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Wedding numbers returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, ONS records

25 June 2024


MARRIAGE rates in England and Wales in 2022 returned to pre-pandemic levels, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found. Its latest statistics, released last week, include data for 2021 and 2022; comparisons with the 2019 information are also made.

In 2022, there were 246,897 marriages in England and Wales: an increase of 12.3 per cent from 219,850 in 2019. Of those, the number of same-sex marriages was 15.9 per cent higher (7800, up from 6728 in 2019). Opposite-sex marriages in 2022 numbered 239,097: 12.2 per cent more than 2019 (213,122).

“These increases may be a result of delayed marriages because of the pandemic,” the ONS has noted, given that the overall number of marriage rates per 1000 has continued to decline over the past five decades.

In 2022, 17 per cent of marriages (41,915) were religious ceremonies, and 83 per cent were civil ceremonies, the latter increasing steadily over time; half of marriages (50.4 per cent) in 1992 were civil ceremonies. The statistics do not differentiate between Christian weddings and those of other faiths; nor do they indicate where a marriage ceremony may be followed by any form of a Christian service, such as a blessing, thanksgiving, or dedication.

The Church of England’s Statistics for Mission 2022, produced by Dr Ken Eames and the Data Services team, found that “the number of marriages in 2022 was very similar to the number in 2019, and 18 per cent higher than in 2021”.

The 2023 report suggests that somewhere “in the region of 10,000-15,000 weddings did not take place in churches because of the pandemic”.

For the C of E, 31,400 marriages and services of prayer and dedication after civil marriage were recorded in 2022. The Mission Statistics do not separate weddings in church and services after a civil ceremony, but note that “services of prayer and dedication after civil marriage made up 7.5 per cent of the total in 2022”. This implies that there were 29,045 church weddings and 2355 post-civil ceremony services.

Comparing these with the overall total of 41,915 religious weddings in 2022 published by the ONS, it can be seen that 69.3 per cent (29,045) were Anglican and undertaken in a place of worship. The figure rises to 75 per cent when adding services associated with a civil ceremony.

Of the 7800 same-sex marriages in 2022 (3.2 per cent of all marriages), 4896 were all-female, the highest proportion since same-sex marriage was legalised in 2014.

The average age at which people get married has increased once again. The median age was 32.7 years for men and 31.2 years for women entering into an opposite-sex marriage (and first legal partnership), both the highest ages on record. For a same-sex marriage (and first legal partnership), the ages for men and women were also higher, at 36.2 years and 32.6 years respectively.

Saturday remains the most popular day to get married: 43.6 per cent of all weddings in 2022 took place on that day. In recent years, the last Saturday in July or the first Saturday in September has been the most popular day. The most popular day in 2022 was Saturday 30 July, with a total of 3608 weddings. By contrast, Christmas Day saw three weddings, making it the least popular day to get married.

Areas that had the largest percentage changes in the number of marriages between 2019 and 2022 were Monmouthshire, where marriages increased by 67.4 per cent, and Haringey, where marriages fell by 51.1 per cent. The south-east was the region where the greatest proportion (16.4 per cent) of marriages took place in England and Wales in 2022; the same region as in 2019.

A research director at the Marriage Foundation, Harry Benson, said: “Although marriage rates have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, there remains a significant shortfall over the combined three-year period 2020 to 2022. None of the three established parties has anything to say about marriage in their manifesto. Who will champion marriage in the next Parliament?”

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