The Office for National Statistics reported yesterday that the number of marriages in England and Wales decreased by 10% from the previous year, to the lowest number since 1896. Sounds pretty dramatic, although the ONS does point out that a change in the law from 1 February 2005 designed to discourage 'sham marriages' may have been one of many factors that contributed to the drop.
As The Times points out today, the opposition parties are gleefully going to use the data as evidence that Labour policies have hastened the demise of the institution of marriage. However, the article goes on to quote Jenny North, head of public policy at Relate, who suggests a more prosaic reason - the increasing cost of weddings. No doubt there are a number of reasons for the decline, but I would like to suggest another, from my experience as a divorce lawyer: the increasing perception amongst men that they will be treated unfairly if the marriage breaks down, fuelled by lurid media reports of high-profile divorces where this appears to be the case, whether or not it is, indeed, the case.