Marriages among the over-65s have seen the biggest increase in a decade, as “silver splitters” begin new chapters in their lives.
The average age of women who tied the knot in England and Wales in 2008 was 33.8 and 36.5 for men, which rose to 35.8 and 38.1 respectively in 2018, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is partly due to the surge of so-called “silver splitters”, those who divorce then remarry in later life, statisticians claimed.
The number of brides and grooms aged 65 and over has increased more than any other age bracket in the past decade, the ONS report found.
Between 2004 and 2014, there was a rise of 46 per cent from 7,468 to 10,937. The numbers have been steadily rising from 2009 onwards.
Access to dating websites and financial independence are among the reasons suggested for this surge in later life marriage.
Fewer young people getting married
“Marriage rates have generally been decreasing among younger ages for both men and women, and increasing at older ages,” said the ONS.
“This long-term decline is a likely consequence of increasing numbers of men and women delaying marriage, or couples choosing to cohabit rather than marry, either as a precursor to marriage or as an alternative.
“The increase in older people ending and forming new relationships is likely to be because they are living longer. We also know that older people are more connected, economically and socially, than they were before.
“People aged 65 and over are more likely than ever to be working, and therefore be able to support themselves outside marriage. They’re also catching up with younger people in their use of the internet – perhaps trying out online dating?
“We can’t rule out practical reasons for older couples deciding to tie the knot. One of these may be a substantial change to inheritance tax rules made in October 2007, which allowed married couples or those in civil partnerships to transfer their tax-free allowances between each other for the first time.”
Religious ceremonies in steep decline
An increase in divorcees who remarry in later life is not the only break with tradition in the past 10 years. Religious marriage ceremonies are also in steep decline, the ONS figures showed.
They accounted for only one in five (21.1 per cent) of opposite-sex marriages in 2018, the smallest proportion since records began.
Between 1900 and 1980, they decreased from 84.7 per cent to 50.4 per cent. Since 1992, civil marriages have increasingly outnumbered religious marriages every year.
The overall number of marriages in England and Wales is also decreasing, and is currently at its lowest level since 2009.
Alice Rogers, a senior associate at Hall Brown Family Law, said that the figures underlined a shift in the attitudes of young couples.
“They simply appear to have a different view of relationships to previous generations,” she said.
“The increase in cohabitation makes clear that men and women are still establishing settled relationships, but don’t feel the need for the formality and expense associated with marriage.
“Couples now place a greater premium on investing the kind of sums which they might once have spent on their wedding day putting down a deposit on a home instead.
“The steep drop in religious marriages would suggest that even those who do marry prefer to do so without a religious emphasis. That might not only reinforce the preference for informality, but be due to an increase in relationships involving partners from different religions.”