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Harry Benson: Marriage makes a comeback. Thank William and Kate

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Marriages were up by five per cent in 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics. That’s an unusually large rise, amounting to an extra 13,107 weddings in England & Wales. Add in ‘marriages abroad’ and there were probably nearer 11 per cent more weddings in 2012.

The media focused on the equally unusual 25 per cent increase among 65-69 year olds. But this only accounts for 715 extra weddings. The real story is that all of the increase happened in the first half of the year. Why?

My theory is that it’s the William and Kate bounce and that they could be responsible for the biggest rise in marriages since the war.

It’s not hard to imagine how the pageantry and fairytale romance of the royal wedding might have inspired all those extra couples to get romantic, drop to one knee, anMarriages were up by five per cent in 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics. That’s an unusually large rise, amounting to an extra 13,107 weddings in England & Wales.d pop the question. “Darling, will you marry me?” However when they tried to book their weddings for the following summer, they would have discovered that their choice of venues were already booked out for July and August. In any case, summer 2012 would still be over twelve months away. So why not get married earlier in the year, even as early as January or February? It’s plausible anyway.

Previous royal weddings haven’t had anything like this effect, if indeed this is what it is. The only really comparable royal wedding in terms of scale and excitement was Charles and Diana back in 1981. But that wedding took place at a time when cohabitation was really taking off and marriage rates were falling fast.

Today, marriage rates are at a historic low and there are signs that they have bottomed out. These are perfect conditions for a romantic royal wedding to inspire couples into making a lifelong promise to one another.

So does this mean marriage is back? Not quite.

It may be that, when the 2013 figures come out, the 2012 rise is reversed. Moss Bros, who hire out wedding clothes, report sales are down.

More importantly, my latest research paper shows that marriages are down by 90 per cent among those under 25. We will need many more years of five per cent rises to reverse this long-term downtrend. At present rates, only half of those under twenty years old will get married, even though almost all expect to do so. When I told my teenage daughter that her odds of getting married were only 50:50, she was horrified!

This all sounds pretty bad, but two things give me hope.

The first is that the 2012 rise shows that marriage rates don’t have to go down for ever. They can go up. The second is that if my daughter’s reaction is typical, then maybe, just maybe, there is hope that a new generation will be more deliberate about their pursuit of commitment and not just cohabitation.

If you have teenagers, tell them about this and see how they react!

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Harry Benson
Harry Benson
Harry Benson is research director for Marriage Foundation and author of Commit or Quit: The Two Year Rule and Other Rules for Romance.

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