THE BLOG
13/03/2012 09:15 GMT | Updated 12/05/2012 06:12 BST

Explaining the Rise in Marriage Rates

New official figures last month revealed that the number of marriages has increased at the fastest rate for a decade, fuelled by a surge in middle-aged couples deciding to tie the knot.

New official figures last month revealed that the number of marriages has increased at the fastest rate for a decade, fuelled by a surge in middle aged couples deciding to tie the knot.

In particular, the biggest rise was in men in their late 40s as the number of weddings in England and Wales jumped by nearly 4% in 2010.

Listening to various experts and commentators this week, the consensus seems to be that marriage rates are going up because people, particularly in their middle years, prefer security and stability due to unpredictable economic times. Is this a fair assessment or too broad an explanation? Well, in my view it's a bit of both.

I run an exclusive introduction agency (www.berkeley-international.com) that caters for affluent and successful professionals looking for life partners. Over the last 18 months we have seen a 20% rise in members, particularly between the ages of 35 and 50. Increasingly, we are seeing the male joiners increase.

I know that the recession has played a part in many of them joining the agency. In times of austerity, we all have a natural desire to seek comfort and security, at a very base level. This is reflected in current popular culture, for example the surge in popularity of home baking! The Great British Bake-off was one of the BBC's most popular shows last year, and it reflected a common desire to go back to simple home values.

Call the Midwife, the BBC's most successful new show over the last decade, resonated with us because it tapped into the ethos of the post-war 50's - a return to steady values.

Our nesting instinct, when times are bad, encourages us to desire things that bring us comfort and security. And this translates into relationships. The economic volatility of the last few years has resulted in more and more people, particularly in their late 30s, to re-assess what's important in their lives and to elevate security as a key component of a relationship. The financial crisis has sharpened minds and has made us realise just how important it is to have someone to look after and in turn be looked after.

From experience, this 'realisation' kicks for women in their early 30s, who of course are also attuned to their biological clock. For men, often it will come much later, into their mid-40s and beyond. What I have found from my members though is that post-Lehman, the uncertainty of the economy and society has led many to act with greater urgency in finding a life-partner at a younger age. Compare this to the late 90s and early 2000s, when there was far greater emphasis placed on building high-flying careers and enjoying single life.

Both the increased demand I've seen at my agency and the latest marriage figures reflects these social changes; if times are going to be bad then best have someone else to share the gloom!

There is also of course a financial aspect to this too, as marriage brings with it a certain security of care in our old age. With the cost of care going up, we are having to be more practical about how we are going to afford our old age - a solid and financially secure partner makes good sense. The fact that divorce rates for recent marriages is also falling suggests that we are now far more conscious of money and more pertinently, keeping hold of it.

However, this does take the romance out of marriage and I am mindful to overplay the significance of the current economic climate on marriage rates. I believe we are moving more generally towards a more positive attitude towards marriage and the values that it represents. Political rhetoric from the government, who are very pro-marriage, has played its part, as has I believe the Royal Wedding last year. We are welcoming a return to more conservative values and I think we will see an upward curve over the next decade in marriage rates at a younger age.