The number of people in England and Wales who have tied the knot has reached a record low, as fewer young people get hitched.
Nearly four in 10 adults in England and Wales have never been married or been in a civil partnership, up from three in 10 at the start of the century, according to the latest census data.
The Census 2021 figures, released today, also capture societal changes in the makeup of Britain's relationships.
The statistics show increasing numbers of younger people have never married or been in a civil partnership – with more than half of women aged 30-34 in this category and 63.8% of men in the same age group.
Same-sex married couples and those in civil partnerships are more likely to be younger, have no religion and have higher-level qualifications than their opposite-sex counterparts, the latest data shows.
The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales became law in 2013.
Steve Smallwood, demography topic lead at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which publishes the census data, explained: “The census gives us a fascinating picture of how society is changing and today’s analysis shows us for, example, that adults in same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are more likely to be younger, have no religion, and have higher level qualifications than adults in opposite-sex marriages.
“When we account for age distribution, we can also see the proportions of adults overall who have never been married or civil partnered was highest among adults reporting 'no religion' and within the black and mixed ethnic groups.”
When it comes to ethnicity and after taking age into account, the ONS said people from black, black British, black Welsh, Caribbean or African, and “mixed and multiple” backgrounds had the highest proportions of adults who have never been married or civil partnered, while Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh had the lowest.
Is Britain falling out of love with marriage?
The Census 2021 figures for England and Wales, published by the ONS, show the proportion of adults who have never married or been in a civil partnership has increased every decade from 26.3% in 1991 to 37.9% in 2021.
By comparison, the proportion of adults who are married or in a civil partnership (including separated) has fallen from 58.4% in 1991 to 46.9% in 2021.
The increase in adults who have never been married or in a civil partnership (since 2011), after standardising for age, is seen across all local authorities, religious groups and ethnic groups.
Between 2011 and 2021, the number of widowed adults (3 million) has decreased by 6.3%.
The number of women who are widowed decreased by 8.3%, but the number of men who are widowed increased by 0.6%.
Where are Brits getting married - and divorced?
The latest data also shows that the long-term increase in the proportion of adults who are divorced or have had a civil partnership dissolved has almost come to a halt.
The figures show Norwich appears to be the divorce capital. It has the highest rates of marriage splits once the figures are adjusted for age, according to the ONS, which finds proportions of divorce are higher in towns and cities surrounded by rural areas.
The local authority in Wales with the highest age-standardised proportion of adults who are divorced is Neath, in Port Talbot.
Overall, the proportion of adults who are divorced is similar in 2021 (9.1%) and 2011 (9.0%).
In England, the areas with highest proportions of people who have never been married are in London.
In Wales, the local authority with the highest proportion of people never married is Gwynedd.
The figures also show the proportion of younger adults who are divorced has decreased whereas the proportion of older adults has increased.
The ONS says it expects the decrease in the proportion of younger adults who are divorced is partly a result of the increase in the average age at marriage.
Are millennials rejecting marriage?
The ONS figures show it is not one particular generation driving the decline in marriage - which has been trending downwards among young people for decades.
But there has been a sharp rise in 20 and 30-somethings reporting that they have never been married in recent years.
The percentage of people who have never married in England and Wales has been rising steadily over recent decades, from 26.3% in 1991 to 30.1% in 2001 and 34.6% in 2011, reaching 37.9% on the day of the latest census in March 2021.
The biggest increase in the proportion of people never married is among women aged 25 to 29 - up from 67.8% in the 2011 census to 80.5% a decade later.
While 18.3% of women aged 30-34 were unmarried or not civil partnered in 1991, that rose to 43.7% in 2011 and was at 54.2% in 2021.
For men, the biggest increase is among 30-34 year-olds, up 9.1 percentage points from 54.7% in 2011 to 63.8% at the time of the census.
Nearly nine in 10 (88.1%) males aged 25-29 are now unmarried or not civil partnered, up from eight in 10 (80.0%) in 2011 and just over half (54.2%) in 1991.
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