Getting married is a step not taken lightly.
Whereas previous generations regarded tying the knot and having children as an important and relatively routine part of the process of growing up, that compulsion has been gradually weakening over the course of the last few decades.
There had, admittedly, been something of a rally in the number of men and women getting hitched in recent years, possibly as a result of an improvement in their finances as the country emerged from the recession of 2008. However, the frequency of marriage is on the decline once more, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The ONS has found that, in 2013, there were 240,854 marriages – down 8.6 per cent on the year before.
Arguably the greatest single factor in that drop is the prevailing attitude to marriage among Britons young and old. Whilst marriage is less popular, cohabitation has more than doubled in the space of 20 years.
There were two other strands of data in the new ONS account which caught my eye.
One is the difference in the over-65s to marriage.
Men, especially those who had previously divorced, appear wary of marrying – and perhaps divorcing - again. That contrasts sharply with their female counterparts.
It could be because many divorced women in middle-age and even older will be less financially independent than men, chiefly because they are part of the generation who became housewives rather than pursuing a career. More women in relationships also appear to be outliving their partners and, therefore, their fondness for marriage may be born of a simple desire not to spend their remaining years alone.
Another, more novel element is the role of superstition. I have been talking to the Daily Telegraph about the incidence of couples who either brought forward or postponed marriages rather than wed in 2013 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/27/unlucky-for-some-superstition-could-have-caused-drop-in-weddings/).
I know of a number of men and women who did just that because of something called ‘triskaidekaphobia’ - a fear that the number 13 really is unlucky.
It’s a phenomenon which, of course, is already founded on a rich seam of superstition linked to the marriage ceremony itself. Think of perceived omens connected to the weather, the colour of a bride’s dress, dropping a wedding ring and the old chestnut of having “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”.
I don’t wish to question the wisdom of those who err on the side of caution mindful of the risk of joining the ranks of the divorced.
In my experience, what happens in the home and the workplace has a greater effect on whether marriages last the course than rituals and rabbits’ feet. What is clear, though, is that superstition provides yet another reason for those dubious of the merits of marriage not to wed.
Regardless of our personal preferences, we have to accept that for some people, marriage is going out of fashion and reasons of fortune – whether luck or their own finances – make it even less attractive.
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