Are wedding traditions dying out?

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As a proud host of wedding receptions on the Thames, we wanted to explore how our values have changed when it comes to relationships and marriage. We analysed official data held by the Office for National Statistics so that we could determine what is ‘conventional’ within society today.

We were also interested to hear what people think about wedding traditions which frequently feature before, on and after the big day. 

Marriage between heterosexual sex couples

The average age

Since 1974, the average age of first-time marriages has steadily increased. The most recent data from 2014 suggests the average age for a man to enter into his first marriage is 32 years and 7 months. For a woman, the average age stands at thirty years and 8 months.

In the past, it was expected that couples should only live together and have children after marriage. The statistics we have gathered explore the extent to which values and attitudes have changed in this regard.  

Living together before marriage 

While open data regarding cohabitation is not available before 2002, the number of unmarried couples has risen significantly from 2002-2015, rising by 2.5% over a 13 year period. 

It’s fair to say that cohabitation before marriage is now the normality.

This could be due to a number of reasons. Couples may want to check that they are compatible. The cost of rent and house prices is also a factor, as couples benefit from sharing the associated costs.

Civil partnerships & marriage between same-sex couples

Unfortunately, there is limited data available when it comes to analysing trends for civil partnerships and marriage, as civil partnerships were only legalised in 2004 and marriage in 2014. 

However, since the legalisation of marriage in 2014, the number of civil partnerships taking place in England and Wales has steadily declined. Now, more same-sex couples are choosing to marry instead.

Interestingly, statistics show that men were more likely to enter into a civil partnership compared to women. In 2015, two-thirds of formed civil partnerships were between men. In contrast, statistics reveal that more female couples marry than male couples. 

The average age 

By analysing data relating specifically to civil partnerships, it is possible to see which age range is the most likely to pledge this kind of commitment. According to statistics recorded from 2005-2015, the most common age range for females to enter into a same-sex civil partnership is 25 to 34. This is closely followed by those aged 35 to 44.

Interestingly, the age range pattern is exactly the same for men entering into same-sex civil partnerships. According to the Office for National Statistics, since the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2014, the average age of those entering into a civil partnership has since increased. 

While marriage between same-sex has been legal for nearly three years, there is only one year of data available to the public. The average age of a female getting married to another female is 36 years and 9 months. For a male getting married to another male, the average age is slightly older at 39 years and 5 months. 

Having children

Children born outside of marriage

In 2015, 47.7% of children were born to unmarried parents.In 1965, only 7.5% of births took place outside of marriage. That’s a 40.2% increase from 1965 to 2015. 

It’s clear to see that the stigma of having a child out of wedlock is now completely disregarded. In fact, over the coming years, children born to married parents will be in the minority. 

The average age to have a baby

The number of births outside of marriage is not the only factor that continues to increase. In 1965, the average age for a mother to give birth was 27 years and 3 months.  100 years later, in 2015, the average age was 30 years & 3 months.This equates to a percentage increase of 10.9%.

Although research data suggest there’s a substantial shift in regards to traditional social values, attitudes towards wedding traditions are less clear. A large majority of weddings still mirror that of 100 years ago; a diamond ring, a white dress and veil to name but a few. 

So, how do we really feel about the wedding traditions that are still present today?   We surveyed 2000 people to find out their opinions on 5 popular wedding traditions: Should they stay or should they go?

A father should give away his daughter

Verdict: I do

62% believe that this tradition should stay. Only 25% rejected this tradition outright and just 13% couldn’t decide either way.   Bridesmaids must be female and groomsmen must be male

Verdict: I do

Only 18% of people thought that it was acceptable for the bride and groom to include either gender. With 59% upholding old traditions, it’s still expected that bridesmaids are female and groomsmen are male. 

A bride and groom should read traditional vows

Verdict: I don’t

It looks like traditional marriage vows are fast falling out of favour. Just 38% believe they should remain as a common practice. 30% believe that the bride and groom should be allowed to read their own personalised vows, while 32% aren’t fussed either way.

A woman should take her husband’s surname after marriage

Verdict: I don’t

It’s a close one but with less than half of people fully backing this tradition, it’s ready to be scrapped. 49% still think that a woman is right to still take her husband’s family name. However, 26% think that it is time to divorce this particular tradition while 25% remain undecided.

A bride should wear a white dress when getting married

Verdict: I don’t

All brides dream of the perfect white dress, right? Wrong. Only 34% of people said that wearing a big white wedding dress is a tradition that should stay.

 Infographic of overall findings

Boys VS Girls: Does tradition change?

When it comes to gender differences, results show that men are much more traditional that women. Across all traditions, men are the ones that are most in favour of upholding them. So, what are the different wedding traditions that have got men and women refusing to say ‘I do?’ 

The wedding traditions that women would scrap:

  •  A bride and groom should read traditional vows
  •  A woman should take her husband’s surname after marriage
  •  A bride should wear a white dress when getting married

The wedding traditions that men would scrap:

  • A bride and groom should read traditional vows
  • A bride should wear a white dress when getting married

The wedding tradition that women are most in favour of is the concept that a father should give away his daughter, with 58% agreeing that this should still be the case. Men are also most in favour of upholding this tradition, with 64%. 

Gender results  

Methodology 

The data used in our analysis has been sourced from The Office for National Statistics, with the most recent figures taken from 2015. The survey results are based on answers given by 2000 participants, with an even split across genders. 

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