Each year, a group of Christian organisations in the UK aims to raise awareness of the importance of marriage through designating one week of the year as Marriage Week. It normally runs during the same week as Valentine’s Day and tries to gain some momentum from the popularity of that celebration. What surprised me was the claim on their website that marraige remains popular and that the divorce rate is static. Their website states:
Marriage remains incredibly popular – over 90% of young people in the UK aspire to be married at some point in the future, and the large majority will achieve this. Although the popular view is that marriages don’t last, two out of every three first marriages will last until one partner dies, and one in two second or subsequent marriages will also last a lifetime. The Divorce rate (the number of divorces per 1000 married couples) has remained virtually static since the early 1980’s.
I checked the most recent figures (2009) for marriages and divorces in Northern Ireland, and they confirmed the conclusion of the Marriage Week UK sponsors. 7,900 couples married in Northern Ireland in 2009. However, civil marriage accounts for nearly one in three of all marriages, this proportion having doubled since 1989. The latest figures also show a decrease in the number of divorces – with 2,200 divorces registered in 2009.
The average age at marriage has increased markedly in the last two decades. The average age at marriage for all brides in 2009 was 31 (31.1 years) compared to 26 (25.8 years) in 1989. The average age for the groom in 2009 was 33 (33.4 years), compared to 28 (27.9 years) in 1989. Saturday 22 August 2009 was the most popular day in 2009 to get married, with 115 couples getting married on that date.
During the last decade the number of divorces in Northern Ireland has stabilised with an annual average of around 2,400 per year. The average duration of marriage ending in divorce in 2009 was 17.9 years. In 2009, just under 3,900 children or stepchildren were affected by divorce.
The theme of this year’s Marriage Week UK is Eat, Talk, Play. They say that in our busy lives, many couples don’t make time for the most basic of social functions – eating together! So they suggest that during next week couples take time to prepare and eat a meal together. Or that some time is set aside to talk about your challenges, your hopes and dreams for your future together as a couple. As the years go by, couples also forget to play together and to do things that they both enjoy. They even supply a list of possible activities which will add some fun times to our relationships!
If you are married, you might like to check out the Marriage Week website and make some preparations for next week.