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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 15:17 GMT
Church weddings 'dying out'
church wedding
Church weddings may become a thing of the past
Church weddings are a dying tradition, according to official figures.

Ten years ago most weddings happened in church but now three out of every five are performed at civil ceremonies, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey suggests.

Figures indicate 267,961 marriages were conducted in the UK in 2000, a rise of almost 2% on the previous year and the first growth in eight years.

But while the number of religious ceremonies fell by nearly 4% during the same period, the figures for civil marriages rose by 5%.

Stately homes

And while nearly half of couples both marrying for the first time still choose religious weddings, 86% opt for civil ceremonies when remarrying.

Under the 1994 Marriage Act, venues other than register offices and religious establishments can hold weddings.

While three quarters of civil marriages are still performed at register offices, one out of every six couples now ties the knot at an alternative approved venue.

Hotels host 57% of approved-premises weddings, with stately homes accommodating a further 8%.

Growing population

Other popular venues include halls, sports and leisure centres, museums and even educational establishments.

The survey also suggests couples are waiting longer to get married.

The average age is now 35 for a bridegroom and 32 for a bride.

John Haskey, who conducted survey, stressed that although more people are taking the plunge, they represent a dwindling proportion of a growing population.

Asylum seekers

The survey indicates the population is growing at a faster rate than previously predicted and by 2025 there will be 65 million people living in the UK.

Chris Shaw from the government's actuary department, the body responsible for population projections, said two thirds of the predicted increase would come from inward migration.

Previous predictions estimated about 95,000 people would migrate to the UK each year, but that figure has been increased to 135,000, of which 20,000 are expected to be asylum seekers.

Mr Shaw also predicted that by 2040 there would be 700 pensioners or children aged under 16 for every 1,000 working people.

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