marriages of couples married abroad are not included in the ONS statistics.
Marriages in Scotland (28,020) and Northern Ireland (8,355) also declined in 2015, but not as much (2.4 per cent and 2.3 per cent) as in England and Wales. In Northern Ireland, all marriages are still between opposite-sex couples.
In the peak year of 1972, there were 426,241 marriages in England and Wales — 78 per cent more than in 2015. This difference is made even more stark by the fact that the population in 1972 was 8.5 million (15 per cent) lower than in 2015.
The decline in the marriage rate is particularly pronounced in the under-35s, a strong indication that the annual number of marriages can be expected to continue to decline in the coming years.
There were 6,493 same-sex ‘marriages’ in 2015, following the government’s redefinition of marriage from March 2014. In addition to 11,343 same-sex ‘marriages’ in 2014 and 2015, there were 11,567 conversions of civil partnerships into marriages in the same period. Civil partnership is now on the wane, there having been only 1,014 new civil partnerships contracted throughout the UK in 2015.