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Living together before marrying at highest level since records began

Overall, marriages have returned to pre-pandemic levels, the Office for National Statistics said.

More couples are now living together before tying the knot than ever before, according to the latest statistics, which also showed a record number of same-sex marriages took place in 2022.

More than nine in 10 couples who married in 2021 or 2022 were living together beforehand, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Cohabitation before an opposite-sex marriage was the highest since this measure was first recorded in 1994, when fewer than six in 10 (59.6%) of couples lived together before marriage.

Levels of cohabitation before same-sex marriages in 2022 were higher than those in opposite-sex marriages, at 95.2% for men and 93.5% for women, the ONS said.

In 2021, levels of cohabitation before opposite-sex marriages were 90.3% and in 2022 they were 90.0%.

Overall, marriages have returned to pre-pandemic levels, the ONS said, with data published on Thursday showing there were 246,897 marriages in England and Wales in 2022 – 12.3% more than took place in 2019.

In 2022, 20.8 men and 19.1 women married per 1,000 unmarried men and women, respectively – a return to pre-pandemic levels.

There were 7,800 same-sex marriages in total in 2022, accounting for 3.2% of all marriages.

The ONS said the highest number of female same-sex marriages (4,896) since same-sex marriage was introduced in 2014 was the main factor in this rise.

Men were, on average, 32.7 years old while women were 31.2 years old when entering an opposite-sex marriage – the highest median ages on record, the ONS said.

Ages for same-sex marriages were slightly higher, at 36.2 years for men and 32.6 years for women.

The ONS said the numbers of marriages and marriage rates in 2021 and 2022 “may reflect a short-term delay and recovery” because of pandemic restrictions “and may not be representative of long-term trends”.

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