Wedding
The high costs involved in a wedding may be a factor in declining marriage rates Jason Briscoe/Unsplash

Marriages have been on a gradual decline since the 1970s – a known fact. And now, things have gone from bad to worse, with a survey revealing that numbers have fallen to record levels.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed an all-time low in the number of straight marriages in the UK. The figures were retrieved from 2015, which is the most recent full year for which data was available.

There were 239,020 marriages between straight couples, indicating a 3.4% fall from 2014 figures.

Previously, the 2013 survey highlighted the long-term decline in marriages and marriage rates between 1972 and 2009. However, there was a reversal of the trend for a short period of time as marriage rates temporarily rose from 2010 to 2012.

"Despite this overall decline, marriages at older ages rose – the number of weddings increased for men aged 50 and over and women aged 35 to 39 years and 45 and over," said Nicola Haines, an official from the Vital Statistics Outputs Branch in the Office for National Statistics.

This has resulted in a slight increase in the average age of people who are getting married. The average age of the straight bride was revealed to be 35.1 years, while the average age of the straight groom was 37.5 years. The figures recorded in 2014 revealed the averages as 34.6 years for women and 37.0 years for men.

Among same-sex couples, 37 was the average age for brides and 40.6 was the average age for grooms.

It must be noted, however, that trends will become clearer in the future as marriages between same-sex couples in the UK first took place relatively recently – from 29 March, 2014 onwards. "This is the first full year for which marriages were available for same-sex couples and they accounted for 2.6% of all marriages," Haines added.

6,493 same-sex marriages took place in 2015, with female couples accounting for 56% of them. Civil ceremonies also made up an overwhelming majority as only 44 couples opted for a religious-style wedding.

Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation, expressed deep concern over the decline, stating, "That we now have the lowest marriage rates on record should be a wake-up call for our fast-asleep policymakers. Britain already languishes in shame at the bottom of the developed world league table for family stability, almost entirely due to the trend away from marriage and formal commitment."

However, Chris Sherwood, chief executive at relationship support charity Relate, perceived the trends to be good news as they could be an indication towards a growing sense of independence in the current generation.

"When Relate was founded 80 years ago, people got married, in part, because society expected them to. These same societal pressures don't exist today and it's to be celebrated that people now have far greater choice around how they form, structure and manage their relationships," he explained, speaking to HuffPost UK.

"Research suggests that most people see little difference between marriage and living together, so it's perhaps not surprising that marriage rates are at an all-time low."