Marriages in England and Wales

The Office for National Statistics released the provisional marriage data for England and Wales for 2008 in a Statistical Bulletin published on 11 February 2010. The report, with accompanying Excel spreadsheets, will be found at:

The principal religious information in the statistics relates to the mode of solemnization of marriage. Civil ceremonies have consistently exceeded religious ceremonies since 1992, and 2008 was no exception, with 67 per cent of all marriages being by civil ceremony (either in a registry office or on approved premises).

The proportion of religious ceremonies was accordingly one-third, a 3 per cent decrease on the 2007 figure. The number of religious marriages has fallen by more than one-quarter since 1998, twice the rate of decline in the total of marriages during the same period.

Of the 76,700 religious ceremonies in 2008, 73 per cent were conducted by the Church of England, 11 per cent by the Roman Catholic Church, 8 per cent by the principal Free Churches (Methodist, Calvinistic Methodist, United Reformed Church, Congregational and Baptist), 4 per cent by other Christian bodies and 3 per cent by other faiths.

81 per cent of religious ceremonies involved a first marriage for both partners, compared with 63 per cent of all marriages and 54 per cent of civil marriages. The remaining 19 per cent entailed a remarriage for one or both partners, against 46 per cent in the case of civil marriages. This especially reflects a trend for divorcees to opt for civil ceremonies, doubtless sometimes unwillingly (because of continuing religious opposition to divorce).

Breakdowns of marriages by method of solemnization were first provided for England and Wales in 1838, when 99 per cent of all marriage ceremonies were religious ones, overwhelmingly in the Church of England. Data were published annually until the First World War, but more intermittently thereafter.

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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