London, Feb 12 (ANI): A survey has revealed that fewer British couples are tying the knot in more than a century.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show a total of 232,990 couples were married in 2008.
This is the lowest number of people opting for wedded bliss since 1895 and represents a drop of 1 percent in 12 months from 235,370 in 2007.
The marriage rate, calculated as the number of marriages per head of population, fell to its lowest level since records began in 1862.
In 2008 there were 21.8 men marrying per 1,000 unmarried adult men, down from 22.4 in 2007, and 19.6 women marrying per 1,000 unmarried women over 16, down from 20.2 in 2007.
Like the rest of Europe, Britons have been falling out of love with matrimony.
Instead of marrying, the trend has been towards cohabitation. Within five years the majority of British babies are expected to be born to unmarried parents.
Men and women also marry later, indicating that a career might be needed to pay for a honeymoon. Since 1998 the average age at first marriage has increased by about three years for both men and women.
In 2008 the provisional mean age at marriage for never-married men was 32.1 years. The provisional mean age for never-married women was 29.9 years.
The figures, covering England and Wales, are likely to relight the debate over the decline of marriage in modern society.
The Conservatives have sought to become a party of values not morality by promoting marriage through a tax break for married couples and gay civil partners.
By contrast Labour and the Liberal Democrats refuse to favour marriage over unmarried cohabitation.
Samantha Callan, the family and society policy specialist at the Centre for Social Justice, Iain Duncan Smith's thinktank, who is credited with creating the "tax break for marriage", says that by eschewing a legal union many are being "short-changed by political correctness".
She said research conducted at the centre showed that children not brought up in a two-parent family were 75 percent more likely to fail at school.
"What is stopping people is the social bragging rights that come attached with not being married. But the fact is people are two and a half times more likely split up if they cohabit than if they marry," the Guardian quoted her as saying.
The reason people do not marry, says Anastasia de Waal at the thinktank Civitas, is economics.
"Labour thinks unmarried parents are choosing not to marry on the grounds of 'progressive' values," she said.
"The Tories think unmarried parents are choosing not to marry because they don't value marriage. For many 'choice' has nothing to do with it. It's about economics.
"We know that there is a very strong relationship between unemployment and non-marriage.
"Therefore the number one priority for any government interested in marriage and family stability should be getting people into work," she added.
Although much has been made of the revival of the white church wedding, the national statistic figures tell a different story.
The number of religious ceremonies in 2008 was 76,200, a decrease of 3.1 percent compared with 2007.
The Church of England, however, pointed out that while the share of religious weddings has gone down, the share of C of E weddings has remained stable at 24 percent.
"Many churches are inviting parishioners to celebrate marriage on Sunday at special services using new liturgy for Valentine's Day," a spokesman said. (ANI)