An article published in the Office for National Statistics' quarterly Population Trends journal assesses the impact of the 1994 Marriage Act, which for the first time allowed couples to tie the knot in civil ceremonies away from register offices. The report's author, John Haskey said: "The Marriage Act of 1994 was, in my opinion, quite momentous. It was the equivalent of the 1836 Act, when we had civil marriages for the first time."
According to the new ONS report, civil marriages overtook religious services in 1994, and reached 59 per cent of all weddings by 1996.
The first "approved prem-ises" for civil weddings were sanctioned in 1995; by this May there were more than 2,000.
The majority of approved premises - 56 per cent - are hotels, but they also include country houses, restaurants and sports clubs. They tend to be in rural areas close to population centres.
Counties boasting the most approved premises are Kent, Essex, Cheshire, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and Hampshire. The most likely candidates for marriage at approved premises are couples in their 30s, those in which one or both partners are remarrying after divorce, and those who have lived together. Young couples are most likely to opt for a religious wedding.
t People in Scotland are more likely to kill themselves than those in other parts of Britain, and Manchester is the suicide capital of England, according to the ONS report.