Government marriage statistics published in 2019
Every three years the Office for National Statistics releases figures on the changing state of marriage and weddings in England and Wales, and in 2019 they released the latest statistics which cover the period to 2016. So what’s changed between 2012 and 2016, and how does this affect your business? We compare the numbers below…
Number of marriages taking place in the UK in 2016
In 2016, there were 249,793 marriages in England and Wales. This is 1.7% more than in 2015, but 1.0% fewer than in 2014, and is still considered a historical low by experts.
This may be partly due to the perceived high cost of weddings in the UK. Guides for Brides recently conducted a poll of over 400 participants asking whether the cost of weddings put people off the concept of weddings, and 83% responded that it did. However, we believe that the average cost of getting married in the UK often quoted in media is an erroneously high number, and that the typical cost of weddings is lower than often reported. You can read more about the true cost of weddings in the UK in our report here.
Same sex marriages
97.2% of all marriages in 2016 were between opposite sex couples, and 2.8% were between same sex couples. There were 7,019 marriages between same sex couples in 2016, which marks an increase of 8.1% from 2015. When it comes to the gender split of these marriages, the numbers were fairly even, with a slight majority (55.7%) of female couples.
With the increased number of same sex marriage and numbers continuing to rise, it’s more important than ever for wedding suppliers and venues to make same sex representation a key part of their marketing strategy.
Civil ceremonies and religious weddings
For the first time ever, less than a quarter of all marriages in 2016 were religious ceremonies, making the numbers the lowest on record. 60,069 marriages in 2016 had religious ceremonies, making up just 24% of the total number of weddings in England and Wales that year. This is partly due to the long-term decline in the overall number of all marriages but also the rise in popularity of civil marriage ceremonies. In 2016 there were more than three times as many civil marriage ceremonies as there were religious ceremonies.
“It is sad to see the number of church weddings is continuing to steadily decline,” says Alison Hargreaves, Director of Guides for Brides. “The number has been dropping since non-religious venues were licensed for civil ceremonies in 1995, and with the law commission looking into opening up more options for getting married, if the Church doesn’t act soon the decline will go into free-fall. Couples are looking for the least complicated option; within range of every church is a number of beautiful, cost-effective licensed wedding venues readily available, and these often end up being the easier and more accessible option, even for Christians.”
Ages of brides and grooms
For all weddings, the average age for men marrying in 2016 was 37.9 years old, while for women it was 35.5 years old. This marks a slight increase for both men and women from the previous year and continued the overall rise of marrying ages that we’ve been seeing since 1970. Interestingly, the average age for same-sex couples in 2016 was slightly higher, at 40.8 years old for men and 37.4 years old for women.
This figure takes into account all marriages, which means typical ages for second marriages can increase the average ages. Figures just for first marriages showed that the average age of opposite-sex couples was 33.4 years for men, and 31.5 years for women. Among same-sex couples marrying for the first time, the average ages of both single men and women were higher at 39.5 and 35.4 years respectively.
Regardless of whether the participants have been married before, the trend for marriages in later life is continuing to rise. This is partly due to older couples remarrying, which has contributed massively to the rise in marriages over the past couple years, but also reflects the fact that increased housing prices are causing younger couples to prioritise getting on the property ladder over tying the knot.
The most popular date to get married in 2016 was 30th July, with 4,742 weddings taking place on this day. Between 1996 and 2016, August has historically been the most popular month to marry, with an average of 1,304 weddings taking place per day. The overall most popular wedding date over the last two decades is 30th August, with an average of 1,609 weddings taking place on this day.
The least popular day to marry in 2016 was 25th December, with only two weddings taking place on Christmas Day. This is unsurprising – Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are generally the least popular days to get married, not least because most registration offices and approved premises are not open on these days.
Saturday was the most popular day to get married in 2016, with over half (51%) of all marriages taking place on that day. Nearly three-quarters of religious marriages (74%) took place on a Saturday, while only 44% of civil ceremonies did, however civil ceremonies outnumbered religious ceremonies on every other day except Saturday.
This increase in weekday weddings for civil ceremonies may be due in part to the variation in cost when it comes to licensed wedding venues. While church costs tend not to vary too much day by day, savvy couples know that wedding venues and registrars charge a higher fee for Saturdays due to their popularity, and opt for weekday packages to keep their wedding in budget.
This report from the Office for National Statistics is much as we expected, with the overall marriage rate declining as national priorities change, and the church losing ever more ground to civil ceremonies. We’d encourage venues with a licence for civil ceremonies to make the most of these halcyon days as proposed changes to the marriage laws are expected to open up increased competition from restaurants, pubs and open air venues.
The wedding industry is seeing a more diverse audience; second marriages and older couples are boosting the numbers, while same sex marriages make up a significant part of the market.
The number of weekday weddings highlights the fact that couples are looking for more cost-effective weekday packages, so including reduced rates for weekdays gives wedding suppliers the chance to spread business across the week for a steady income, rather than relying on lucrative but competitive Saturdays.
The government statistics only shows statistics up to 2016. Our own data demonstrates that these trends have continued through to 2019, with one marked exception. Throughout 2018 we’ve been reporting the highest number of overseas wedding enquiries since 2001. As a result we would encourage venues to offer post-wedding reception packages for couples who plan a second reception once they are back home. Wedding suppliers should be looking at products that will travel well. Service-based suppliers should consider offering their services internationally. Alison Hargreaves comments, “the significant rise in overseas weddings seems illogical with the current foreign exchange rates, however this is a generation of brides and grooms that value quality time with those that they love and are looking for something a bit different. They can get both with a destination wedding. It isn’t a trend that is going to go away some time soon, in fact Instagram images of outdoor weddings will inspire yet more couples. Wedding venues and suppliers should consider how they can adapt their business to serve this evolving market.”