Let's get married.
OK – when?
Deciding on a date for a wedding – it might be something you never do or it might be something you end up doing more than once – but what could affect people's choices?
This could be down to the fear of 13 (triskaidekaphobia) or just a continuation of the long term decline in marriages since 1972 when there were over 400,000 weddings.
What else has affected people's choices over the decades?
Marriages by month
In 1947 – the earliest year that we have data available on the month people got married in – there were 401,210 weddings in England and Wales.
The most popular month to get married in was August, closely followed by December and April.
Number of marriages in each month of 1947 in England and Wales
One of the most talked about weddings in this year took place in the fairly unpopular month of November.
This was between Princess Elizabeth Windsor and Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh (a.k.a the Queen and Prince Philip).
They got engaged following the Queen's 21st birthday in April 1947 and married seven months later.
As we move into the 1950s and 60s, March becomes the most popular month to get married in . . .
Number of marriages in England and Wales in each month of each year from 1950 to 1967
. . . with another peak emerging in the autumn.
However between 1968 and 1969 we see a big shift away from this pattern . . .
Number of marriages in England and Wales in each month of 1968 and 1969
So just why do we see this pattern emerge and then abruptly disappear?
Taxes and wedding dates
Would you have a March wedding for a handy lump sum?
The spike in March weddings that we see in the 1950s and 60s was caused by a tax rule that meant a married man received the full married man's tax allowance (which was higher than a single man's tax allowance) regardless of how long he had been married - so long as he married before the end of the financial year - around April 5th.
For example, Kenneth who had been married for one day of the financial year would get the same tax allowance as Alan who had been married for 11 months - even though Alan had been supporting his wife and new baby for all of that time while Kenneth had been living at home with his mum and dad.
But how much more did he get?
The specific amounts depended on the year but consider David and Susan - they got married on March 31st 1968 and had a nice "do" in the Miner's Arms after.
Dave's tax allowance then rose to £340 - which was £120 more than it would have been for the past financial year if he had stayed a bachelor.
An extra £120 was nothing to sniff at in 1968 - it is equivalent to an extra £2000 in today's money- and would have been a handy lump sum to put towards buying a house - which would have cost £4,010 on average at this time.
So what happened in 1969?
In the 1968 budget the tax allowance rule was changed so there was no big financial bonus for getting married before the 5th April - a married man's tax allowance was now related to how long he had been married.
This change saved the government an estimated £15 million but it was something the magazine "Punch" took a more sarcastic view of:
What about the autumn wedding peak?
Tax allowance is also likely to be the cause of the peak in autumn weddings which emerged in the 1960s.
Consider Julie - she intends to keep on working even after she marries Barry in 1967 (something which was fairly rare) - and she knows that if they choose to get married around the middle of the tax year there will be two tax allowances of £220 available on her income.
She will get the single person’s tax allowance for the time before she was married and Barry (her new husband) will get her single person’s tax allowance for the time after they are married.
The summer wedding
Number of marriages in England and Wales in each month of each year from 1970 to 1979
Moving onto the 1970s it is clear to see the shift away from the March wedding and the shift towards a summer wedding.
The 1980s sees the complete disappearance of the March peak as the summer months now take over as the most popular time to get married in England and Wales.
Number of marriages in England and Wales in each month of each year from 1980 to 1989
Something which could have also been influenced by one of the biggest summer weddings of all time as Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer on 29 July 1981.
Summer cements itself as the most popular time for weddings at the turn of the century . . .
Number of marriages in England and Wales in each month of each year from 1990 to 2010
. . . but the lines moving lower down the chart illustrate how far fewer weddings there are these days compared with the 1960s and 70s.
Part of this may be to do with more people getting married and registering their weddings abroad as these marriages would not show up in our figures.
But whatever the reason - we do still love a royal wedding - one of the 249,133 weddings in 2011 was viewed by millions of people worldwide:
Marriages by day and date
So, we have established that without any tax allowances skewing people's choices, the most popular time of year to get married in England and Wales is the summer - even with our unpredictable weather!
But what about particular days and dates? We have data on weddings by date and day of the week in England and Wales from 1995 to 2013 and we have analysed this data to find out what else may affect people's preferences.
Here are some things to note:
1. A fall in Saturday weddings
The popularity of Saturday wedding has waned in recent times– in 1995, 68% of weddings took place on a Saturday – but in 2013 this had fallen to 53%.
Percentage of weddings that took place on a Saturday 1995 to 2013
Possible reasons for this are - the savings that can be made by having a wedding on a different day of the week and the rising number of 2nd or 3rd marriages which tend to have more low key weddings.
2. Superstitions play a role
Weddings that took place on Fridays
The average number of weddings on a Friday was 850 but on Friday 11 November 2011 there were 1,529 weddings, as this date (11/11/11) was seen as lucky.
However other Fridays are avoided - the average number of weddings on a Friday that fell on the 13th day of the month was 448.
3. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are more popular for weddings than Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
While some people opt for a wedding on Christmas or New Year's Eve, the days themselves are pretty quiet for weddings.
Weddings that took place at Christmas and New Year
Between 1995 and 2013 the average number of weddings that took place on Christmas Day was five.
For New Year's Day (excluding the first day of the new millennium) the average was 26.
We remove the data for New Year’s Day in the year 2000 as this was a particularly popular day for a wedding - in fact, 249 couples got married on this day.
4. People love a Valentine's Day wedding!
Weddings that took place on Valentine's Day
The start of the year is, in general, not a very popular time of year to get married but February 14 –St Valentine’s day - stands out.
The average number of weddings on a Saturday was 3,037 but a Valentine's Day Saturday had slightly more - an average of 3,515 weddings.
The difference for other days of the week was even starker- the average number of weddings on a non-Saturday was 313 but the average number on a Valentine's Day that fell on a non-Saturday was 1,039 - over three times higher.
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