Falling out of love with a Church wedding

church wedding

The traditional church wedding is in danger of dying out, according to official figures out yesterday.

Fewer than one in four brides now opt for a traditional ceremony, the lowest total on record. At the same time, the number of weddings celebrated in hotels, stately homes and even football grounds has surged.

A total of 242,842 marriages were started in England and Wales in 2017 – a 2.8 per cent drop on the previous year.

Just over 54,000 of them were church weddings, compared with 184,000 as recently as 1987. Overall marriage rates were the lowest since records began to be collected in the mid-Victorian era.

And fewer than one in 50 women tied the knot in 2017.

The shift from marriage among the young – as men and women put off marriage in favour of education, careers and paying mortgages – has pushed the average bridal age up to 30.1 years.

Kanak Ghosh of the Office for National Statistics, which produced the figures, said: ‘Marriage rates for opposite-sex couples are now at the lowest level on record. This continues a gradual long-term decline seen since the early 1970s, with numbers falling by a third over the past 40 years.

‘The popularity of religious ceremonies also fell to historic lows for the second year running, with fewer than one in four couples choosing to get married through a religious ceremony.’

There were just over 40,000 Church of England weddings in 2017 and just under 6,000 in Roman Catholic churches. CofE weddings were at under a third of the level of 1980, and Catholic weddings below a quarter of 1980 numbers.

The popularity of weddings is likely to take a further blow this year, since the lockdown has stopped all ceremonies. Some 40,000 were expected to have been staged in April and May.

The Right Reverend Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, 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. 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.’

He added: ‘Sadly our buildings are closed for the time being to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But we look forward to the time when we are able to welcome couples back to be married in Church of England parishes.’

Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation think-tank, said: ‘The hidden damage to our social fabric caused by our indifference to marriage – and therefore commitment and stability – will continue long after we are free of coronavirus.

‘Family is where we find our security. Our individual experiences of these long weeks of lockdown will almost certainly depend on how we feel about family life at home.

‘Those of us that thrive will do so from stable, secure homes.’ Continue reading

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