The BBC reports that marriage rates in England and Wales are at their lowest level since records began. About 24% of weddings take place in churches.
Although there were uptick in the number of marriages in 2002 and 2004, the general trend is downward. For every 1,000 adult men, 21.8 married in 2008, compared with 22.4 in 2007. For women aged over 16 it was 19.6 per 1,000, down from 20.2 the year before.
What to make of this trend? One theory is that how people view marriage has changed. Rather than a hallmark and gateway to the rights and responsibilities of adulthood, marriage is now understood mainly in terms of the quality of the relationship. This is what an unnamed Church of England spokesperson told the Beeb:
A spokesman said: "We have found that marriage is regarded as a serious commitment and something people aspire to, even those already living together.
"Making a positive public decision to a committed, life-long relationship changes behaviour - especially for men.
"We have found that men coming for weddings are as interested in their relationship and the quality of it as in the day itself."