Save, make, understand money

Household Bills

Marriage rates fall to 160-year low

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The number of marriages between opposite sex couples has fallen to the lowest level since records began in 1862, official data reveals.

Marriages in England and Wales fell 6.4% to 219,850 in the year 2019.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed there were 213,122 marriages between opposite sex couples – a 6.5% decline from 2018.

This means the rates for opposite sex couples have fallen to their lowest on record since 1862.

In 2019, for men, there were 18.6 marriages per 1,000 unmarried men, while for women there were 17.2 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women.

Meanwhile the ONS data revealed there were 6,728 marriages between same sex couples – a fall of 2.8% from 2018.

Religious ceremonies in 2019 accounted for less than one in five opposite sex marriages, a 21% decline from 2018. It is also the lowest percentage on record.

For same sex marriages, 0.7% were religious ceremonies.

The data also looked at average age of marriage which stood at 34.3 years for men and 32.3 years for women. For same sex couples, this was higher at 38.1 for men and 33.8 for women.

Elsewhere, 76.1% of men and 77.1% of women in opposite sex relationships married for the first time while this was higher for same sex couples at 89.3% and 81.8% respectively.

Dr James Tucker, head of health and life events analysis at the ONS, said: “Today’s data show a decline in marriage rates for opposite sex couples while rates for same sex couples have remained the same.

“The number of opposite sex marriages has fallen by 50% since 1972. This decline is a likely consequence of increasing numbers of men and women delaying marriage, or couples choosing to live together rather than marry, either as a precursor to marriage or as an alternative. Future analysis will show the impact of the pandemic on marriages rates.”

Financial tips for unmarried cohabiting couples

Susie Bewell, wealth manager at Raymond James, Hitchin, said money can be an uncomfortable subject but it pays to discuss financial matters.

She said: “Cohabiting couples should explicitly agree on how expenses will be split and how bills will be paid while they live together. They should also discuss the amount each contributes to rent or the mortgage. Although this might be an uncomfortable conversation, couples should address the splitting of assets and belongings should the relationship end. It is important that any decision is agreed on by both parties. One option may be to create a regular ‘money date’ with your partner to discuss finances and agree on any actions.

“Pensions need to be front of mind when it comes to longer-term financial planning. Private pensions make up 42% of total wealth in Great Britain, according to the latest ONS data, and this proportion is growing over time. So, it’s really important to plan ahead. Cohabiting couples may not have nominated each other as a beneficiary to ensure pensions can be passed on. If they haven’t been nominated as their significant other’s beneficiary, then this could leave them at risk of having a small pension pot in the case of their partner’s death. This is an issue which disproportionately, although of course not exclusively, impacts women more.”