The Office for National Statistics published a statistical bulletin on 30 March setting out the provisional figures for marriages which took place in England and Wales during 2009. Final data will not be available until the spring of 2012.
The provisional statistics reveal a continuation of existing trends, with a decline in both the total number of marriages (the 2009 figure was the lowest since 1895, when the population was considerably less) and the proportion of them conducted according to religious rites.
Civil ceremonies accounted for 67% of all marriages in 2009, compared with 62% ten years previously. They first exceeded religious ceremonies in 1992. The growing proportion has been driven by the increased number of weddings in approved premises (such as hotels and historic buildings) since those premises were first licensed in 1995.
The actual provisional number of religious ceremonies in 2009 was 75,630, 4% down on 2008, and 33% of all marriages. Religious marriages have declined by one-quarter since 1999, twice the rate of decrease in the overall total for marriages.
For the fifth consecutive year there were fewer religious ceremonies than weddings in approved premises, suggesting that historic secular buildings are often displacing historic churches as preferred venues.
These headlines from the statistical bulletin are supplemented by Table 4 in an accompanying Excel file of summary marriage statistics for 2009. This contains absolute numbers and percentages for civil and religious marriages in 1981, 1991, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
These statistics are further disaggregated according to whether it was the first marriage for both parties, the first marriage for one party or a remarriage for both parties. This breakdown reveals that 82% of religious marriages in 2009 involved a first marriage for both parties.
There were only 4,940 religious ceremonies involving a remarriage for both parties in 2009, just 13% of all weddings in this category, probably implying that divorced persons largely opt for civil ceremonies.
Both the statistical bulletin and the Excel file can be accessed at: