On Marriage..

This article about marriage is pretty depressing. Not because the number of marriages is falling, you understand. That doesn’t really bother me. But let’s take a look.

For the first time ever fewer than 2 in 100 women, over the age of 16, got married in a single year. In 2008 the marriage rate for women fell from 2 per cent to 1.96 per cent, less than half the rate 25 years ago.

The rate for men has shown a similar decline, according to the annual figures published by the Office for National Statistics.

Which is all fine, except perhaps from the commas after “women” and “16”. Onward.

The figures highlight how marriage has substantially fallen out of favour. From a peak in 1940, when 426,1000 young couples – spurred on by the urgency of World War II – married for the first time, just 147,130 marriages in 2008 were where both partners were getting wed for the first time.

In total, just 228,204 marriages took place during 2008 in England and Wales.

The pedant in me wonders if all 426,000 (assuming the “1” in the figure is a typo) first marriages in 1940 were spurred on by the Second World War. The rest of me wonders whether an increase in second marriages actually suggests that marriage has fallen into favour – so much so that people are getting hitched twice, no less. But more importantly:

The escalating cost of weddings, and the failure of the Government to support the institution of marriage were among the factors blamed. Though, long-term changes in society, especially the increase in the number of women working and their desire to get married later in life, are also key factors.

And here’s the serious bit. Who exactly blamed the Government, or the increased cost? Not the source ONS document. Not anyone named here. So who – the author of this piece? Ditto for the “key factors”.

The average age of women marrying for the first time has nearly hit the symbolic 30-year-old barrier, at 29.9, up from 29.8 during 2007. For men, the average age of getting married for the first time was 32.1 years, up from 32 the previous year.

Many expressed sadness at the statistics.

Blah average ages blah. But wait, many have expressed sadness. Hold on for the avalanche of researchers, politicians, religious busybodies and the like:

Dave Percival, a campaigner for marriage, said: “Living together and marriage are increasingly seen as the same by the public, yet the outcomes are radically different. Two thirds of all the first marriages in 2008 can be expected to last a lifetime. Less than 10 per cent of cohabiting relationships last even to their tenth anniversary.”

Or just Dave, as it turns out, who is a ‘campaigner for marriage’. He has an awkwardly named website, www.2-in-2-1.co.uk, and appears to be involved with www.marriage-week-hosting.co.uk, which put out a press release in 2004. And that’s it. Nobody else is mentioned, and there’s no quote from anyone who might dare to suggest that the declining rate of marriages is really nothing to be too concerned about.

Incidentally, that statistic about cohabiting relationships appears to come from a study by the University of Essex in 1998, so it’s so far out of date that we could phone the surveyed couples up and see how they’re doing after 20 years.

And so we have unreferenced opinion, a quote that’s barely attributed – where’s the link to Dave’s website that would show readers who he is and what he does? – and a complete lack of balance. Happy Valentine’s day, world. And, not that it matters a jot to the argument, I’ve been happily married since 2006 – I just don’t feel that everyone should be obliged to do the same.