More people are waiting longer than ever to hear the chimes of wedding bells
Whilst in the 1950s it was common for women to be married by the age of 20 and men at the age of 23, today we’re in a whole new generation. People are increasingly waiting longer not just to get married, but to reach other significant milestones like moving out of the parental home, buying their own property, having children and ultimately settling down into retirement.
According to On Average, men in the UK generally get married as they approach their 31st birthday (30.8), whilst women are closer to their 29th birthday (28.9) when they say ‘I do’. This fits in with research conducted by VoucherCodesPro.co.uk which, in a poll of 2,573 British people between the ages of 18-25, shows that the majority are expecting to hit key life milestones later in life. The study shows that the average British person’s life plan involves moving out of their parents’ house by the age of 22, meeting their future spouse by the age of 25, owning their own home by the age of 28, getting married by the age of 31, becoming a parent at the age of 34, and retiring from work at the age of 68. Of course life is much more complicated than this black and white plan, but working on averages this is where we are told we should be up to at a certain age.
There could be many reasons for this active choice to delay nuptials, from the rising cost of a wedding (with the average cost documented at £24,000 in 2016) to waiting to first establish a career and setting up a home before getting married. Another reason could be the changing relationship dynamics and the readily available option of divorce, which Sarah Thompson of law firm Slater & Gordon has contributed to this global hesitance, especially among today’s millennials: “The younger generations have often witnessed their own parents or their friends’ parents go through an acrimonious divorce. As a result they tend to be more careful about settling down and making sure they marry the right person, so it’s natural that they would get married in later life”.
However, it’s not just Britons who are delaying getting married—in fact, Britain seems relatively steady in terms of the average age their population are getting married. According to Business Insider, “marrying later than the previous generation is a global trend—people are getting married later…or not at all”. People in wealthy Nordic countries like Finland and Sweden do not get married until they are in their mid-30s, whilst in Germany for example the average age is 33.1. Interestingly, the data also shows that “men in each country marry [on average] 3.7 years later than women, [with] the gender gap existing in every country. It is [generally] larger in poorer countries like Egypt, where women marry 5 years earlier than men, but in richer countries like France, the gap is only 1.6 years”.
Case study: Japan
Of course, with averages come anomalies. A recent report by The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research shows that nearly a quarter of men in Japan for example are not yet married by the age of 50, and one in seven Japanese women unmarried by 50, the highest figures since the census began in 1920. Japan also has a startlingly high rate of middle-aged single people still living with (and to a certain extent financially dependent on) their elderly parents, which according to research is currently over 4 million. As a result of this, reporting from The Independent shows that Japanese birth rates dropped below one million for the first time in 2016, which has led to projections that Japan’s population could plummet from 127 million today to just 51 million by 2115.
Whether people are waiting until they're in their early to mid-30s in Europe or waiting until their 50s in Japan, it’s an uncontested fact that people are getting married later than previous generations. There's a myriad of reasons why—ranging from the rising cost of weddings, the need to get onto the property ladder before getting married, or wanting to be 100% sure before taking the plunge—but whatever the reason, today’s younger generation could be waiting a while before hearing the chimes of the wedding bells…