Last Updated: September 12, 2022
Marriage is an institution that has been, in some form or other, functioning since the dawn of humanity. Historical developments in all aspects of society also apply to marriage; the following marriage facts depict the transformation of marriage from an alliance of power to a relationship between two individuals based on love, respect, and mutual trust.
Fascinating Marriage Facts
- Monogamous marriages were first established in the 9th century.
- Gay marriage first became legal in 2000. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise it.
- Research has revealed that couples that marry young face a greater risk of divorce.
- Happily married people are more productive at work and generally more satisfied with life.
- The highest levels of marital satisfaction are recorded in couples who were best friends before they married.
- According to forced marriage facts, 400 million women were married before the age of 18, meaning they entered a child marriage.
- In the UK, the average age for marriage for opposite-sex couples was 35.7 for women and 38 for men.
- 9 out of 10 UK couples are cohabiting before tying the knot.
- The number of marriages has been declining since 1972.
- Marrying a partner you’ve had an affair with generally does not yield a happy union.
The Historical Development of Marriage
Since the beginnings of marriage, people have been getting married for various reasons, which have begun to change over time. Wedding traditions have also been reinvented or were wiped out of use; most facts about weddings clearly show this. Let’s see how the notion of marriage and wedding traditions evolved and became what they are today!
#1 The first marriages were formed as strategic alliances to reaffirm power or strengthen family ties
Early historical sources confirm the existence of marriage; the earliest examples show that the first marital unions were formed as strategic alliances between two families, with the couple having no say in the matter. Marriages within the same family were also common. Arranged marriage statistics show that most marriages in history were between first and second cousins!
#2 Monogamy was first established in the Western world in the 9th century
Although there are some records of monogamous marriages as early as the 6th century, the Catholic Church eventually prevailed over the nobility. Monogamy became the central tenet of marriage in the 9th century, effectively outlawing cheating as an acceptable practice and imposing high standards in partner selection.
#3 The first marriages out of love began only 250 years ago
People only began marrying because of love in the 18th century. Some would marry due to sexual desire, but before then, attraction towards your spouse was considered unimportant. Arranged marriage facts say that in the Victorian era, it was believed that women didn’t have sexual urges! That being said, that was not an issue considered when entering a marriage.
#4 Gay marriage was first legalised in 2000
(Our World in Data)
The Netherlands became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2000. Technically, same-sex registered partnerships have been legal in Denmark since 1989, and grant almost all the benefits of marriage.
#5 The UK has been seeing a decline in opposite-sex marriages since 1972
Ever since 1972, when marriage rates reached an all-time high, there has been a gradual but steady decline in opposite-sex marriages. Marriage stats for the UK show that the marriage rates have gone down by 45% – 75% for men and 69% for women! This is possibly due to the large number of people delaying getting married, or those choosing cohabitation as an alternative or precursor.
At some point, you have probably thought about what percentage of people get married. More importantly, how many of them are happy with their marital life? What is the secret to a happy marriage?
#6 Marital happiness depends on the level of happiness before marriage
A person’s level of happiness before marriage is the best indicator as to whether it’ll be successful, as it takes two people for a happy marriage. If someone is unhappy beforehand, marriage won’t automatically make them feel better. However, if one of them is happy, that happiness can be contagious and transfer to the other partner – confirmed by factual evidence on love!
#7 The happiest marriages are between best friends
Healthy marriage statistics state that the best and happiest marriages are between people who say their spouse is their best friend. Some people are friends before they enter the relationship, but others spend time together and become close throughout the relationship. As it turns out, friendship is one of the best ways to find love.
#8 Happily married people are more productive at work
Marriage is the number one cause for feeling satisfied – marriage can promote life satisfaction more than sex, money, or even children! The more satisfied you are with your life, the more productive you’ll be at work. The most important element of a happy marriage is trust – this is often listed as being more important than being compatible or forgiving, global marriage statistics reveal.
#9 The cost of a wedding can determine the duration of the marriage
Even though it’s thought that expensive weddings are an indicator of lasting marriages, it’s the opposite. Couples that spend more money on their wedding are more likely to separate or divorce than those that don’t. Couples that spend the least on their wedding day have lower divorce rates.
#10 42% of all UK marriages end in divorce
Out of all marriages in the UK, 42% end in divorce. These rates are the highest among opposite-sex couples, with 99% of UK divorces being between those of the opposite sex. If you were wondering how long does the average marriage last, the answer is 32 years among the UK population with only 60% of marriages surviving the 20th anniversary.
The Most Important Marriage Facts
Once you’ve become familiar with the history of marriage and the key aspects of a successful relationship, it’s important to recognise the most important facts concerning marriage to get the whole picture.
#11 Same-sex couples are choosing marriage over civil partnerships
The legalisation of same-sex marriage enticed many same-sex couples to change their status from ‘civil partner’ to ‘married’. The majority of marriages were among women (56%), with men trailing slightly behind (44%) according to same-sex marriage facts.
#12 The average age for marriage in the UK is 35.7 for women and 38. for men
Women enter marriages younger than men, which is especially true for heterosexual couples. Although the average marrying age for women is 35.7, many heterosexual women marry before they’re 30. This indicates that men tend to commit to younger women. This is true for relationships as well, and stats confirm it!
#13 9 out of 10 heterosexual couples cohabit before getting married
88% of opposite-sex couples lived together through the honeymoon phase before tying the knot. Marriage statistics for the UK point out that 90% of people who opted for a civil ceremony lived together before marriage, while only 81% of couples with a religious ceremony did.
#14 Less than a quarter of marriages are religious
Only 22% of marriages are religious ceremonies – that’s less than a quarter, the lowest number ever recorded in the UK’s history of marriage. These numbers are low because not all religious institutions recognise same-sex marriage. Only 43% of same-sex couples married in a religious ceremony.
#15 Only 29 countries have legalised same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is legal in only 29 countries around the world according to global marriage statistics. The latest country to legalise gay marriage was Costa Rica in 2020 and is the only country in Central America to do so. Most Western European countries recognise gay marriage as legal; outside Europe, Canada, South Africa, Australia, the United States, and New Zealand allow same-sex marriages.
Not all marriages are sunshine and rainbows. Sadly, around the world there are still a large number of arranged or forced marriages; even though child marriage rates are declining, the numbers are still concerning. Let’s look at the dark side of tying the knot.
#16 400 million women were married before they turned 18
Statistics on child marriage show that 400 million women currently between 20 and 49 years old were married before they were 18. About 37,000 girls under 18 are married every day.
#17 The practice of child marriage is declining, with 25 million child marriages being prevented
In the past decade, child marriage rates went down by 15%. The numbers have fallen from one in four to one in five, meaning that 25 million child marriages have been prevented over the last 10 years.
#18 India has the largest number of child brides at 15.6 million
Forced marriage statistics show that India still has a problem with the practice – 15.6 million girls alone have been married against their will as minors. Other countries with large numbers of child marriages are Bangladesh and Nigeria, with 4.4 million and 3.7 million child brides, respectively.
#19 People that marry young have a greater risk of divorce
People that marry before the age of 25 face a greater risk of divorce. Other at-risk couples include people that didn’t live together before marriage and relationships where women are significantly older than men.
#20 Marrying a partner who you had an affair with is more likely to end in divorce
Marriage statistics for the UK show that people who began their relationships as affairs are more likely to form marriages that end in divorce. The sting of the affair may lead to feelings of resentment towards their spouse, as 75% of these couples end up divorcing.
Marriage is a complex union between two people, and everyone has different notions of what it means to be joined. Luckily, marriage facts reveal some truths about marital unions – how marriage evolved, what makes for a happy marriage, and problematic aspects of the institutionalised marriage around the world. Ultimately, marriage means different things to each person, and anyone can redefine it to suit their relationship.