UK Not Saying "I Do" as Much Anymore

Number of Marriages Hit 111-Year Low in 2006

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DUBLIN, Ireland, JAN. 29, 2009 ( The cost of living for married couples and the hefty price tag for weddings are just two possible reasons why the number of people who live as husband and wife in England and Wales could fall to less than half of the population, reports the Iona Institute of Dublin.

The institute, which works to promote civil society, especially through promoting marriage, reported this week on new figures published by the U.K. Office for National Statistics in its General Household Survey 2007, a poll of almost 13,000 homes across Britain.

The study shows that a mere 51% of all adults are now married, and 10% cohabit. Just 10 years ago, some 59% of all adults were married. A further 23% are now single, 7% widowed, 6% divorced and 2% separated.

Among women aged 18-49, fewer than half (49%) are married. And in the same age range, the number of women cohabitating has tripled from 11% in 1979 to 33% in 2007.

In addition, 44% of cohabiting women have children at home.

The figures also show that 15% of couples who are now living together out of wedlock had cohabitated before, and most of those cohabitations had lasted between one and two years.

One of the culprits is the low number of weddings. In 2006, there were only 236,980 weddings in England and Wales in 2006, the lowest number since 1895.

Iona Institute speculated the number could dip lower considering the global financial crisis and the high cost of weddings. It said the cost of a wedding in the United Kingdom is believed to have doubled over the past decade to reach an average of more than £21,000 ($30,090).

Other factors pointed to by the institute included the lack of marriage-friendly laws and tax policies: «Recent changes to the tax and benefits system have left married couples up to £5,000 ($7,164) a year worse off than those who remain single.»

They also noted the abolishment of the Married Couples’ Allowance and the introduction of tax credits «that reward single mothers ahead of couples.»

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