THE number of church and faith-based weddings has fallen to historically low levels. Fewer than one in four couples opts for a religious ceremony.
A report published on Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics showed that, in 2017, religious ceremonies accounted for 23 per cent of all weddings between opposite-sex couples. The figure for same-sex couples was 0.6 per cent.
The figures reflect a continuous decline since 1900, when 85 per cent of all weddings were religious ceremonies; by the late 1970s, this figure was 49 per cent.
Every year since 1992, civil ceremonies have outnumbered religious ones. The total number of couples getting married has also fallen. In 2017, there were 242,842 marriages, a 2.8-per-cent decrease on the previous year.
The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said: “A church wedding is a unique occasion in which a couple exchange time-honoured vows in a special and spiritual atmosphere. We know from research that many couples want this for their wedding day, whether they are regular churchgoers or not.”
He added: “I would like to reassure couples that they don’t have to be christened or confirmed, and we welcome couples who already have children — just ask.”
The report also showed that couples are marrying at different times in their life from those ten years ago. Numbers of marriages for those under 20 have dropped in the past ten years, while those between those over 65 have increased — for men this increase was 31 per cent, and for women 89 per cent.
The restrictions surrounding the coronavirus mean that marriage services in churches, or any other venue, are currently not possible (News 27 March). Before the full lockdown, some couples were able to hold their ceremony in church with the officiant and a small congregation, with other guests present virtually.
Bishop Butler said: “Sadly, there are no church weddings taking place at the moment, but we look forward to the time when we are able to welcome couples back to be married in Church of England parishes once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted.”