Marrying less and later: new marriage stats from the ONS

A quick question: what percentage of unmarried men got married in 2018?

a) 20%

b) 10%

c) 2%

The surprising answer is c) - just 2%.

It’s part of the revealing set of marriages stats just released by the ONS (Office for National Statistics). The figures show that in 2018, the number of opposite sex marriages fell to its lowest rate on record, at:

  • 20.1 marriages per 1,000 unmarried men
  • 18.6 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women

Under 250,000 people got married in 2018. Approximately one in every 35 marriages was between a same sex couple.



Waiting longer to get hitched

On average, couples are waiting longer to get married.

The average age at marriage for opposite-sex couples in 2018 was:

38.1 years for men
35.8 years for women



For same-sex couples the average ages at marriage were:

40.4 years for men
36.9 years for women
It’s the top end of the age spectrum that is raising this average, as Kanak Ghosh, Vital Statistics Outputs Branch ONS notes:

“Despite this overall decline, more people are choosing to get married at older ages, particularly those aged 65 and over.”

Getting married? Get a pre-nup!

If you’re getting married this year, top of your wedding preparation list should be a pre-nup. This is particularly relevant if you are getting married later. Professional couples are more likely to have accrued assets in their own right from work and personal endeavour, or through inheritance from parents or relatives. This range and value of assets makes a pre-nuptial agreement even more appropriate, to make sure there is a record of who brought what to the marriage.

Contact us to discuss arranging a pre-nup today:

- Call us

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Marriage rates and the unmarried population

Marriage rates are a useful stat as the ONS explains:

“Marriage rates take into account the changes in the size of the unmarried adult population as well as the number of marriages. Therefore, they provide a better indication of changing trends.”

While the number of marriages may fluctuate, the divorce rate may fluctuate too, and so will the size of the unmarried population.

The figures also represent a rather one-sided viewpoint of marriage, as the ONS recognizes:

“This long-term decline is a likely consequence of increasing numbers of men and women delaying marriage, or couples choosing to cohabit rather than marry, either as a precursor to marriage or as an alternative.”

It’s interesting to note that amongst those who did get married, almost 94% or men and 93% of women were cohabiting before they got married.


Cohabiting agreements and divorce settlements

The ONS divorce statistics for 2019 revealed that opposite-sex marriages on average lasted for 12.3 years. Should your marriage or civil partnership end, you will have certain rights which will be reflected in your financial divorce settlement.

The same is not true if you are cohabiting. A cohabitation agreement sets out your financial relationship so that should you split up, assets accrued before you lived together and during your relationship can be taken into account. It can help safeguard your property, your assets, and the future for your children whether from your current relationship or a previous one.

The complexities of family law issues around this area are much greater. Proper legal advice should be sought before drawing up or signing any agreement.

If you’d like to discuss creating a cohabitation agreement, call us to arrange your initial 1-hour reduced fee consultation, with 30 free minutes included.


Looking ahead: more marriages or less?

With the delays in marriage ceremony availability due to COVID, one would reasonably expect marriage rates to fall sharply in 2020, but potentially rise in 2021 as ceremonies resume without restrictions. Given the time the ONS takes to produce figures, it’ll be at least a couple of years before we see if this is correct!

Equally, given that the divorce rate rose in 2019 by 18.4% prior to the pandemic, 2020 could see another rise due to lockdown pressures. However, the corresponding increase in the backlog for court hearings could affect that rise. We’ll also see the first effects of no-fault divorce start to have an effect from late 2021 (hopefully).