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Marriage comes later

People are waiting longer before getting married. Official figures published yesterday show that men and women are, on average, three years older when they marry than a decade ago.

The findings, from the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys, suggest that, if these trends continue, the average man in the next century will be 30 when he weds.

The figures, based on statistics for 1993, confirm previous figures showing the number of marriages that year fell to the lowest for half a century. There were 299,000 marriages (a 4 per cent fall on 1992) and 165,000 divorces the highest recorded number.

The long-term trend to delay marriage is shown elsewhere. The average ages at first marriage for men and women were 28.2 and 26.2 respectively, compared with 25.7 and 23.4 in 1983. Just over half (51 per cent) of all marriages were solemnised with a civil ceremony and 49 per cent with a religious one.

Of men and women born in 1961, 62 per cent of men and 74 per cent of women had married by the age of 30. For those born in 1951, the corresponding proportions were 78 per cent and 88 per cent.

The report also shows that the overall marriage rate for men was 37.3 (marriages per 1,000 unmarried males aged 16 and over), and for women 32.4 per cent. This compares with 38.6 and 33.5 respectively in 1992 and 51.2 and 41.8 in 1983. The average ages of husbands and wives who divorced in 1993 were 37 and 35, about one year older than couples who divorced in 1983.