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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 16:58 GMT
Weddings at 'lowest ever' level
Wedding ring
Fewer couples are choosing to tie the knot
The number of adults choosing to marry is at its lowest level since records began, according to new figures.

Some 244,710 people wed in 2005 - the lowest number since 1896 - and, as the number of unmarried adults rose, it was the lowest marriage rate since 1862.

The Office for National Statistics said the rates in England and Wales were 24.2 per 1,000 unmarried men over 16 and 21.6 per 1,000 unmarried women.

One factor is thought to be a new law to discourage so-called sham marriages.

The figures also showed the continuing trend for couples to marry when they are older. In the 10 years since 1995, the average age to marry has increased to 36 for men, and 33 for women.

Across the UK, weddings were down 10% in 2005 compared with the previous year.

Marriages fell in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for the first time in three years.

We have more people waiting longer and living together for longer before they marry

A Church of England spokesman said: "The figures are worrying, as the Church teaches that marriage is the best option for couples to grow together in mutual support.

"We would like to see fuller figures on marriage that explain the recent fall, after two years of increase, and that take account of the growing appeal of getting married abroad."

The relationship support agency Relate said the statistics might show the state of marriage, but not that of committed couples.

A spokesman said: "We have more people waiting longer and living together for longer before they marry.

"That's because they want to be sure that they want the same things and that the marriage will be stable and healthy."

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One couple tie the knot


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