UK marriages rise for 3rd year running
Marriages, United Kingdom, 1972 - 2004
There were 311,180 weddings in the UK in 2004. This is 1 per cent more than in 2003 when there were 308,620 weddings and is the third successive annual increase. However, there has been a long-term decline from the peak number of 480,285 marriages in 1972.
Marriages increased for the third successive year in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in 2004. In England and Wales marriages increased by 0.2 per cent in 2004 to 270,700. The lowest annual number of marriages since 1897 was seen in 2001.
The number of marriages in England and Wales that were the first for both partners peaked in 1970 at almost 340,000. It has since fallen to less than half this number – 161,300 in 2004. In Northern Ireland, marriages increased by 7 per cent to 7,757 and in Scotland they rose by 5 per cent to 32,154.
Over the past few decades people have tended to marry later in life. The average age for first marriages in England and Wales in 2004 was 31 for men and 29 for women. This compares with 25 and 23 for men and women respectively 40 years earlier.
The trend towards marriage at older ages is partly down to more people living together prior to, or instead of, marriage. But it is also consistent with other trends, such as increased and longer participation in further and higher education, later leaving of the parental home and later childbearing.
Remarriages rose by about a third between 1971 and 1972 following the introduction in England and Wales of the Divorce Reform Act 1969 and then levelled off. In 2004, 49,540 marriages were remarriages for both parties, accounting for 18 per cent of all marriages.
Since 1992, there have been more civil marriage ceremonies in England and Wales than religious ceremonies. In 2004, 68 per cent of marriages were solemnised by civil ceremonies. The Marriage Act 1994 provided for civil marriages to take place in approved premises from 1 April 1995. In 2004, 31 per cent of all marriages in England and Wales took place in approved premises, compared with 5 per cent in 1996.
The Marriage Act 1836 and the Registration Act 1836 came into force in 1837 in England and Wales, and provided the statutory basis for regulating and recording marriages. There were 118,000 marriages during the first full year of civil registration in 1838 in England and Wales. Annual numbers of marriages rose steadily from the 1840s to the 1940s, apart from peaks and troughs in and around the years of the two World Wars.
Source: Office for National Statistics, General Register Office for Scotland, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
UK figures for 2004 are rounded and provisional.
Figures for England and Wales are rounded and provisional until the publication of FM2 no.32 which will be available here: www.statistics.gov.uk/statbase/Product.asp?vlnk=581
Figures for Northern Ireland are final and are available here: www.nisranew.nisra.gov.uk/statistics/financeandpersonnel/dmb/CDROM%202004/marriages_web.htm
Figures for Scotland are final and are available here: www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/library/vital-events/vital-events-reference-tables-2004/section-7-marriages.html
The marriage figures relate only to marriages taking place in the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. They take no account of marriages of UK residents taking place abroad.
Where mentioned, first marriages are for both partners. Remarriages are for one or both partners.