The media focused on the 25% increase in weddings among those aged between 65 and 69 years old. While the increase was certainly unusual, it’s important to keep the scale of the increase in context. It involved only 715 additional weddings compared to the previous year. That’s just 5% of the entire increase of 13,107 weddings.
If you take the ONS estimate for ‘marriages abroad’ into account – which adds an extra one wedding overseas for every six weddings here in England & Wales – then there were 30,000 more weddings in 2012 compared to the previous year.
That’s the biggest increase in weddings since the war.
So why has this happened?
Well, aside from the oddity of the 25% increase amongst 65-69 year olds, there is only one factor that stands out. Almost all of the increase took place during the first half of the year. In the first quarter, marriages were up 5,879 or 23%. In the second quarter, marriages were up 8,223 or 11%. Since the 1970s, there have only been five quarters showing more than a 10% increase in the number of marriages. Two of them took place in 2012.
Here’s what I think happened.
The pageantry and fairytale romance of the Royal wedding inspired all those extra couples to get romantic, drop to one knee, and pop the question. “Darling, will you marry me?” However when they try to book their weddings for the following summer, they discover that their choice of venues are already booked out for July and August. In any case, summer 2012 is over 12 months away, so why not get married earlier in the year, even as early as January or February.
Previous Royal weddings haven’t had anything like this effect, if indeed this is what it is. The only really comparable Royal wedding in terms of scale and excitement was Charles and Diana back in 1981. But this was a time when cohabitation was really taking off and marriage rates were falling fast.
Today, marriage rates are at a historic low and there are signs that they have bottomed out. These are perfect conditions for a romantic Royal wedding to inspire couples into making a lifelong promise to one another.
William and Kate may have been be responsible for the biggest increase in weddings since the war.