Marriage & Millennials – Why aren’t they rushing to the altar?

Will the Royal Wedding of two millennials inspire others to reverse the declining marriage rate in the UK?
By
Zoe Moody

May 30, 2018

Born between the 1980s to early 2000s, millennials are considered one of the most influential generations, shaped by technology and responsible for shifting modern society. Thus, it is interesting to note that marriage among these young people is declining.

Marriage rates for opposite-sex couples are now at their lowest level on record [since 1862] following a gradual long-term decline beginning in the early 1970s, from 400,000 marriage ceremonies in 1972 to 250,000 in 2012. So why is there such a great generational discrepancy?

The evolution of Marriage and Relationships…
One principal reason is that young couples are starting to marry far later than before. According to the Office for National Statistics, 76% of brides and 62% of grooms were under 25 in the late 1960s/70s. This has now dramatically fallen to just 14% and 8% in 2012, with the average age of men now marrying at 37.5 and women at 35.1 years compared to 27.2 and 24.7 years in the 70s.


Young people are also settling down later while they focus on their education and developing their professional careers. By 2020, millennials will make up one third of the global workforce according to research.

As a result of revolutionary dating apps, this ‘tech savvy’ generation are far more exposed to a diverse set of choices than prior generations, encouraging reluctance to settle. More than 1 in 3 of marriages now begin online. Morar HPI conducted a recent study looking at online dating app usage among 18-35 year olds. 88% agree that dating people you’ve met online is now ‘totally normal’. 46% of 18-35 year olds who are married have used online dating sites or dating apps in the past.

Millennials are challenging the traditional image of the marriage institution. Societal shifts in traditional marital norms and attitudes and the lowering of societal expectations enables modern marriages to be more flexible. Millennials are more accepting of inter-racial and same-sex marriages, and premarital sex.

Barriers to Marriage…
Another fundamental reason for such a decline is the challenging economic circumstances young people are facing.

Young adults are being priced out of home ownership, resulting in 26% of 20-30 year olds (3.3 million) living with their parents, an increase of 25% since 1996. The Resolution Foundation claim: 

“1 in 3 millennials face renting their entire lives and face the prospect of never owning their own home".

Does it come as a surprise that the fastest growing family type from 1997-2017 is a cohabiting couple family? There is an increased trend amongst the younger generation to cohabit as an alternative to marriage, with more than double cohabiting in 2017 (3.3 million families), compared to 1.5 million families in 1996. The burden of the housing market is taking its toll on millennials and young families.


Unsurprisingly, the shocking expenditure of a modern day wedding may also be a contributing deterrent. The average cost of a UK wedding is now £27k, the highest on record, with a 10% incline from 2017.

Brand Impact…
As a result of financial implications and societal shifts, the younger generation are delaying marriage and spending their money elsewhere. This is a major concern for the deterioration of the wedding industry. However, if millennials are not spending their money on weddings, then what are they spending it on? Instead, they are investing in experiences, holidays, and travel - thus providing an opportunity for different types of brands to benefit. The travel industry and the leisure sector will be able to make the most of a generation who are not settling down as early and seeking opportunities elsewhere.

In Conclusion…
Millennials have it rough, they are entering adulthood in the midst of an economic recession, practical constraints are stronger than ever, and new societal trends are influencing their priorities. And yet, the recent image of a modern day, millennial prince and his bride may persuade some that tying the knot is the ultimate in love and romance and at the very least give them a jolly good reason to celebrate.

Morar HPI’s Home and Family division offers a full range of insight capabilities combined with home, family, and financial sector expertise to create bespoke solutions that inform and inspire our clients.

To find out more please contact our divisional director, Caroline Hawkings or myself.

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