Following a 40 year lull, marriage rates are now on the rise again. Statistics released by the ONS show that in 2009 just 232,443 marriages took place in the UK, compared to 404,734 in 1971. However, in 2012 there were 262,240 marriages recorded in the UK, a 12% increase since 2009. In addition to this recent upward trend in marriage, the number of divorces issued in the UK fell by 23% between 2003 and 2012, contrary to the popular opinion that the majority of marriages end in divorce.
Jon Gilbert, a family law solicitor from MHHP Solicitors, provides the following insight:
"We've seen a number of changes in the dynamics of a British family in recent years; the most notable being that the number of marriages taking place each year is on the rise, whilst the number of divorces is steadily decreasing. We feel that this is due to the increased number of people cohabiting before marriage, as well as the later age at which people are choosing to marry. Family dynamics are in a constant state of flux, but the latest figures from the ONS serve to highlight the fact that the institution of marriage still holds a great deal of value for many British people from a variety of different cultural backgrounds."
With all of that in mind, we thought we'd take a look at some of the possible reasons why more couples are choosing to get married, and stay married...
1) More couples are cohabiting before marriage
Back in your grandparents' day it was relatively unheard of for a couple to live together if they weren't married. After a period of courtship, the man would pop the question, the marriage would take place, and then the couple would finally live together. It is much more commonplace now for a couple to cohabit before marrying, giving them the opportunity to suss out their domestic compatibility. If you've already been living together happily for a few years, the chances are marriage will just strengthen what you already have.
2) People are getting married later in life
In the 1960s and 70s the average age at which people got married was around 23; the average age now is around 30. There are several reasons for this shift in average age: firstly, weddings are much more expensive now, and many couples are footing the bill themselves rather than relying on family, which means saving up for longer. Secondly, many modern couples prefer to get onto the property ladder before getting married, as this offers more security in the long term. Thirdly, more women are choosing to establish their careers prior to getting married and starting a family.
3) Prenuptial agreements are becoming more prevalent
It's becoming increasingly popular for couples to sign a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage, which ensures that both partner's assets are protected in the event of a divorce. Since more people are choosing to marry later in life after establishing their careers and perhaps investing in property, it makes sense to protect your interests before entering into a marriage. Divorcing without a prenuptial agreement would leave you vulnerable to losing any assets that were established before the relationship began.
4) Marriage gives you better financial security
The economy has been through the wringer in the last decade or so, and many people are still feeling the pinch from the credit crunch. The cost of living rises each year, but salaries aren't matching the same rate of inflation. Single people may find they are unable to enjoy the standard of living that they'd desire, as much of their salary goes on their rent or mortgage. Being married means you're pouring two salaries into one pot, allowing you to enjoy those extra little luxuries in life, and offering a security net during periods of unemployment or redundancy.
5) Being married gives you tax benefits
In these times of financial hardship, one of the biggest advantages for a married couple versus an unmarried couple is the tax benefits. Low income households can benefit from the government's marriage tax allowance scheme. Being married also means that after your death you can pass on up to £325,000 to your surviving spouse without incurring the 40pc inheritance tax; and when the second spouse dies, both partners' allowances can be added together, allowing a married couple to leave up to £650,000 tax-free for their children. It is also possible to reduce your income tax too; if one spouse is a 40pc taxpayer while the other spouse doesn't earn, assets can be transferred in order to avoid paying excessive income tax.
6) Being married benefits you in your old age
Obviously people marry for love as their main reason, but the financial benefits really shouldn't be overlooked. If your spouse has a final salary pension you will automatically inherit it in the event of their death. Couples who simply live together without being married aren't necessarily entitled to the same pension benefits unless it has been specifically stated in the pension contract. Michael Owen, director of Brooks Macdonald Financial Consulting explains that, in the case of a drawdown pension "A pension fund can pass tax-free to anyone at all before retirement but, once income is being drawn from it, it will be subject to a tax charge of 55% on death unless it passes to a surviving spouse or civil partner."
7) Marriage gives your relationship more authority
The English language doesn't have a decent word to describe a long-term partner with whom you cohabit and live as though married without actually being married. In your twenties the terms 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend' will just about suffice, but they're rather juvenile terms and just don't seem to adequately describe the relationship between two co-dependent adults in their thirties or beyond. One of the reasons why marriage is gaining popularity again may be due to the authority and substance it gives your relationship, making it feel like a mature, lifelong commitment.
8) Marriage makes you feel like you're part of a team
This is nothing new, but it may be something that people are starting to place more value on. When you're in a relationship with someone, whether you're cohabiting or not, there is a sense of being part of a team; but when you're married you've committed to having that person's back for life. Being a husband and wife gives you a sense of unity, like you can take on anything life throws at you because you're in it together for the long-haul and have accepted that there will be ups and downs.
9) Marriage strengthens your bond and encourages you to work through rough patches
This is less a reason for the increasing popularity of marriage, and more a possible explanation for the decline in the number of divorces. Marriage strengthens the bond with your partner; it makes your relationship official, and requires you to pledge allegiance to your other half until death do you part. Although some aspects of marriage are rather antiquated, the vows that you make on your wedding day - for richer, for poorer; for better, for worse; in sickness, and in health - are there to remind you that there will be good times as well as bad, and that you need to work through things together. Divorce is a long and painful process, and frankly it's also quite expensive, so it makes more sense for couples to work through their problems and fix their marriages.
10) Marriage is good for your health
A number of different studies have found that married people tend to live longer. It seems that there is something comforting about having a partner who is committed for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, which makes people happier and healthier in general. A loving and caring spouse is like your own personal cheerleader, encouraging you in all you do, and pushing you to be the best version of yourself. This freedom and encouragement to pursue happiness and share it with your spouse, aka your best friend and partner in crime, leads to less stress and a healthier and happier life in the long term.