COUPLES on lower incomes are deterred from marrying because of the perceived cost of weddings, the think tank the Marriage Foundation has said. It called for “a new era of simpler, pared-back ceremonies, so that marriage will once again be for all”.

A report published on Monday by the director of research at the Marriage Foundation, Harry Benson, Will Cheaper Weddings Bridge the Marriage Gap?, stated that there had been an increasing gap in marriage rates between those from higher- and lower-income groups during the past three decades.

Mr Benson’s report analysed data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), gathered between 1988 and 2019, on the number of live births within and outside marriages among different socio-economic groups. Mr Benson calculated that, among “lower-income groups” in 1988, 68 per cent of parents of newborn babies had been married, but, by 2019, this had fallen to 35 per cent. Among “higher-income groups”, he wrote, 91 per cent of parents of newborn babies in 1988 had been married, falling to 76 per cent by 2019.

This showed that the “‘marriage gap’ between rich and poor” had “almost doubled from 22 per cent to 41 per cent”.

The report also drew on the results of a 2012 survey from the law firm Seddons. The data from this survey found that 51 per cent of the men and 38 per cent of the women surveyed who were cohabiting or in a relationship said that the cost of a wedding was the main reason that they were not getting married.

It is mandatory for wedding ceremonies to take place in a registered building, and to be either civil or religious. The proposals put forward in September from the Law Commission argued for the rules to be updated so that couples could have more choice, including that of a less expensive venue.

The Commission said that the pandemic had highlighted the “outdated and unnecessarily restrictive” character of the current rules.

The founder of the Marriage Foundation, Sir Paul Coleridge, said on Monday that the Law Commission’s proposals would “re-democratise marriage and weddings and usher in a new era of simpler, pared-back ceremonies so that marriage will once again be for all”.

The Archbishops’ Council’s head of life events, Canon Sandra Millar, said on Wednesday: “A church wedding can be as intimate or grand as a couple wish. . . . The church fees are fixed by law, but everything beyond that is down to choice, and couples can be incredibly resourceful and creative in making things special at little cost.

“Last year has showed that intimate weddings, with few guests, can be really special and meaningful, with memories that will be treasured for years. We just encourage couples to find out what is involved by talking to a local vicar or looking at the website Your Church Wedding.” 

Last-minute Norfolk wedding ‘a real joy’, says Vicar. A NORFOLK wedding that had to be rearranged when the county was moved into Tier 4 was “a real joy”, the Rector of St Mary’s, Heacham, the Revd Veronica Wilson, has said.

The marriage of Kimmi Evans and Mark Fiander was booked for 31 December: the couple had paid the required fees and submitted their paperwork. The announcement on 23 December that Norfolk would be moving from Tier 2 into Tier 4 on Boxing Day, however, meant that weddings would only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.

The ceremony was moved to 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, after Mrs Wilson held a Zoom meeting with the couple on the day that the new restrictions were announced. She said on Tuesday: “It was brilliant that we were able to move Mark and Kimmi’s wedding. It was a real joy for them, the church, and the wider community at a difficult time. It brought hope, comfort, and joy, which, of course, encapsulates the message of Christmas perfectly.

“The church itself looked beautiful, as it was filled with stars, made by children in the village schools, as a part of our ‘Light up Heacham with Stars’ event, bringing light to our village at this Covid Christmas. Kimmi and Mark’s wedding was a wonderful part of that.”