Call us: Mon - Fri 8:30am - 7pm, Sat - Sun 9am - 5pm
Call local rate 0330 056 3171
Mon - Fri 8:30am - 7pm | Sat - Sun 9am - 5pm
Call local rate 0330 056 3171
Mon - Fri 8:30am - 7pm | Sat - Sun 9am - 5pm

Marriage rate drops by nine per cent

The number of marriages in England and Wales has fallen by almost nine per cent.

According to newly published data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 240,854 marriages in 2013. This represents an 8.6 per cent drop since the previous year and is the first decline since 2009.

Despite the drop, first time marriages actually increased. In 2013, 67 per cent of marriages were the first for both partners involved. This continued a steady upward trend since 2000 when only 58 per cent of marriages featured two first-time partners. By contrast only 15 per cent of marriages had two people who had both married before, which was a drop from 19 per cent between 1995 and 2000.

Almost three quarters – 72 per cent – of all marriages in 2013 were celebrated in civil ceremonies. The difference between those weddings and religious ceremonies has been steadily increasing over the last few years. The last time religious weddings outnumbered civil ones was 1991. This trend continued in 2013, when the number of religious ceremonies fell by 14 per cent in 2013, but the number of civil marriages only fell by six per cent.

The overall drop in the marriage rate continues a long-term decline in marriages since 1972, the ONS said. Increasingly, people are delaying marriage or “choosing to cohabit rather than marry, either as a precursor to marriage or as an alternative”, the report read.

Alternatively, the decline could have been down to some couples delaying marriage in 2013 “to avoid the number 13 which is perceived as unlucky by many cultures”, ONS statistician Elizabeth McLaren suggested.

Read the ONS report in full here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

Contact us

As the UK's largest family law firm we understand that every case is personal.


  1. Andy says:

    This is no surprise..firstly the question is raised weather to get married or not.One may be the cost involved from start to finish and also the increasing demand on personal finances…
    Stastistics show the demise of the marriage but also the increase of pre nips and prior marriage contracts…does this mean for richer or poorer!!!
    No it means if you get divorced you are covering your bets…
    Secondly the amount of marriages as noted possibly these were Sham marriages you know where some one is paid and then Visa arrives then disappear….not much done in that department of figures and no legal team involved either….
    For us poor soles trying to survive and earn what we can the problem starts as divorce rears its ugly were you in lets say happy times now it’s war..and of course the solicitors act as vultchers to support you…In removing finances as the letters start..who has the dog or cat!!!.
    Just remember marriage now seems not for life but a short term contract with get out clauses that is now trending and what about the law in court..well,
    What ever you got prior in agreement written or stated forget it as the court will award majority to the other partner who now turned out to want everything and leave you nothing..good old British justice…..As she crying in front of the judge…

  2. JamesB says:

    Thanks for this. The marriage and divorce laws need to change to encourage marriage.

    The page referred to the marriages peak at about 490,000 in 1940. Last year they were at 225,000 , less than half, that is despite the population doubling and the sham marriages.

    Erm, still politicians do nothing, arguing over deckchairs while the Titanic sinks, roasting marshmallows while Rome burns. May have got the metaphors slightly wrong but I hope I make the point, marriage is the foundation of a healthy society and making it prohibitively expensive in terms of divorce and risk is bad.

  3. JamesB says:

    In 1940 there were not a statistically significant number of divorces or remarriages or gay marriages or civil partnerships either which makes the numbers even more drastic as the recent figures include a lot of that sort of thing. Population was about half what it is now in 1940.

  4. JamesB says:

    Population was about two thirds what it is now in 1940.

  5. JamesB says:

    The population figure should have been included in the article to give context. That it wasn’t is probably because that is what lawyers do, they leave out the points and facts that don’t support their arguments. The point about 2013 is wrong also as a record low was a couple of years before that which is not an unlucky number and now is dipping again. Lawyers will write their line and leave out the facts and points and other words.

  6. JamesB says:

    The number of marriages including at least one foreign spouse further gives context (is massive large figure) as is number of children born in this country to people where one parent is non UK born. All these stats show the men and women born in this country seem to be in decline and not marrying and having children together and that is bad.

    • Jason Picton says:

      Foreign spouses, specifically foreign women from non-western backgrounds is only going to increase thanks to feminism and its effects making local women unwantable by men.

  7. Luke says:

    “The marriage and divorce laws need to change to encourage marriage.”
    JamesB, it’s not about what’s right, it’s about who benefits, so I think this is unlikely.
    To encourage marriage financially by any significant amount is fraught with problems and is extremely expensive for the government, it is also a subject that a large section of the single population would get angry about – and they have votes !
    To take away the financial penalties of divorce for men and make divorce simple is both expensive (many more single mothers relying on the state) and likely to upset other vested interests (the feminist media and the legal system – who would lose work). There is no vested interest of any significance that is pushing for this either.
    Cohabitation law is ridiculous because you become massively liable without ever signing up to anything – but again that’s not why it hasn’t happened yet.
    There are the same vested interests who benefit in introducing it (Government; 3rd wave feminism; Legal System), however, there IS a strong vested interest against them in this case – organised religion.
    Organised religion sees cohabitation as a direct threat to marriage and any attempts to legitimise it is fought tooth and nail because it strikes at the very heart of their way of thinking.
    Still, I think we probably will have cohabitation law eventually, because if the marriage rate keeps dropping the pro-cohabitation lobby will get desperate and ultimately in all scenarios money always ‘talks’…

    * Note: I’m generalising here – in a minority of cases women are affected adversely by these laws.
    I probably shouldn’t have to mention this but usually you get somebody saying –
    “I know Ms Muggins down the street at No. 74 and she didn’t benefit from her divorce so you’re wrong” 🙂

  8. JamesB says:

    Thanks for your post Luke.

    I do disagree though. Specifically, you say, To take away the financial penalties of divorce for men and make divorce simple is both expensive …

    I do not think so. I do not think there would be so many single mothers as they wouldn’t choose it as a lifestyle choice as they do. The same for men divorcing wives for younger models.

    Also re cohabitation law and third wave feminism, well, I think we have reached the high watermark with feminism (it smelled). So, we need to sort this problem out. My choice would be to change the divorce law and make it less dodgy, making pre and post nups legal and lawyers less expensive, plus abolishing the csa/cmec/cms and putting that back to the courts. So the silly immature women I see in courts divorcing their decent husbands can not be rewarded for doing so which is shocking and why the figure is so bad.

    I do remember seeing an average to good looking woman in court once with her himbo in a vest showing his biceps and tattoos looking like a model and her ex in a suit looking very angry and upset by the whole thing and I thought this no conduct thing is a bit out of hand as she is going to rake it in and the man is going to bring up the kids and the ex will be paying. Same probably other way around.

    I think down the line unless things change, and I don’t think they will, we will have more and more flats with single people. Its a shame.

    It kind of brings politicians into disrepute that there is an issue but they dont do anything. Bit like Europe, they are ineffective but can point out the errors in any change.

    My parents evening last night, went with my ex. People were looking at us strangely. We have nice kids and are both nice and her new husband is a bit weird. Was a bit of a blast from the past, I think there is still a bit of stigma involved with divorce and probably rightly so.

  9. JamesB says:

    Did I just say my ex is nice. I didn’t mean that. Its what I want my kids to think. I could talk about the faults in the EU a lot more also.

    Luke, I agree with your point on that there is a reduction in marriage and the causes. That no one seems to be prepared to change the law I find strange and bad, that said I think down the road we will have better law and more marriages as I try and be optimistic.

    I suppose the post was published and in the press on the figures and that shows there is a concern and wanting to do something about it. I hope so as I do not want my children involved in a sex war in a declining angry country of single people. I want more peace and love please.

  10. Shawn says:

    Marriage still exists? That’s news to me.

  11. J Walter says:

    Marriage is a bad deal for men.

  12. John says:

    Women are creatures, which men don’t want anything to do with, in rapidly growing numbers.
    They’re are cold hearted, greedy, and self centred.
    Sex is cheap these days.
    When she thinks she can lure you into a marriage with sex, you can have it on the next toilet.
    Then she buys positive pregnancy tests to make you believe you got her pregnant, to trap you into a relationship. Not that she’s loving you… No! Just your money counts.
    And when you have bad luck, you lose half of everything you got.

    Women? They make me puke.

Leave a comment

Help & advice categories


Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for advice on divorce and relationships from our lawyers, divorce coaches and relationship experts.

What type of information are you looking for?

Privacy Policy