Fewer couples opting for marriage in Bedford - but figures rise for same sex couples

But more people are choosing to get married at older ages - particularly 65 and over

By Federica Bedendo
Monday, 23rd August 2021, 1:18 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd August 2021, 1:20 pm

Fewer opposite sex couples are choosing to get married in Bedford, figures reveal.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows 795 opposite sex couples tied the knot in the area in 2018 – the latest available data.

That was 29 fewer than the year before.

795 opposite sex couples and 14 same sex couples tied the knot in Bedford in 2018

Across England and Wales 227,870 heterosexual marriages were recorded in 2018 – the smallest number since the 226,449 recorded in 1894.

It equated to 20.1 marriages per 1,000 unmarried men and 18.6 per 1,000 unmarried women – the lowest rates since 1862.

But a new record is expected to be set when figures for marriage registrations are published for 2020, when weddings were prevented from going ahead during the strictest period of coronavirus restrictions.

The ONS said the long-term decline in marriage rates recorded in 2018 was likely to be as a result of more men and women delaying marriage or couples choosing to cohabit instead.

Kanak Ghosh, of the ONS’s vital statistics outputs branch, said: “Despite this overall decline, more people are choosing to get married at older ages, particularly those aged 65 and over.

“This is the fifth year since same-sex marriages have been possible and around one in 35 marriages are now among same-sex couples.”

In Bedford, 2018 saw the highest number of same-sex marriages celebrated since they were first recognised – 14.

They included four marriages of male couples and 10 of female couples.

Alice Rogers, a senior associate with Hall Brown Family Law, said that the national decrease in heterosexual marriages underlined a shift in the attitudes of couples.

She added: “The increase in cohabitation makes clear that men and women are still establishing settled relationships but don’t feel the need for the formality and expense associated with marriage.

“Couples now place a greater premium on investing the kind of sums which they might once have spent on their wedding day in putting down a deposit on a home instead.

“The fact that the fall in marriage numbers predates the Covid pandemic would indicate that we will see an even more severe drop because people could not marry at all.”

But Harry Benson, research director at charity the Marriage Foundation, said the decline needed to be considered in context.

He said: “The divorce rate is at its lowest level in 30 years, suggesting those who get married are much more likely to stick together.”

The numbers do not include marriages of English and Welsh residents that took place abroad, though marriages that took place in England and Wales among non-residents are included.

The ONS estimates 94,000 UK residents went abroad to get married in 2018, while an estimated 13,000 overseas residents married in the UK.